The Power of The Nudge: How to Convert Visitors Into Customers

May 24 2013

The Power of The Nudge: How to Convert Visitors Into Customers

by in Blog

I was at a conference a few days ago and I was watching Rand Fishkin speak about nudges, and it made think about all the nudges that I’ve used in the past to convert visitors into customers. And then it hit me how most people don’t even use nudges with their online business.

But before I go into how you can use nudges, lets first define what a nudge is:

To push against gently, especially in order to gain attention or give a signal.

Now that you know what a nudge is, here is an example of one:

hotel water towel

It’s a simple message to tell hotel guests to save water as it helps our planet. Can you guess how effective it is? Well, it’s helped hotels on average of save 2300 liters of water and 150 liters of detergent each month.

In essence, you are leveraging simple cues, or verbiage to help encourage people to take a specific action. That’s what a nudge is.

Now lets dive into how you can use them to convert visitors into customers:

The pen is mightier than the sword

Words have a lot of power. An addition of a word or a removal of one can drastically affect your conversion rates.

For example, 37Signals tested the call to action phrase “see pricing and plans” over the verbiage “free trial” and they were able to boost signups by 200%. That’s right, the verbiage “see pricing and plans” boosted signups by 3x.

On Quick Sprout, when I added a simple dollar value to the email optin box within the sidebar, I was able to increase conversions by 22%.

quicksprout money

Don’t take words for granted… adding or removing words can have a huge impact on your conversion rates. You just have to figure out which words your visitors are sensitive to and then you can start leveraging them.

Design is the new marketing

Color and visual cues can have a major impact on conversion rates. Did you know the Hellobar on Quick Sprout accounts for 11% of all of my leads? It’s just a simple bar that scrolls with you as you are reading this blog post… but that one bar accounts for 11% of my revenue.


It’s not just with me either, generates around 20% of their revenue through Hellobar as well.

And it doesn’t have to be drastic changes either, one simple design tweak can drastically increase conversions. MarketDialer decided to run an A/B test in which they added the cost of their solution to their homepage.

Here is the original version:

market dialer

And here is the new version:

market dialer new site

Can you guess which one converted better? By showcasing their price, they were able to generate 100% more leads.

If you are interested in adjusting your visual cues, you should first check out this infographic as it will break down the meaning of colors and how they affect people psychologically.

What’s useable may not convert the best

I always thought that making things easier for the user would boost your conversion rate. But sadly, it doesn’t always work that way.

With Crazy Egg our checkout process used to be one page, until Conversion Rate Experts convinced us to test a two-step check out process. The first step being where a user puts in their name and email, and the second being the checkout page.

crazy egg signup

Do you know what the results were? A 10% increase in conversions.

The Obama Administration saw similar results with this tactic. When Obama was running for President his team tested a multiple step checkout process.

obama ab test

The end result was a 5% increase in conversions. Not bad for a simple design tweak.

The reason I think a multiple step checkout process works is because a person is already committed after they give you some of their information. So might as well complete the rest of the checkout.

Conversations sell themselves

One of the simplest nudges I’ve tested is to create a conversation with people. If you ever signup for the Quick Sprout newsletter you will be placed in an email drip sequence. In one of the emails I ask you to “hit the reply button and tell me what you think of the email”.

Whenever someone hits the reply button, I make sure I always respond to them, thank them for their feedback. I am not asking them to buy anything, but 71% of the people of those people who reply buy my Quick Sprout Traffic System.

Don’t underestimate the power of having a conversation with your visitors. Whether it is through email or even LiveChat people like buying from people, not from robots. Building a connection with your visitors is a powerful way to nudge them into becoming customers.

One way to help increase the amount of conversations you are having is to create a warm and fuzzy feeling with your website design. If people feel your company has an open and transparent culture, they are more likely to reach out to you. We actually do this with Crazy Egg by leveraging a French character within our explainer video on the homepage.

french crazy egg

Now doesn’t that animated character make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? It actually is so effective that it drives an extra $21,000 in monthly income.

What’s the consequence?

If someone doesn’t buy your product or service, there is always a consequence. It could be that they don’t increase their revenue or that their life is a bit harder. Whatever it maybe, you can actually nudge people to become a customer by telling them what will happen if they don’t sign up or buy from you.

With Crazy Egg, people signup for the service because they want to understand how their visitors engage with their site. We are able to convert an extra 6% of our visitors into customers by showing them a message that says “No thanks, I treat all click behavior the same”.

crazy egg bounce exchange

Sometimes you just have to tell people what they will be missing out on if they don’t become a customer. You don’t have to do this through paragraphs of text, a short phrase usually does the trick. It works well with Crazy Egg because our visitors know that if they treat all of their click behavior the same, they’ll lose money.

Don’t put a kid in a candy store

When you put a kid in a candy store and you tell them they can only buy 1 thing, what happens? They won’t know what to get because they want it all.

Visitors are the same way, if you give them too many options, it can potentially hurt your conversion rates. By reducing your options you can make it easier for people to decide what they should buy on your website.

With KISSmetrics we removed our navigation menu from the homepage as well as a lot of filler text and we saw increases in conversions by over 70% through a combination of 3 separate A/B tests.


On Quick Sprout, I only offer 3 social sharing options… Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. I recently did a test where I offered 5 options, in which I added LinkedIn and Pinterest. The end result was a decrease in social sharing by 29%.

This just goes to show that giving people more options don’t always help you convert more visitors into customers. For this reason I only try to ask my visitors to do 1 thing at a time. When you ask them to do too many things, they typically won’t do any of them.

What’s the incentive?

One of the simplest ways to nudge people is to incentive them. When I worked with Institute of Integrated Nutrition, they offer visitors a discounted price to their college program for a period of 48 hours. Every time they did this, they generated more money in that 48-hour period than they did throughout any week of the year.

Appsumo is notoriously known for using the same strategy, they offer deals for a very limited amount of time.


They even have a countdown clock on their website that shows how long the deal will be around for. If you miss out on the deal, you won’t ever get it again at that price.

By using things like countdown clocks, coupon codes, and even bonuses you can incentive your visitors to convert into paid customers. You just have to try and go above and beyond by offering them more than they expected.


There are hundreds of ways you can nudge your visitors into becoming customers… you just have to get a bit creative. You can use some of the methods above, or even ones from Rand’s presentation.

The most important thing is for you to go out there and try using some of these subtle queues as it can help boost your revenue. When doing so, make sure you A/B test the changes as some will help and some won’t. But if you don’t test them, you may end up losing money.

What other nudges can you use to convert visitors into customers?

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