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The 9 Truths About Online Shoppers

The average shopper sees at least357ads in a day.

There’s simply no way to evaluate that volume so our brains have developed filtering shortcuts. These filters are constantly scanning, often just below the awareness level of the shopper.

Imagine you knew the filtering shortcuts your site visitors were using. That would be like going to an interview and knowing the interview questions in advance— you’d crush it.

We’ve been on a 13-year expedition to uncover this filtering process. We’d like to thank the 118+ DTC brands who have invested $2️⃣.9️⃣ million dollars into this project and allowed us to experiment with their audience.

So far, 9️⃣ fundamental shoppers truths have emerged.


Truth 1 of nine truths.

Marketing runs on claims. Claims like “removes 99% of air dust.”

Trouble is, shoppers have seen so many, they accept them with a lump of salt, as they should.

So the marketer needs to scan the sales pitch, sniff out anything that sounds too good to be true, and add an extra explanation to address the reader’s skepticism.

And this doesn’t just apply to headline claims.

Your sales pitch is like a chain of connecting blocks of trust.

Chain weak link Frictionless Process

When the shopper encounters an unbelievable statement it creates a gap in the trust chain. That gap is a conversion killer.

To dig deeper into this topic read this article: Too Good to Be True.

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    Truth 2 of nine truths.

    We live in a highly specialized world and shoppers want to buy from experts.

    It helps to think of our relationship with doctors. When I visit mine I pay close attention to everything the doctor says. And while I have the final say there is no confusing who the expert is in that situation.

    You need to help buyers see that for every 10 minutes they’ve spent thinking about this problem you’ve spent 10 hours.

    The buyer has to see disproportionate value. Here’s the math:

    Demonstrate Expertise

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      This expertise strategy isn’t used much by brands, which is why you need to jump on it.

      Many brands avoid using it because they confuse expertise with talking down to the reader.

      Don’t talk down to the reader.

      Yes, we want to demonstrate expertise, but we don’t want to do it in a way that comes across as arrogant or overconfident. The vibe you’re looking for is this:

      Demonstrate Expertise– Cool Confidence

      A practical example of how to use this strategy: Demonstrate Expertise Example.

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        Truth 3 of nine truths.

        Shoppers are drawn to stories where the brand encounters and overcomes a challenge.

        The value we place on something is proportional to the effort that went into producing it. It’s a psychological principle is called Labor Illusion.

        And this is why thuma.co makes it a point to communicate the effort that goes into their beds:

        Thuma's nine truths

        Tiege.com also uses this technique:

        Tiege.com Example

        Btw, this concept was A/B tested on Tiege.com and resulted in a 19.54% sales lift.

        How you can apply this on your site— Reflect on your journey and use this narrative structure to present your story:

        “We started in this direction, thought it would be easy, encountered a challenge, nearly gave up, and, in the end, solved it.”

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          Truth 4 of nine truths.

          As a marketer my number 1 goal isn’t improving your conversion rates.

          When thinking about content design think about: did reader read whole pitch

          We use surprising details to prevent mid-way quitting. What surprising details do is generate bursts of energy— learning something new is exciting— which gives the reader the energy to continue reading the pitch.

          Those who read the whole pitch are 10x more likely to buy 🆚 those who quit reading in the middle.

          Surprising Details, An Example

          Say I’m working for a brand that improves indoor air quality.

          To unearth surprising details I’d Google things like:
          — “Surprising details about indoor air quality”
          — “What do most buyers not know about home air quality?”
          — “Is indoor air quality getting worse?”

          I’m looking for things the reader isn’t likely to know and will find surprising. I’d embed these surprising details within the pitch to keep the reader engaged.

            Give me your site link and I'll show how you can use this surprising details tactic on your site:

            To dig deeper into this topic read this article: Boost Conversions With Surprising Details.

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              Truth 5 of nine truths.

              One of the surprising discoveries in neuroscience has been that 33% of the brain’s cortex is involved in vision (source). Therefore, to maximize conversions evoke mental images.

              Help buyers imagine owning/using the product. Help them visualize the pain of the problem. The clearer you can help them see higher the likelihood of them buying from you.

              Card found in a hotel bathroom:

              MGM Resorts has saved 794 million gallons of water in the past 5 years, which is the equivalent of 1,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

              Did the swimming pool image flash into your mind? Without the aid of a photo, the writer was able to evoke a mental image.

              To dig deeper into this topic read this article: The Power of Visualization.

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                Truth 6 of nine truths.

                Consumers might flirt with the idea of change but it’s always easier (and less risky) to continue doing what they were doing.

                Scientists have a term for this: Status quo bias and it’s defined as a person’s innate preference for not doing something different from what they’re doing today. So while you may think you are losing sales to an annoying competitor, in reality, you’re likely losing to the shopper choosing to take no action at all.

                Shoppers use creative tricks so they don’t have to buy your breakthrough product. Two creative tricks:

                — Ignore the problem
                — Use workarounds

                Having a killer sale pitch is pointless if you can’t create a path for the shopper from her current situation to the plan you’ve made for her.

                Ignore the problem:

                Imagine you sell long-term food storage (this is freeze-dried food with a 25-year shelf life).

                Here is an example taken from 4Patriots.com (not a client):

                People buy this item because they are concerned about one day being in an emergency situation and not having access to food.

                You are essentially selling an insurance policy for an unknown future event.

                A potential buyer may look at the offer above, feel compelled, but ultimately conclude, “What are the odds I’ll be in an emergency situation? Seems unlikely.”

                But here’s the thing: this shopper is on your site so at some level they realize they need your product. If they were 100% sure they didn’t need it they wouldn’t be here. They are just looking to you to give them a few compelling reasons to pull the trigger.

                To counteract that thought the retailer should consider using a line like this:

                It's tempting to hope one doesn't face an emergency.
                And 9 times out of 10 this strategy works.


                Imagine you sell a hybrid exercise bike:

                9 Truths About Online Shoppers. Truth 6 is People Need Motivation to Break Habits.

                It’s reasonable to assume many considering a hybrid bike already use other exercise techniques— like running outside or on a treadmill (the workarounds.)

                So if you want to convince them to buy your bike— and fire the workaround— then talk about how running adds pressure to joints.

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                  Truth 7 of nine truths.

                  There is a way to write so the reader feels the sales pitch was constructed just for them.

                  The trick is to talk about second-order things related to the purchase. Example: you sell a cast iron skillet.

                  Debating and Conversion Copywriting Lodge Cast Iron

                  Skillets are heavy and inconvenient but people buy them because they are excellent cooking tools. And they care about cooking because they value taste. So talk about taste.

                  It’ll feel like magic to the shopper because they didn’t say they cared about taste– you just connected the dots.

                  To dig deeper into this topic read this article: Personalized Experiences.

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                    Truth 8 of nine truths.

                    For most of human history, we lived in small communities.

                    Farming was invented around 12,000 years ago. Prior to that— for around 190,000 years— we lived in small groups (no more than 100 people). Source.

                    It’s deeply engrained into our psyche.

                    This is why even though most of us (especially those who expect next-day delivery) live in dense metropolises we deeply connect with tribal identities.

                    Whether you realize it, or not, your brand stands for something; and your tribal identity is expressed in your Point of View (POV).

                    Your POV is a public statement about what you stand for.

                    Many eCom businesses prefer not to talk about their true point of view for fear of alienating a subset of their audience.

                    I believe sales lost to the absence of a clear point of view are greater than those lost when one is presented.



                    — or —


                      The consumer is using things like POV to navigate the neon maze of online shopping. If they don’t see your point of view they’ll just rely on something like price. And unless you’re the low-cost leader, this isn’t going to play in your favor.

                      POV example: Sir James Dyson, the founder of Dyson, said, “I just think things should work properly.”

                      This is their brand’s POV, how they see the world. People who connect with this view relate to the Dyson tribe.

                      To dig deeper into this topic read this article: Point of View (POV).

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                        Truth 9 of nine truths.

                        As buyers are going through our sales pitch their brains throw up negative thoughts to counter our marketing claims. This is a protective mechanism.

                        If many negative thoughts remain unresolved by the time they reach the bottom of the pitch, it could will derail the sale.

                        This is why, as marketers, we need to anticipate and address negative thoughts.

                        Four things trigger negative thoughts:

                        — Missing features
                        — Inferior features
                        — Price
                        — Confusing elements

                        Go through your product page sales pitch and ask yourself:

                        — “Could the reader perceive something as a missing feature?”
                        — “Could the reader interpret something as an inferior feature?”
                        — “Is it possible they might have concerns about my prices?” The price is a huge deal. It’s the 🐘 in the room, which is why we have a whole article on the subject: Increase Conversions With Price Justification.
                        — “Is there anything on this page that might confuse my visitor?”

                        In the list above, for any item where the answer is yes add an explanation to stop the negative thought the moment it arises.


                        The year was 1906 and Van Camp had a problem.

                        Their evaporated milk cans weren’t selling.

                        Evaporated milk has many advantages over milk. But one negative is that because it’s sterilized, it doesn’t go bad.

                        Buyers were turned off by the weird aftertaste.

                        Their advertising agency had done a great job kicking off inquiries by pitching evaporated milk— a relatively new category— with the catchy Now a cow in your pantry headline.

                        Now the agency had to figure out a way to address the strange aftertaste puzzle.

                        So they did a karate chop and converted the perceived flaw into a benefit.

                        The copy they came up with:

                        Be sure and taste the milk and see if it has got that almond flavor. If it has not the almond flavor, it is not the genuine.

                        Sales soared 30%.

                        Taken from the book:

                        The man who sold America. 9 Truths About Online Shoppers.

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                          Healthy Skeptics and the 9 Truths

                          When building copy using the 9 truths explained above we focus on the Healthy Skeptic.

                          That’s because Healthy Skeptics are hard to please so any copy that works on this group will be 2x more impactful for all visitors to your site.

                          A standup comedian whose routine gets a hard-to-please audience member to laugh will get an even bigger reaction from an easy-to-please audience member.

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                            Next Steps

                            We’ve overcome one of the biggest mountains– we now understand the 9 core levers of the decision-making process our potential buyers are using. You are already ahead because none of your competitors know this secret. Now you need to buckle up so we can reveal how you can start constructing a sales pitch that vibrates at the same frequency as your shopper. That’s covered in Chapter 3: Conversion Copywriting.

                            Comments 6


                            Great article ! The copywriting was so goodI forgot I was reading. It felt more like I was talking to an old friend who truly gets it!

                            avatar post author

                            Gee, thank you!



                            This was such a great read! So insightful. Thank you!

                            avatar post author

                            Glad you liked it, Kaitlyn!



                            Amazing article. Love your work both on LinkedIn and YouTube. Thank you!

                            avatar post author

                            Thank you, Pat.

                            And for those interested our YouTube channel (where we discuss conversion strategies) is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_NJ5dAAuG0zhG9NHNp–hw



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