Consumer Psychology in Optimisation: What Works for Apparel & Fashion Websites

By Namitha Varma Rajesh

13.01.2022

At Endless Gain, we take a customer-first approach to optimisation by emphasising consumer psychology and behavioural economics.

We’ve often been asked, which consumer psychology or design principle works the best? And we’ve always answered, truthfully, that no principle can be claimed as the best—it depends on your users and your website, both of which have unique personalities.

The only way for you to know what works the best is to constantly experiment and understand what your users like.

However, we do have some interesting data around psychological principles for you, based on our 6 years of experience in the field.

In this first post of our Consumer Psychology in Optimisation series, we talk about the psychological principles that have helped fashion and clothing brands.

Here are 5 psychological principles that have worked best for fashion brands

Psychological Principles for Fashion Brands Infographic

 

1.      Social Proof

Social Proof is a persuasive psychological technique, based on the idea that we look up to what other people are doing or saying. There are many types of Social Proof—some of the common ones are:

  • User reviews and ratings
  • Crowd proof—such as a high number of followers, number of social shares, number of purchases in a week, popularity of a product
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Friend recommendations
  • Authority certification—awards, seal of certification from a leading association in the domain, etc
  • Expert recommendations—case studies, researched reports, business credentials, actual experts recommending a product or service
Social Proof Effect

Source: Jurgen Appelo via Flickr (Licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Where to Use Social Proof

Social Proof works at different stages of customer journey, whether at the beginning, middle, or end. We have successfully used it in our experiments on the following pages for clothing brands:

  • Sitewide
  • Checkout
  • Product Description Pages (PDP)
  • Category Pages and Product Listing Pages (PLP)
  • Basket/Cart

Among these page types, Social Proof has worked the best at checkout and sitewide for apparel brands. The common factor we’ve noticed for this success are:

  1. Users who land on a fashion site are assured that the brand is trusted by many other customers; and
  2. It helps assure customers that they’re making the right purchase and gives them that final nudge to completing a transaction.

When to Use Social Proof

Social Proof is a powerful technique. We’ve seen user conversion rate uplifts in 51% of the tests in which we used some kind of Social Proof.

However, this does not mean you should add it anywhere on your site or app.

This principle is best used when user research shows high bounce rates on pages, corroborated by user interviews/surveys showing lack of trust in the brand or product, confusion on whether a product or brand is right for them, or lack of motivation to continue browsing or complete a purchase.

To learn how we combined Social Proof with the Personification/Metaphor Effect to optimise the homepage carousel for a fashion brand, read this case study.

2.      WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is)

What You See Is All There Is, abbreviated as WYSIATI, is a cognitive bias in which we make decisions based just on the information available to us. In eCommerce terms, this translates to users deciding whether to complete an action on a page or not, based just on what they can see on the page, without trying to look for further information that will persuade them to complete that action.

Confusing? The following examples should make it clearer.

If a site has a mega menu with 10 visible categories and 5 hidden under ‘show more’, users are more likely to not look for the hidden categories and search for products in the visible categories.

If a page has certain features of a product highlighted but other information is under a hidden tab, users are more likely to never see the additional features and will base their purchase decision on the features they can see effortlessly on the page.

WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is)

Where to Use WYSIATI

WYSIATI affects several pages and types of content on an eCommerce website. We have successfully used it in our experiments on the following pages for fashion brands:

  • PDP
  • PLP
  • Homepage
  • Sitewide
  • Checkout

Of these, we’ve had to make more things visible to users on PDPs than on any other page. This is because the decision to buy a product becomes stronger once a user sees all the features on the PDP of products they’ve shortlisted/chosen.

When to Use WYSIATI

Pay attention to areas where WYSIATI becomes problematic—that is to say, where potentially important information gets hidden. Find ways to overcome this cognitive bias when user research shows problems such as:

  • Users are unable to find the right products from homepage/PLP/category pages.
  • They are unaware of certain product/service ranges on the site.
  • Users miss important content below the fold.
  • They are unable to find a function (such as filters and CTAs) on any page on the site.
  • Users leave PDPs and checkouts without completing a transaction, and report issues such as lack of clarity on features, delivery options, etc.

Getting creative in how you draw people’s attention to information can help sort most of the “hidden information” issues on your site.

We have seen 44% of the experiments conducted using WYSIATI yield conversion rate uplifts for our fashion clients, indicating that this is quite a dependable psychological principle in CRO.

Let’s give you an example of how we used the principle of WYSIATI to increase sales for a fashion client. This client was known for formal apparels, so most users did not notice that they also had a good casualwear section. The casuals section was not highlighted on the home page or in the menu. What the users did not see or know about, they did not buy!

We created tiles highlighting these casualwear categories and placed them above the homepage banner. These tiles were small but noticeable, which saved space and allowed the carousel and banners to remain above the fold. This resulted in more people clicking through to the PLP and product pages, thereby increasing sales of casualwear.

3.      Simplicity Principle

The Simplicity Principle, as is obvious, argues that the simpler something is, the easier it would be for everyone to understand and use it. Users prefer to “take the path of least resistance”, which means that they often make decisions based on what is easy for them to do, rather than what is more logical and rational.

In eCommerce, this applies to almost everything on a webpage—from content and images to actions and functionalities.

Simplicity Principle

Source: GDSteam via Flickr (Licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Where to Use Simplicity Principle

The beauty of the Simplicity Principle is that it can be used practically anywhere on a webpage. We’ve used it for text, images, CTAs, pricing, navigation bar, functionalities such as filters and add to bags, and even to completely redesign pages.

We have successfully used it in our experiments on the following pages for clothing brands:

  • PDP
  • PLP
  • Checkout
  • Homepage
  • Sitewide

Of these, the Simplicity Principle has produced the best results on PDPs. This again is because users’ intent to purchase is quite strong when they are on a product detail page.

When to Use Simplicity Principle

You can apply this principle on any page at any time—because there are always opportunities to make things simpler. But remember that you don’t need to change something for the sake of change.

Depend on the insights of your user research to decide when to make things simpler for your users. Investigate the causes of high drop-off and bounce rates. Simplify your page elements when your users are confused, miss functionalities/information on a page, and are frustrated by longer processes or forms.

You can also use this when webpages are in need of decluttering and redesign.

We have seen 42% of the experiments conducted using the Simplicity Principle deliver higher conversion rates for our fashion clients.

Read this case study based on the Simplicity Principle, where we made a simple change to the terminology of a function on the PLP and increased sales and conversion rates for a clothing business.

4.      Cognitive Ease/Cognitive Fluency

Cognitive Ease or Fluency dictates that the easier it is for our brain to process information, the faster we’d take an action or make a decision. This is, in fact, one of the psychological biases that feed into the Simplicity Principle.

Introducing Cognitive Ease on a page means reducing the efforts a user needs to put in to understand something or take an action on a page, thereby motivating users to convert.

Cognitive fluency

Where to Use Cognitive Fluency

You can add Cognitive Ease and Fluency to a variety of elements on your site. We have successfully used it in our experiments on the following pages for clothing brands:

  • PLP
  • Sitewide
  • PDP
  • Checkout
  • Homepage

Of these, Cognitive Fluency has helped improve PLPs the most in our experience. PLPs are quite often ignored when optimising customer journeys, because higher importance is given to landing pages such as PDPs and homepage.

However, PLPs are essential in the journey of users who like researching products on a site before deciding what to buy. Adding Cognitive Ease to such customer journeys can be very rewarding to your site.

When to Use Cognitive Fluency

Implement Cognitive Fluency or Cognitive Ease when you see users getting confused or frustrated trying to perform an action on a page and not being able to accomplish it easily. This will usually be corroborated in web analytics by high drop-off rates and/or bounce rates.

This principle is also perfect to use on forms and checkout areas if you see high drop-off rates and dwell times, as well as when there is too much clutter on a page or action area.

Most accessibility issues can also be used if you apply the principle of Cognitive Ease (e.g. filter usage, large mega navigation menu, product controls, image controls, multiple CTAs on a page).

Around 35% of the experiments conducted using Cognitive Fluency or Cognitive Ease have been successful in increasing conversion rates for our fashion clients.

We successfully executed a simple experiment on a category page for a clothing client using this principle, which helped improve customer journeys, leading to better conversion rates.

5.      Scarcity Principle

Scarcity Principle refers to the human tendency to value an item available only in limited quantity over an item that is available in plenty.

This principle also implies a certain amount of exclusivity, which also caters to the human ego. It also creates a sense of urgency when presented as a limited duration offer or product.

In addition, Scarcity Messaging sometimes works as Social Proof, because the item is construed as popular when it is running out of stock.

Scarcity messaging

Where to Use Scarcity Principle

We have successfully used the Scarcity Principle in our experiments on the following pages for fashion brands:

  • Checkout
  • PDP
  • Sitewide
  • PLP

Of these, Scarcity Messaging has worked the best at checkout and PDP in our experience. Since this is a motivating principle, it has proven to be the most effective when shown on pages where the user performs transactional actions—adding to basket and checking out.

When to Use Scarcity Principle

Scarcity and Urgency Messaging can be used in different ways to drive sales. Here are some situations to consider using it:

  • To show the availability of items—no stock or low stock. In this case, the messaging will help increase conversions when followed up with some way of reminding the user about a low-stock or no-stock product that they previously checked out. For example, have an option to add the product to wishlist, remind users about product re-availability via email marketing, or show personalised messaging when a returning user logs in to the site.
  • When the user is starting to decide on a product to buy, a Scarcity or Urgency Messaging acts as a nudge that can help them decide.
  • When the user shows purchase intent but does not complete a purchase for some reason (such as adding to basket and leaving).

You can show this either as messages on the PDP or through badges such as “going fast” or “last few pieces” on the PLP/PDP.

Scarcity and Urgency Messaging have been successful in 35% of the experiments we conducted for our fashion clients.

Disclaimer: Application of Consumer Psychology Principles Should ALWAYS Be Backed by User Research

As we said before, you cannot use consumer psychology principles to optimise your site and app pages unless the changes you’re making are backed by user research. Don’t depend just on web analytics and heatmap analysis to give you the deep insights needed for conversion optimisation—listen to your customers.

The more you know about your users, the better experiences you can provide them. And the better the CX on your site or app, the happier your customers will be, and the higher your conversion rates and revenue will be.

Experimentation is key to optimising customer experiences. No principle can be guaranteed to work on your audiences—you need to trial and test the changes you make. Your users may not like the change, or they may love it; or new users may like the changes but returning users may not, or vice versa.

The only way to know for sure is to test the changes, continuously and consistently.

Namitha Varma Rajesh
HI, I’M NAMITHA. I’M CONTENT MARKETING MANAGER AT ENDLESS GAIN. I’M A KEEN STUDENT OF HOW THE WORLD CONSUMES AND REACTS TO VARIOUS FORMS OF CONTENT, AND HOW LANGUAGE CAN BE USED TO INFLUENCE KEY CONSUMER DECISIONS. I HAVE OVER 13 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN THE INDUSTRY AND HAVE A 360° VIEW OF CONTENT, HAVING WORKED IN JOURNALISM, MEDIA ANALYSIS, ONLINE MARKETING, AND BRAND MARKETING. I LOVE READING; I DEVOUR AROUND 8 BOOKS A MONTH.

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