Can Words Alone Convince Your Customers To Convert?

By: Deborah O’Malley| 2019

There’s plenty of research showing words, like “now” and “free” can strike a chord with customers, persuasively prompting them to act. But, is it the words themselves, or something deeper behind them that psychologically motivates us to take action?

To answer this question, GuessTheTest has dug into some pivotal behavioral marketing and human psychology research. What we’ve found is surprising!

Our research reveals that, while our brain processes words to derive meaning, it’s not necessarily individual words that motivate us into action. Rather, the tone of a message – either positive or negative – can dramatically impact our response and subsequent conversions. This is the idea behind a theoretical framework called message framing.

Message framing involves intentionally phrasing a message to persuasively emphasize the costs, or benefits, of adopting, or failing to adopt, a behavior. Research shows the way a message is framed can influence choices, preferences, attitudes, and behaviours.

Effective use of message framing can significantly affect your web viewers’ attitudes, intentions, and behaviors.

Loss-framed message

When a message is framed to emphasize the costs of carrying out a detrimental behavior, or the losses associated with failing to perform the behavior, it’s termed a loss-framed message.

Gain-framed message

In contrast, a gain-framed message emphasizes the benefits associated with performing a particular behavior, or the undesirable consequences that can be avoided by taking action.

As an example, think of a website with a pop-up that appears upon exit. The text on the pop-up might state that if you don’t sign-up for the newsletter, you’ll “miss out on important updates.”

This statement is a loss-framed because it emphasizes the losses you’ll incur if you don’t carry out the behavior of signing up.

A gain-framed message, on the other hand, would emphasize the benefits of signing up, or claim signing up for the newsletter will help you avoid missing out on important updates.

While both approaches convey the same information, they deliver the information in a much different tone. And, that is the power behind message framing: you can use it to purposely craft copy to increase conversions.

But, how do you know which tone should be used when?

To best answer this question, we can turn to a theoretical model known as Prospect Theory.

Initially developed as a way to explain economic decision-making strategies under conditions of risk, the theory can be applied to the behavioral marketing realm to explain why we make certain choices on a website.

The basic tenant behind Prospect Theory is that risk tolerance is influenced by the way information is presented.

When a message is framed in terms of the potential losses, or negative consequences, people are, interestingly, more willing to tolerate risk.

But, when information is put in terms of the potential gains, or benefits, people tend to make more risk adverse decisions. Seems counterintuitive. But, that’s because with higher risk tends to come higher reward.

As a digital marketer, applying message framing with Prospect Theory really comes down to evaluating how much risk your customer is willing to take, based on the situation you’re presenting them.

While there’s no hard and fast rules to determine risk appetite, research shows, certain messages work best in certain contexts.

According to some research, loss-framed messages tend to work best at encouraging people to protect themselves, their health, or their finances.

Gain-framed messages, on the other hand, are often best at encouraging people to perform an action, like signing up for an offer, purchasing a product, or performing a health enhancing behavior/preventative behavior, like using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer.

But, as always, it’s best to test on your specific audience, with your exact messaging.

Message framing can be a great technique to persuasively motivate your customers to convert.

Now that you’re aware of this technique, you can start applying it to your own testing.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start!

If you don’t, you could miss out on potentially significant conversion gains. Now, that would be a loss! 🙂

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