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The 9 Truths About Online Shoppers

In an age where the average online shopper encounters over347ads a day, cutting through the noise to capture attention is paramount for online retailers.

Groundbreaking research spanning 14 years, and supported by a $2️⃣.9️⃣ million investment from over 118 DTC brands, has unearthed 9 pivotal insights into the 🧠 of online shoppers.

This article distills those discoveries into actionable steps to engage, convince, and convert your site visitors—especially thoseinterested, but still not convinced.

To draw the attention of visitors who are 𝕚𝕟𝕥𝕖𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕕, 𝕓𝕦𝕥 𝕤𝕥𝕚𝕝𝕝 𝕟𝕠𝕥 𝕔𝕠𝕟𝕧𝕚𝕟𝕔𝕖𝕕, we place CTAs at high visibility locations on the page (an example). When any of these CTAs is clicked, we show a pitch that’s built using the 9 truths described in this article.

Use these 9 truths to not just compete but dominate in the crowded online marketplace.

Truth 1 of nine truths.

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

The trouble is that shoppers have seen so many claims they’ve become skeptical.

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 trust links.

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 confusion about who the expert is.

    Your visitors need to 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 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 not using arrogance or overconfidence.

      The vibe you’re looking for is this:

      Demonstrate Expertise– Cool Confidence

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

      In this expertise section we covered a bunch of ideas. Were they all clear? /

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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 goes into producing it. It’s a psychological principle called Labor Illusion.

        And it’s 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

        We A/B tested this on Tiege.com, and it resulted in a 19.54% sales lift.

        How you can apply this on your site— Reflect on your journey using this story formula:

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

        Was this concept of rooting for people who beat the odds explained properly? /

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          Truth 4 of nine truths.

          As a marketer, my number 1 goal isn’t improving 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 ChatGPT things like:
          — “Surprising details about indoor air quality”
          — “What do most buyers not know about home air quality?”
          — “Is indoor air quality getting worse?”

          The keyword here is surprising. Including boring or obvious facts will do nothing to boost conversions (they may hurt them). You are looking for fascinating facts that are:

          • Little known
          • Easy to understand
          • Counter-intuitive

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

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              Truth 5 of nine truths.

              A surprising neuroscience discovery is that 33% of the brain’s cortex is involved in vision (source).

              What this means to the marketer: To maximize conversions evoke mental images.

              Help buyers imagine owning/using the product. Help them visualize the pain of the problem. The clearer the visual, the 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 five years, 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 easier (and less risky) to not change.

                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 inertia.

                9 Truths Inertia Graphic

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

                A: Ignore the problem
                B: 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.

                A: 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):

                Using long-term food storage example of explain how shoppers can ignore a problem.

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

                So, 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 for 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.

                B: Workarounds

                Imagine you sell a hybrid exercise bike:

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

                In that scenario, it’s reasonable to assume many people 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— make sure your sales pitch talks 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. For example, say you sell a premium car polish that’s 30% more expensive than the next option.

                  Premium car polish with sexy car in background

                  If I was making guesses about this person, I could follow a certain line of thought: They think their car deserves the best because they love their car, maybe more than loved ones. Maybe these loved ones think it’s silly to spend so much time polishing a damn car. But maybe you do it anyway because it’s one of the few things in your life that isn’t for sharing. It’s something just for you.

                  So you can talk about how sharing is good, and we share so much about our lives. But it’s OK to have that one thing that’s just for us.

                  It’ll feel like magic to the shopper because they didn’t share this detail about themselves—you just connected the dots.

                  Connecting the dots makes the conversation feel personal.

                  To dig deeper, click here: Personalized Experiences.

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                    Truth 8 of nine truths.

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

                    Humans invented farming around 12,000 years ago. Before that—for around 190,000 years— we lived in small tribal groups of no more than 100 people. Source.

                    We live in larger communities today but still connect with tribal identities. It’s core programming, and we can’t help it.

                    And your Point of View (POV) communicates your tribal identity.

                    It’s 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.

                    But not talking about it does more harm than good.

                    Agree?

                    Yes

                    — or —

                    No


                      Neon maze one of the 9 truths
                      one of the 9 truths — neon maze

                      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.

                        Unresolved negative thoughts are conversion blockers

                        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.

                        Example

                        The year was 1906, and Van Camp had a problem.

                        Their evaporated milk cans weren’t selling.

                        Unlike regular milk, evaporated milk is sterilized to prevent it from going bad.

                        Unfortunately, that sterilization imparts an unexpected almond-flavored aftertaste that was turning off customers.

                        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, they had to figure out how to address the strange aftertaste puzzle.

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

                        Here’s the copy they came up with:

                        Sales soared 30%.

                        Taken from the book:

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

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                          Examples

                          So that was the overview. Now, I am going to show you a series of practical examples of how these 9 truths can be applied to build conversion-maximizing sales pitches for DTC brands.

                          Example 1

                          The first example is for a site that sells high-quality compression wear for women. Ready?

                          Comments 38

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                          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!

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                          Gee, thank you!

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

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                          Glad you liked it, Kaitlyn!

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

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                          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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                          Seamless illustration of the 9 core principles of online shopper’s interest retention.
                          Very tactfully applied those principles in the article itself.
                          Intriguing and eye opening.

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                          Love the article and case studies. I’ve been following and enjoying your ‘buyer’s psychology’ posts. #3 and 7 resonate with me more 🙂

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                          Thanks, Rashmi. I’m glad you like the content. Means a lot.

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                          Love the work man! – It’s very evident that you spend a lot of time deep diving and thinking into the tricks to help boost conversion.

                          Bookmarking the blog now!

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                          Thanks, Amber. Appreciate the comment. I guess this is what happens when a marketer obsesses over one thing.

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                          Hi Rishi,

                          Regarding your section on ‘surprising details,’ do you recommend focusing on surprising details about the product category or topic (in your example, air quality) or the product being sold (using this example, an air purifier)? Or is it best to combine some from both areas?

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                          Hi, Christian. My recommendation is to identify aspects about the problem that consumers find most valuable, but also don’t know enough about, and present tons of interesting data about those topics. Presenting interesting details has lots of benefits:

                          1: It positions you as an expert.

                          2: It’s giving people FREE value. This activates reciprocity, where, on receiving that free information, the user is compelled to reciprocate. Often that reciprocation comes in the form of signing up for your newsletter or purchasing your product.

                          3: It breaks up reading fatigue. Our brains are power hogs. When the prospect is reading the sales copy, they start getting fatigued. Surprising details act as mini KitKat breaks, giving them the energy they need to continue reading. And people who read our entire sales pitch are 10x more likely to buy.

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                          I cut my email subscriptions to 3. You made the cut. Your insights are actionable! Thank you.

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                          Hi, Troy. That means a lot. Thank you 🙂

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                          I have read these 9 truths so many times they’re etched in my brain. They’re applicable to virtually everything I write for clients, from a social media ad to a landing page to an email. Thank you Rishi, I’m on your list for life!!!

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                          Hello, Laurel. I am so happy the nine truths have given you value. I use them for every piece of copy I write 🙂

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                          I have had the privilege to
                          Work with Rishi on my website and after he put some magic touches my visitors went from spending 3-4 Minutes to 7-9 minutes outcome more sales !!! Thank you Rishi!!
                          Javier Virgen
                          Founder
                          GLOSSBOSS

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                          Hey, Javier. So nice to hear from you. I look forward our future collabs.

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                          I love how you have distilled conversion factors down to 9. Kinda line Cialdini’s 7 persuasion factors but much more targeted. I’ll be keeping this page handy while crafting landing pages and product pages for ecommerce. Thanks for sharing so many great insights over the years!

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                          Thanks, Joe. The list is yours to keep 🙂

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                          This article distills essential, yet non-obvious truths about human psychology. Fantastic work, Rishi!

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                          Thank you, Clemence. Means a lot coming from you 🙂

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                          Rishi: I always learn something valuable from your posts. Thank you for your commitment to being our teacher.

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                          Nice post Rishi.

                          Thanks for sharing such valuable details!

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                          Great article thanks Rishi. You are one of the few people I have come across online who think about converting, or on site sales, in a way that makes sense. I always enjoy getting your emails and find all your content very helpful

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                          Check your inbox 🙂

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                          I come back to this list over and over again. I am always so impressed by the thought you have put into why people buy. So many marketers and copywriters parrot the same dozen ideas they’ve seen others parrot before. You put in the work to come up with a creative, original list that crushes the competition. 👏👏👏

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                          Hey, and you helped shape the list, so thank you.

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                          This post is fabulous! thanks for sharing.

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                          This is very deep but worth implementing.
                          Thank you for the recommendations to our site

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                          Great info BUT I’m always curious the impact of a known brand on CVR? Does one of these truths address that? When we see underperformance on a website we always wonder first – would this same offer and landing page convert if it was coming from a known brand? Can an unknown brand compete with known brands?

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                          Hey, Craig. Great Point. There is no doubt that a known brand has the conversion upper hand. But new brands are born every day and even known brands started somewhere.

                          Busting the objection of “I’ve never heard of this brand before” is covered in tactic number 9 (Must Have Our Negative Thoughts Resolved).

                          Here’s a potential angle an unknown brand can use:

                          The fact is, we can’t outspend the biggest advertisers. Their ads are everywhere, which is probably why you’ve seen them way more than you’ve seen us. And while we can’t match their ad budget, we can triple down on improving these very specific aspects of the product: [here you’ll list these details where your solution is clearly better].

                          Something like that.

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                          Really brilliant advice Rishi – you really have figured it all out -Thank you.
                          p.s. I noticed your emails often go out on Mondays. That is my busiest day and it might be true for others as well. Wondering if it might be worth trying a Thursday on an A/B test? Just a thought!

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                          Hi, Julie. Sending emails on a Tuesday an an A/B test is a great idea. The only challenges that all of my newsletter sign up branding is for a Monday morning email 🙂

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                          Thank you Rishi for what you do, and for being generous with sharing everything you’ve learned. I read the Honeylove case study after reading these 9 truths and was ready to get a bowl of popcorn, hooked on the storytelling you came up with. Highly recommend folks sign up to Rishi’s newsletter if you haven’t already!

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                          ❤️

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                          Great article but I have a thought about something that may be hurting your comment conversion: you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of all of the comments to leave one. If I hadn’t received your email, I would have thought comments were closed (it felt strange to have to scroll so far) and simply not left one. Hope that helps, love your content!

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                          IF THE COMMENT SECTION REMAINS EMPTY I'M GOING TO LOSE MY JOB

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