A Better Understanding of Consumer Psychology Will Earn You More Online Conversions

The five stages of the customer conversion process are as follows: attention, intrigue, evaluation, trust and compulsion. Follow them diligently.

learn more about Anna Johansson

By Anna Johansson


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The conversion is the gold medal of online marketing. No matter how good you are at attracting traffic to your website or how good your products actually are, you're still limited by the number of people who are willing to pay for those products. Accordingly, there are tons of resources on how to improve your conversion rates overall, but not many that delve into the actually psychological factors that go into making a purchasing decision.

If you want a greater share of your target audience to convert, you have to understand the motivations behind a conversion before you start making changes to your landing page or overall marketing strategy. While there are deviations based on the company and the individuals converting, there are five major psychological stages that lead to a successful conversion.

Related: 3 Ways to Use the Power of Persuasion in Your Marketing

Stage 1: Attention

Before you can hope to squeeze some conversions out of your audience, you have to get their attention first. There's a startling number of companies, organizations and individuals competing for attention in the online world with content, ads and personal updates -- the only way to get attention is to differentiate yourself. When you're publishing to social media or some other external channel, that means using design elements and headlines that are shocking -- or at the very least noticeably different from the rest of the white noise.

Stage 2: Intrigue

After the initial stage of grabbing a user's attention, you have to hold their interest -- which is hard, considering today's average attention span. At this point, you usually have the customer in a position to gain more information. They've usually clicked through to your landing page or are being presented with a primary call-to-action.

It's important not to skip the intrigue step -- you may be tempted to ride the impulse by pushing for a conversion as soon as possible, but instead, try to cultivate curiosity in your customers by giving them unexpected information such as why your brand is different or what problem your product solves.

Stage 3: Evaluation

You've got a potential customer interested in your brand. What now? The customer starts making a logical evaluation of your offer. And trust me, there's always an offer. Even if you're only requesting personal information from potential leads, you're still offering something in exchange such as content or a free analysis.

This is a crucial point for departure. If a customer feels like your products or offers aren't worth the costs -- either monetary or personal -- they aren't going to proceed. Your job is to make a logical pitch through a list of benefits or a demonstration that the exchange is valuable.

Related: Effective Marketing Appeals to Emotions Instead of Reason

Stage 4: Trust

Assuming your deal is perceived as logical, the next gate centers on user trust. Yes, you've pitched your product as being a differentiated, valuable logically sound investment -- but how good is your word? Your visitors are going to be looking for clues, consciously or unconsciously, of your inherent trustworthiness.

These clues can come in many forms -- it could be in the way you've designed your landing page, in the trust badges you're able to present from your affiliations and partnerships, the reviews and testimonials you offer as social proof or even your transparency in offering supplemental information and contact options. Trust is probably the most complicated hurdle to overcome here, so unfortunately, I can only scratch the surface in the context of this article.

Stage 5: Compulsion

At this point, you may think all the stars have aligned, and the conversion is all but a sure thing -- you've garnered interest, intrigue, logical approval and trust, but there's one more stage to achieving a conversion: compulsion. User commitment is fleeting. If a user doesn't convert in the moment, procrastinating the decision for another time, it's unlikely they'll ever come back to purchase your product.

To compensate for this, you need a degree of urgency, or compulsion, driving your conversion. This could be the provision of a "temporary" offer, or something simpler like urgent, action-based language in your copy.

Sales cycles and overlap

The way I've laid out these psychological "phases" of a conversion implies that they happen in a linear and predictable order every time, but this is untrue. You'll find that some customers may neglect one or more of these stages. For example, a customer may forgo the compulsion of converting in the moment only to come back and convert later. However, for the most part, all five of these stages are present in the conversion process.

Instead, the variability is usually associated with differences in industries and brands. For example, a business-to-business company with a long sales cycle might spark attention and intrigue using one set of strategies, then slowly coax a customer into progressive stages. A business-to-consumer company that thrives on impulse decisions, on the other hand, will try to cram all four stages into one ad.

Related: Why We Click: The Simple Psychology Behind Calls to Action

What you do with this information is up to you. You may use it to analyze your current efforts (and scout for weaknesses) or segregate these pillars for individual development to enhance your overall conversion rate. Whatever you choose, holding a better understanding of consumer psychology will help you earn more conversions.
Anna Johansson

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Freelance writer

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who specializes in social media and business development.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game

Digital Storytelling: How Brands Can Use Authenticity and Emotional Connection to Stand Out Online

Effective storytelling can help construct strong bonds between brands and audiences.

Starting a Business

7 Founders Share Their Favorite Business Tool

From daily planners to CRM software, eight founders sat down with Jessica Abo to share their go-to business tools to save time, money, and stay organized.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

A Mississippi News Anchor Is Under Fire for Quoting Snoop Dogg

WLBT's Barbara Bassett used the rapper's "fo shizzle" phrase during a live broadcast, causing the station to let her go.

Business News

JPMorgan Shares 4 Charts That Put the Banking Crisis Into Perspective — and Show Why the Tech Recession May Already Be Over

Although 481 tech companies have already announced layoffs this year, a JPMorgan analyst noted that these headcount reductions seem to have peaked in January.