f you are operating an online business (or thinking about starting one), then you know how important marketing can be. Marketing can be the single most important factor in your business's success. You can have the best product in the world, but if you can't convince anyone of its value, no one will buy it. On the other hand, you can make a minimal improvement to something that already exists and blow it up to millions of dollars in sales. However, that will only happen if you know how to market it. Since most advertising is done online these days, it is important to understand the primary digital marketing techniques and how they can contribute to a well-constructed marketing plan.
In this article, we will be looking at the six principles of influence, as defined by Robert Cialdini in his bestselling book Influence. We will define each principle, provide examples of how we see it on a day-to-day basis, and also describe how it can be applied to digital marketing techniques.
We hope you enjoy!
#1 - Social Proof: Everyone Likes It, So You Should Too
Social proof is perhaps the most well-known principle of influence that we will be covering today. Social proof dictates that people are more likely to value something if they see that others value it. This is something you have definitely encountered in your life before, whether or not you are aware of it.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant because your friends recommended it to you? Have you ever chosen one product over another after reading the reviews online? Or maybe you were once drawn to a new shop because there was a line up of people waiting to get inside? All of these are examples of social proof in action. Your decision to engage with the business was driven by how you saw others engage with it.
As you can imagine, this provides marketers with an actionable strategy for attracting buyers. Social proof has led to the creation of influencer marketing, social proof software, and has increased the importance of reviews. If you want to use social proof to fuel sales growth on your online store, there are a few ways to do it.
The first option is to collect and display reviews for your products. There are plenty of applications, like Growave, that will help you with this by sending automatically sending requests to customers for photo reviews, and displaying them on the product pages.
The second option is to use an application like Sales Pop Master - Countdown, which can display recent sales in a pop up on your site. Usually, visitors can't tell how many people have browsed on or purchased something from an online store. Sales Pop Master - Countdown helps overcome that. Visitors will see a small pop-up in the corner of their screen informing them of recent purchases from other customers. This helps demonstrate that people are finding value in your products and implies that the visitor browsing should too. Make sure you check out Sales Pop Master - Countdown if you are interested in incorporating social proof into your store.
#2 - Scarcity/Urgency: Act Now Or You'll Miss Out
Scarcity is another well-known principle of influence that plays off human emotion. If something is scarce (i.e. in low supply), then people will feel more pressure to purchase it. After all, you won't have the option after it sells out.
Urgency is similar. Urgency is the need to take action now, rather than later. Scarcity creates urgency, while urgency doesn't necessarily mean the offer is scarce. Urgency can be created if the sale price is ending soon, if there are only a few units available, or if you need to order before a deadline (e.g. order today for guaranteed delivery before Christmas).
Urgency creates pressure to do something now, otherwise, you risk missing out. Customers will often intend to purchase something but lack a reason to take action immediately. After all, what's the rush? The offer will be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. But, before you know it, the customer is no longer interested or has found another product that satisfies their needs.
There are several different ways to turn scarcity and urgency into digital marketing techniques. If you are running an online store through Shopify, you can use an app like Sales Pop Master - Countdown to display how much time is remaining on a sale for a product, or how many units you have left in stock. This won't work if you have 1000 units left in stock, but you'd be surprised to see how much it can help when there are only a few units left.
You can also use this principle in your email marketing, digital ads, or in your social media posts and stories. Regardless of how you implement them, you will want to make sure that you are not lying to your customers. You can embellish the truth a bit. But, if you outright lie to your customers to make a sale, they are unlikely to trust you going forward.
#3 - Familiarity: Digital Marketing Techniques That Build Trust And Rapport
The principle of Familiarity states that people will be more easily influenced by things (people, brands, ideas, etc.) that they are familiar with. Familiarity is important because people tend to feel more strongly about brands and companies that they are familiar with. Familiarity builds rapport and trust.
Think about your own life. Who are you more likely to be friends with? The person you see every day at work, or that person you once met at a networking event? Who are you more likely to develop feelings for? The person you see every day or the person you pass in the hallways twice a year? The answer seems obvious, doesn't it? The more we see something (or someone), the more we build an appreciation for it (or them). You can bet this comes with some significant implications for marketers.
Research shows that it can take as much as 13 "touches" (moments where someone sees your brand) before a customer is ready to buy from you. As much as we like to think that customers will be ready to buy from us from the first moment they hear about our offer, it simply isn't true. A touch can be an ad that the customer sees, a recommendation from a friend, an email, or anything else that gets your brand on their mind.
Building familiarity goes beyond single ads and interactions. The two most powerful paid methods to build familiar online are through retargeting ads and email campaigns. Retargeting ads are specific ad sequences that are set up and triggered when a customer engages with your store in a certain way. You can retarget customers that have visited your website, signed up for your newsletter, followed you on Instagram, clicked on one of your ads, etc. Retargeting ads will likely be one of your most effective and profitable forms of advertising since you are targeting a warm audience. The only downside is that it will take you a bit of time to accumulate the data required to fully optimize for them.
The second noteworthy method is through email marketing campaigns. If you can secure your lead's email address early in the customer journey, then you can enter them into a drip campaign with a specific engagement plan. According to Hubspot, up to $38 in sales can be generated for every $1 spent on email marketing. While not every business will see this kind of return, it's still one of the most profitable marketing channels available.
#4 - Reciprocity: Digital Marketing Techniques Centered Around Generosity
Reciprocity plays off our desire to be even. To reciprocate means to do something for someone that did for you. This is a principle that often gets overlooked when businesses are putting together digital marketing techniques, even though it can be highly effective. The way we can use reciprocity in marketing is through proactively giving. Let's look at some examples of how reciprocity plays a role in our every day lives:
Have you ever been given a birthday gift that you weren't expecting? I have, and if you're like me then one of the first things that came to your mind was probably "okay, so now I have to get this person a birthday gift". Or, maybe someone invited you to their birthday party, and by doing so earned an invitation to yours. It's the same thing.
Reciprocating when someone does something nice for you is a human instinct and a sign of good manners. Some people think about it as karma. Others think about it as a tit-for-tat. Or, if the transactional nature is a bit more obvious, then a quid pro quo. Regardless of how you define it, one thing is for certain - by proactively giving someone something, you're psychologically buying something in return.
Reciprocity can be tied in with your digital marketing techniques in many different ways. Many B2B companies elect to give away a free digital resource (such as an ebook). In return, they ask for your email address or a review and then market to you incessantly. For direct-to-consumer businesses, you can expect better results with a physical object.
My favorite method is to include a free gift with the order of first-time customers. Don't ask them for their opinion, just send them something that you think they would want along with a note. It doesn't have to be expensive either. Just the idea that you went out of your way to put a smile on their face will be enough to leave an impression. Instead of spending money on marketing to them after their first purchase to get them to come back, you can spend that same budget on proactively convincing them to love your company. Then, a few days later, you can ask them for a referral and they will be much more likely to comply. They will be eager to tell people about how much you value your customers.
To implement the rule of reciprocity correctly, you want to do it proactively. Give first. Don't expect them to return the favor either. The more it feels as though the are no strings attached, the more customers will feel inclined to reciprocate. Otherwise, it will feel as though you are trying to buy their compliance, which is never a good look.
#5 - Liking: Showing Your Customer How Much You Have In Common
Have you ever met someone that you had a lot in common with, and your two personalities clicked together almost immediately? This is due to the principle of Liking. The principle of Liking dictates that we are drawn to people (and brands, companies, etc) that are similar to us. The more we can see ourselves in someone else, the more we will feel inclined to say yes to them.
As human beings, we tend to gravitate towards people we have things in common with. People who are active like to make friends with similar hobbies. Celebrities like to hang out with other celebrities, because they share similar lifestyles and experiences. Religious people like to spend time with those who share their beliefs, their values, and their culture. The old saying "birds of a feather flock together" is still true, despite how diverse and multicultural the modern world is becoming.
The way you can use this principle to your advantage in marketing is by creating a brand that relates to your customers. If your customers are casual and prefer a down-to-earth connection over a conservative button-up environment, then your brand should reflect that. You want to play to your audience. This is easy to envision in a physical environment, but how can you tie this in to your brand for an online store?
You can create a more personal About Us page. Tell your story, and make it clear how much you have in common with your customers. Tie it in with your communications with your customers. You can change the language in your product descriptions, your FAQs page, or your policies. If you're looking to create a fun novelty brand geared towards young adults, you will want to use language that they would use themselves. This feeling of connection is what will allow you to evolve from a generic store to a brand that they love and champion.
#6 - Commitment/Consistency: Our Desire To Follow Through
Commitment is a principle of influence that claims people will attempt to be consistent with their decisions. In other words, once they say commit to doing something, they won't want to go back on their word. They have already made a mental commitment, and they will clear space in their lives to make it true.
My favorite example of this comes from a personal story. I have a family friend who really wants to purchase one of the new Tesla Cybertrucks. In order to purchase it, you are required to put down a deposit of $100 in advance, which he did. Despite not being in a strong financial position, my family friend maintains that he will be purchasing one of them as soon as they come out. After all, he has already put down the deposit! This story illustrates how we can align ourselves with a small decision we made, often years earlier. Even though the $100 deposit could easily be refunded (it's less than 0.3% of the truck's cost), and he could make a different decision, he has already mentally committed to buying the truck.
You can also see this principle in our reluctance to change jobs, cities, or even neighborhoods. You can also see it when you try to convince an Android user to switch to iPhone or vice versa. People don't want to change their mind, even if you have a good argument against their opinion. They want to stay consistent.
Marketers can take advantage of this principle in a few ways. The more methods that are available for your customer to make small, incremental commitments to your brand, the better. The first method is to set up your store to allow people to pre-order products that will soon be released. This allows them to commit to purchasing at the height of their desire for the product, rather than seeing their enthusiasm wane over time. Another method is to convince them to sign up for your email newsletter, possibly by offering a discount. This act tells them in their mind that they must want to know more about your brand. Or, if they do it for a discount, that they must want to purchase something from you.
If you want to learn more about these principles of influence and how they can be adapted into digital marketing techniques, then check out Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It has aged very well in the 35+ years since it has been written, and there is still a lot of value in it. These insights can be used in your personal life, your romantic life, and your professional life alike.
All of these digital marketing techniques can be implemented on your DropCommerce store. If you are unfamiliar with DropCommerce, we are a dropshipping platform that allows you to source products from suppliers in North America. Once a customer purchases from your store, our suppliers ship the order directly to the customer. This makes it simple, straight-forward, and affordable to launch an online store. Register for DropCommerce today and you'll be able to browse our selection of 24,000+ products. We also have a 14-day free trial if you are looking to get started, with absolutely no risk. Why wait a moment longer?
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