What a professor in psychology can teach you about persuasion


If 75% of people in a group of people go to left instead of right, you will go to the left. If your doctor advises you to stop training for 3 weeks, you will listen. If you receive a personal Thank You card saying “Thank for shopping here — we hope to see you again soon” along with the order, you feel obligated to give something back.

In this blog post, you will get an explanation of the 6 principles of persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini, a renowned Professor in Psychology and Marketing. Dr. Robert Cialdini has carried out research with a view to better understanding the psychology behind peoples’ actions and what influences them to say yes.

People consider every possible option every time. That’s is far from being the case. People do not consider a multitude of reasons every time they do something. They’re actually taking shortcuts to help them think less and make an easy and fast decision. Dr. Robert Cialdini has investigated these shortcuts and his findings have resulted in 6 ways of influencing peoples’ decisions.

Apply these 6 shortcuts (6 Principles of Persuasion) in your marketing efforts on your shop, Social Media, etc. In so doing, you can influence customers’ buying decisions — and get them to say that magic word — “Yes”.

Read about the 6 principles below.

1. Reciprocity — People feel obliged to others

If your boss is giving you a 25% pay rise, you will automatically be more dedicated to your job. You will work later than your other colleagues, you will be more available — you will also get up at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning if needed. You take more responsibility when problems arise that need to be fixed. This could be, for example, when a shop owner needs help with his website on a Tuesday evening at 7 o’clock.

Reciprocity means that when people receive a gift, a free ticket to a concert or an invitation to a football game, they feel obligated to give something back. People do not want to feel indebted to other people in any way or feel guilty about giving less than others. Of course, there are those few people who will hold on tight to their money and feel less obligated to return the favor. But, in general, people feel obligated to give something back when they receive something from another person.

On your shop you should: Do something good for your customers. If you expect customers to give you something, you shall give them something first. Give them a free, personal or unexpected gift, because they will return the favor to you. A coffee shop is giving you a free cake with your caffe latte, a clothing shop is giving you a bar of candy plus a personal letter from the owner along with your online order, and a cosmetics shop is giving you 3 small samples of new perfumes free of charge. Do you think these shops are doing it only to be seen as generous? No. They are doing it because they know for sure that customers will return the favor with a follow on Instagram, a sign-up to a newsletter, or even better, a purchase from their shop.

2. Scarcity — People are afraid of “missing out on something

It’s time to plan your annual vacation. Your summer holiday has to be to a place where the weather is sunny 365 days a year and where the environment invites you to hike on volcanoes, swim in natural mountain lakes, and where the beaches are black and sandy. Your final choice is Tenerife, Spain. You’re looking for hotels at booking.com and feel it necessary to book now instead of waiting until tonight, tomorrow or the weekend. A few words on the websites makes you act now. Words like:

  • “Only four beds left”
  • “Booked 13 times in the last 18 hours”
  • “In high demand — only 1 room left”
  • “You missed it. Your dates are popular — we’ve run out of rooms at this property.”

Scarcity means that people are afraid they will miss out on something. They are afraid that if they don’t act now, it will be too late to act later. They are afraid that they won’t be able to book the hotel they wanted, and they are afraid that they will miss out on one of the biggest concerts this year — Ed Sheeran.

On your shop you should: Create a sense of urgency, so your customers are forced to act now! Let them know how many products there are left in stock, set deadlines when you launch a campaign, for instance, “48 hours campaign — get 30% discount”. You can also tell visitors how popular a product is by writing “this product has been purchased 6 times today” or “3 people are looking at this product now”.
Besides that, you can also throw a free gift into the deal so the first 50 buyers will get a free gift with their purchase.

Remember only to create a sense of urgency on the products that are popular with your customers. Creating a sense of urgency with a less attractive product is doomed to failure.

3. Authority People listen to powerful people

Chris Macdonald is a motivated and inspiring speaker who talks about motivation, well-being, and peak performance. When Chris is standing on the stage and making jokes and being authentic — people listen. People are taking notes and want to remember and act on the advice that Chris is giving. One of his many pieces of advice is to have one clear goal in the future so you are obliged to pursue it in your everyday life so you are ready to accomplish your goal with great satisfaction when the time comes.

Chris is an expert in his field. That’s why people listen to him. Of course, his personality and humor make people listen even more. But his advice is seen as trustworthy because it is based on his education, years of experience and knowledge.

People with authority are not only people likes teachers, policemen or lawyers. People who wear uniforms at work, or tell you their job title and how many years of experience they have had also have an air of authority. People with authority who have the power to say something by virtue of their expertise will get people to start listening.

On your shop you should: signal what you are good at and explain why you are good at it. When existing or new customers have questions, you must mention all the good things there is to say about your customer service. Tell them about Amanda from customer service who has 10 years’ experience and that your customer service department has a response time of 2 minutes on Chat.

If you want to put some focus on the products you sell, you can ask an expert to give some advice. If you sell coffee pods on your shop, you can ask a coffee expert to talk about the taste of 10 new coffee pods. If you operate a clothing shop, you can ask a fashion expert to talk about new clothing trends in 2019. A sports shop selling running gear can ask a sports expert to recommend 5 different running shoes.

4. Consistency — People want to be consistent with their previous actions

Small commitments are a part of every relationship and this is also true of customer relationships. Commitment means that people are willing to do small things to prove their loyalty and consistency. People want to be consistent with what they say and do and small commitments they make along the way help them to be consistent. These small commitments are also giving them the ability to accept bigger commitments with less resistance because they are devoted to their actions.

In a relationship, people make small commitments all the time and these small commitments enable people able to be consistent in their behavior. Couples portray their partners in a positive light instead of talking about the negatives things about their partner. Also, couples are also making sacrifices when they both do things that they normally wouldn’t do. For example, when a girl agrees to go to a football game when she would rather spend the evening watching Netflix. Furthermore, couples don’t consider other potential partners because they know they already have the best they can get.

People want to be consistent in what they do. The 3 things mentioned above are examples of how couples are committed to each other and these commitments encourage couples to be consistent.

Consistency is when a person is true to what he believes in and what he has said or done before. People want to be consistent in their behavior, so their behavior reflects their self-image. This means that if you have previously said “yes” to something or someone, you are more likely to say it again because you’re committed and don’t want to be seen as someone who changes their behavior from on a whim.

On your shop you should: ask visitors to sign up for your weekly newsletter or participate in a competition where they can win a gift card worth DKK 1000 with which they can purchase products from your shop.

If you want to go a step further to get your customers to commit, you can ask customers to post a picture on Instagram featuring your products and where they are using your brand hashtag like #brand and where at the same time they are entering a competition to win a popular product from your shop. When your customers commit to something or someone in public you will experience a higher level of commitment on their part.

There is also another opportunity to increase your customers’ consistency by rewarding them with a gift when they invest time in your brand. For instance, when they complete a survey you have devised or when they have made a specific number of purchases from your shop.

5. Liking — People follow people they like

Firstly, when a close friend recommends that you watch the series “Walking Dead”, you listen. Secondly, when a shop is using likable and well-known people like Caroline Wozniacki in a campaign, you will pay attention. Thirdly, when you read about a shop’s history and what inspired the shop to start, you will be willing to follow them.

People like people they are similar to when it comes to personality, interest, and opinions. These people could either be their friends and family or celebrities like Caroline Wozniacki. People also like people that give them compliments and people with the same mission or have the same goal as themselves.

On your shop you should: put some effort into your “About us” page. Let your customers know what inspired you to start, what you stand for and the changes you would like to achieve with your products. If your customers know that the overall purpose of your product is to improve low self-esteem, protect the environment or help people to fall asleep more quickly at nights, they will like you if they are able to identify with your goals.

Furthermore, you can cooperate with influencers so that customers can associate your brand not only with a product but with personal qualities like strength, happiness, and ambition. There is a very good reason why companies use celebrities, macro and micro influencer in their marketing efforts. These influencers are people, and people trust people, not brands. While working with influencers you are able to give your brand identity — an identity that customers can relate to or want to emulate. If customers are able to identify a brands personality and relate to it — they will like it.

Give your customers compliments for buying at your shop and supporting you with positive comments and recommendations. Moreover, remember to respond to their comments on social media so that they know you are listening to them and responding to their questions and ideas.

6. Consensus — People do what others do (Social proof)

People rely on the opinions of others when they are, for example, looking to buy a new coffee machine, searching for a new series to watch on Netflix, looking for a small and cozy vegan restaurant or when they want to know who is the best fitness instructor at the gym.

Consensus means that people follow the actions of others — and especially the actions of the majority. People want to watch what others have watched. People want to choose what others have chosen. People want to experience what others have experienced. People who have tried this coffee machine, watch that series on Netflix, eaten at this vegan restaurant or have worked out with that fitness instructor are living proof that this is the best and right thing to choose in this particular situation.

On your shop you should: provide proof that existing customers like what you’re doing and why you are offering it. Show how many satisfied customers reviews you have on Trustpilot and what these reviews are saying about your shop; show how many people are following you on Facebook, Instagram etc. You should also show how many people have signed up for your newsletter.

On your product page, you can highlight what others have been looking at and/or what other people have been purchasing. Show how popular you are and let customers talk about your product because potential customers will rely on their words more than your own words

To convince customers to follow you, listen to you, post pictures about your products and to buy from you, you should use the 6 Principles of Persuasion. These principles aren’t just words, they are words that have been proven in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s research in human behavior.

The 6 principles indicate that:

1. People feel obligated to others (Reciprocity)

2. People are scared of “missing out on something” (Scarcity)

3. People listen to powerful people (Authority)

4. People want to be consistent with their previous actions (Consistency)

5. People follow people they like (Liking)

6. People do what others do (Consensus or Social proof)


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