7 incentives for more sales – psychology meets email marketing, pt. 1

7 incentives for more sales

Psychological incentives can be effectively used in email marketing. They speak to us subconsciously, address deeply anchored needs and trigger almost compulsory behavioral patterns.

Psychological incentives can give crucial impulses for purchase decisions. Especially online you can make a difference between “buy immediately” and “buy nothing”. If the recipient is interested in your offer and already thinks about buying your product, certain triggers can push him towards a purchase.


Generally, you can divide your recipients into three groups: For the first 5 %, your offer is just the ticket. They will buy your product in any case. Circa 75% of your readers are not interested in your offer. However, the last group, 20% of your recipients, is basically interested in your product. This last group bears a potential for you to generate even more sales.

In our first part of our series “psychology meets email marketing”, we want to give you an overview of seven different psychological incentives, that make people want to buy your products.

7 incentives that increase your sales

  1. The “for free”-activation
  2. The fear of missing out
  3. The bestseller-effect
  4. The need for balance
  5. The anchoring-phenomenon
  6. The appeal of wide selection
  7. The optical trigger

The “for free”-activation

Shopping is already a rewarding activity, and special offers light up the reward center in the brain even more. Activate your customers with expressions like “for free”, “gratis”, “sale”, “discount” or “2 for the price of 1”.

Need an example? When Amazon introduced their free delivery for purchases over 20 Euros, they almost doubled their turnover.

You can also increase your revenue “for free”. There are many possibilities to do that. For example, you can make seasonal or clearance sales, offering a two-digit discount; this is a strong incentive to buy. Free delivery after reaching the minimum turnover or gratis registration can pump up your sales, too. Because people who signed up to be members of your website want to take advantage of your services and offers in the long run.

The fear of missing out …

… is a very strong incentive, because a limited offer often evokes a desire for the product. That is why hotels and airlines always display which rooms / seats are already taken, and which ones are still free. Limited availability makes you rather book sooner than later.

Suggest the limitation for abundandly available products, too by creating an artificial shortage. Display your product for a short time or only a small number of items to make it more desirable. Advertise the product in your newsletters with subject lines like “Today Only”, “While Stock last”, “Limited Editition” or “Special Offer” to provoke more clicks and purchases.

The bestseller-effect

Did you ever queue up at a food stand, because the long line made you think that you can get the best food there? Popularity is often thought of as a parameter for quality and can be an effective trigger for purchase decisions.

Tag your products with wordings like “most popular” or “bestseller”, or use rating systems to indicate the appeal of your offer. Likes, thumbs-up and good reviews work as “social proof” that your product is awesome. References like influencers can also boost the desirability of your product.

The need for balance

To keep balance between us and others is a deeply anchored need. That is why little presents can increase your sales. Favors and presents makes the relationship between the gifter and the recipient uneven: the one getting a gift feels pressured to give something in return.

This phenomenon can be used for your email marketing. Small presents like product samples or vouchers can make your customers leave a good review and purchase more products.

Anyone who regularly receives good tips from his IT expert will think of him when he makes his next new purchase. Or do you have an online food shop for pets? Send a treat with your next order – of course suitable for the customer’s pet. Cosmetic samples are also always a welcome addition, making new customers regulars and providing incentives to buy new products. This is advertising for (almost) free.

The anchoring-phenomenon

Very few people can estimate the exact value of a product. Therefore, they compare product prices in the immediate vicinity. Meaning, that the first price in your product category works as an anchor for orientation. Customers use this price as reference for all the other products in the category.

That is why a wine for 15 Euros sells easily beside a wine for double the price. However, at the discounter it cannot compete with bottles for 4,99 Euros.

Support the sale of selected products by placing them cleverly among higher priced items. By the way, sales work with the same effect. When you cross out the original price and place the new, lower price beside it, you let your customers see, just how much they can save with their purchase.

The appeal of wide selection

One of the stongest urges people have is curiosity. A wide selection has a great appeal, as field researchers Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper show in their “marmelade experiment”: In an A/B test, marmelades have been offered in a deli for a tasting. In the first test, six different flavors where offered, in the second one 24.

While the first test with the offer of six jams could attract only 40% of all customers to the shop, the wider selection of the second test drew 60% of the clientel to the deli. However, only 2% of the customers finally bought a marmelade, while the smaller selection made 12% of the customers buy a jam.

The psychologist Barry Schwartz explains, that this paradox of choice – attractive selection, low sales – occurs, because the fear of making the wrong decision grows the more options are available. A wide selection can paralize the customer.

Help your customers with their decisions by categorizing your items. If you look at the example of the marmelades, you could separate your selection by categorizing seasonal highlights, organic jams or marmelades with high fruit content. These smaller sub-selections reverse the shopping paralysis. The social proof is also an effective means to narrow the selection down for your customers and makes the purchase decision easier. It is also possible to put the best selling jams at the top of you site – for this, a well managed customer database is necessary.

The optical trigger

In a fraction of a second, online-shoppers decide if they make a purchase in your shop or not. To be honest, we don’t make it any differently in any physical shop. The atmosphere, the product range and pricing must meet your expectations for you to keep looking around. Transferred to your newsletter this means that the recipients of your mail expect an appealing layout, large images, a clear structure and inviting colors.

Optical triggers are decisive for the success of your newsletters. For example, your choice of colors determines 60% of the acceptance of your offer. Pictures trigger emotions and thereby a click on the buy button. Overall, products that are illustrated with people sell better. And the model that looks in the direction of the buy button leads your customer in the right direction. Especially in fashion it pays to put the designs on real models, because an attractive photo makes us imagine how great we could look in the clothing ourselves. Also, a couch sells much better when a happy family is seated on it in a photo.

Humans are emotional, and often base their purchase on a gut feeling. Dealers who understand how to address these feelings can trigger the click on the purchase button.

We wish you good luck with our incentives!

PS: Stay tuned for our upcoming articles in our series “psychology meets email marketing”, in which we will discuss each purchase incentive presented here in detail.

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