How using psychology can drastically improve your ecommerce designs (part 3 of 3)

How using psychology can drastically improve your ecommerce designs (part 3 of 3)

In part one we discussed the different levels of our brain and how to sell to the Neo-cortex – human brain (If you want to read part one you can find it here) and in part two we e covered how to sell to the The limbic system – monkey brain (If you want to read part two you can find it here).


The Cerebellum (lizard brain)…

…controls movement. action and body functions. You don’t have to think about breathing because your lizard brain takes care of it for you. It’s also real good at telling you when to eat, have sex and run.

Technically speaking the monkey and the lizard don’t ‘think’ — at least not in the sense of rational and logical thought. While they do process, they are a lot more action and emotionally oriented. They’re big on doing. And given the right stimulus they will walk us to the fridge to make a sandwich.

Tips you can use in your designs to help the lizard brain make a decision

The Lizard brain played a very important role in life when we were being chased by predators who viewed us as a tasty snack. It quickly assessed situations and made us feel different emotions dependent on whether it was safe or hostile situation. This part of the the brain is still  processing situations for us all the time so it is vital to make sure our users feel safe. Here are a few tip I’ve used to achieve this in past projects:

KISS – No we don’t literally have to kiss the user but sticking to the analogy Keep It Simple Stupid, throughout your design process should help you create an environment the user feels secure. We feel insecure when we are on unfamiliar ground so try to help the user feel like they are somewhere they can easily navigate. Some examples on how we can do this is to use “F Pattern” eye tracking studies which indicate typical patterns and help to form a foundation for hierarchy. Clear ‘Call to Action’ buttons – Make it nice and clear, what it is we want the user to do and distinguish it from other elements on the page.


Even Blenders are prone to over-complication


Big and beautiful images – It’s said pictures can tell the story of a thousand words. Let’s get this straight. The image on your product page is the star of the show. It should be enticing, zoom-able, easily accessible and of  a high crisp clean quality. The product image is a very important part of the decision making process (as in this case study by the Nielsen group ).

The future of online shopping? Concept retail iPad app using big imagery and motion. – by Jesse Roston


Scarcity – It has been scientifically proven  that people pay more for stuff that is about to disappear. Airlines often follow this principle to sell their last few tickets. Don’t give your customers unnecessary time to mull over the purchase. Create a sense of urgency to make them act now. Your scarcity weapon could be the last day of offer, last 2 hour of free shipping or last 3 items in stocks. Create your own arsenal.


Gamers queuing outside the store to make sure they get a PS3 console before they sell out
Gamers queuing outside the store to make sure they get a PS3 console before they all sell out

Spend time with your product description to invoke base emotions – During the 1890s Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was looking at salivation in dogs in response to being fed, when he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he entered the room, even when he was not bringing them food. This was because they dogs associated him with food. We have these same triggers with certain words and it’s the reason the best restaurants write things like succulent, juicy, melt off the bone prime steak marinated in a rich creamy garlic and fresh herb fused sauce, instead of steak in garlic and cream sauce.


M&S have done some great examples of this, listening to this ad with your eyes closed still gives you an amazing picture of food that will make your mouth water. This reaction is in no way limited to food so try and be creative.

M&S Food – Easter TV Ad – Marks & Spencer 2012

Delivery message – Make a brief statement about the delivery so the user feels assured, then link off to more content. Ideally, the brief message should consist of the cost and the standard time to deliver to assist users who want their products immediately. This message reduces shopping cart bailouts by introducing the cost at the right time.


Choice – We think we want lots of choice but choice makes us unable to take action. If we think we can get something right away this will motivate us to act.People choose the product listed first.In a nutshell, choice paralysis refers to the act of giving customers so much choice that they effectively shut down and do nothing. An example might be a menu system with 20 links in each menu. Another example might be a clothes website that sells 60 varieties of what is essentially the same t-shirt, but with very minor variations between each.

sweets Feeling like a kid in a candy store is only good if its something your enthusiastic about buying.


Danger food and sex – You can get attention by making something change or warn you, showing food, implying sex and by using the word YOU. The job of your old brain is to constantly scan the environment and answer the questions: “Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?”

That’s essentially what the old brain cares about, food sex and danger. When you think about it, this is important. Without food you’ll die, without sex the species won’t continue, and if you are killed the other two questions don’t matter. So animal brains developed early on to care intensely about these three topics. As animals evolved they developed other capacities (emotions, logical thought), but they retained a part of their brain to always be scanning what is going on for these three critical questions.

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