How to Engineer Increased Sales & Happy Customers With Behavioral Psychology

How to Engineer Increased Sales & Happy Customers With Behavioral Psychology
When it comes to acquiring and keeping satisfied customers, smart entrepreneurs must understand what's going on inside their customers mind's. Just as we saw how neuroeconomics can be used for smarter pricing tactics, small business owners can benefit from insightful research in behavioral psychology to increase sales and provide exceptional customer service.
Today, you're going to see some research that reveals how marketers and ecommerce entrepreneurs can use implicit egotism, social constructs, and appeals to social inclusion to create stronger brand engagement, keep customers happy, and increase their bottom line. 

Increase Customer Happiness By Slowing Down Service

Too many businesses focus on improving only a single customer service metric: speed. Recently though, numerous forms of behavioral and consumer research have shown that customers value quality time with service providers more so than "quick" service. Comprehensive studies by the Gallup group and RightNow have shown that customers look for competent, "complete" service when deciding to stick with or abandon a certain brand:
Customer perceptions of the [service provider's] courtesy and their apparent willingness to help were far more important than speed of service in generating customer engagement.

Here are two case-studies that prove in most cases, people value slow (but courteous, thoughtful, and thorough) customer service to speed and quality of service. 

Evidence 1: Doctors Malpractice

Evidence 1: Doctors Malpractice
In his popular book Blink, Malcom Gladwell reveals some startling research that shows "customers" of all types take time-spent with service providers VERY seriously. Gladwell reveals some interesting data to start things off: despite how most people view malpractice lawsuits, statistically, the majority of people who suffer an injury due to a faulty medical procedure do not sue their doctors. 
Surprising in itself, but things get weirder. The #1 common factor among people who did sue their doctor was the belief that the didn't get enough time with their doctor, and that they felt their treatment was "rushed, ignored, and poorly diagnosed." 

Evidence 2: Fairness of Jail Sentence 

Evidence 2: Fairness of Jail Sentence 
In similarly shocking research, the Brafman brothers analyzed feedback on how "fair" convicted felons had felt their jail sentences had been, in order to find any recurring factors. The most common factor they found wasn't all that surprising: time served (length of sentence) played the biggest role in the felons rating their punishment. 
What was surprising though, was the second most common factor. According to the data, face-to-face time with their lawyers played a pivotal role in determining how each felon viewed the "fairness" of their sentencing: the more time they spent with their lawyer, the fairer they viewed their sentence. This was true across cases with similar sentence lengths as well. The Brafman brothers noted that:
...Although the outcome might be exactly the same [in length of sentence], when we don't get to voice our concerns, we perceive the overall fairness of the experience quite differently.

How To Slow Down Your Customer Service

Spending more time with customers is critical in creating a lasting relationship with them. Rushing them out the door with "fast" service can backfire, big time. One success story of implementing the mindset of spending more time with customers can be found in how Derek Sivers ran CDBaby, before selling the company for over $20 million:
I used to request all my employees to intentionally take a little longer on customers calls. I would ask them to pull up customers albums and catalogues; have a look at their pictures and gears - to learn a bit about them. Imagine how powerful it is for a customer to know that he is listening to somebody who is a musician that gets him, than something like, 'Thank you customer 4325. How may I quickly handle your problem?
While this strategy worked for CDBaby, there are some businesses and situations where the "more time with customers" approach won't work.
Some services rely on solving problems immediately. Ecommerce merchants need to figure out when they can spend time with customers and when to act quick. If a customer is calling with a complaint about service or product, you need to gauge their disposition and act accordingly. But if a potential customer is inquiring about product features, shipping rates, or something of that nature, you have a great chance to give them their answer and also build a positive relationship with that person. Like the case study above proves, service should never be "rushed, ignored, and poorly diagnosed."

Increase Sales By Appealing To Customer's Implicit Egotism

Increase Sales By Appealing To Customer's Implicit Egotism
Despite the fact that most people desire to be viewed as humble, science shows us that, in general, people love themselves. So much so that they are biased towards characteristics that relate to them. It's a construct called Implicit Egotism, and it's been used to explain a lot of oddities in the human mind in relation to personal preference, such as why we are susceptible to ownership bias
Just how far does this effect go? Absurdly far. Consider these three examples: 
  1. Academic research has revealed that people's names are likely to affect their life choices, for instance, there are more people (statistically) named Louis in the city of St. Louis, and people named Dennis or Denise are dentists more often than other names. 
  2. People who shared the same birthday with the "mad monk" Grigori Rasputin were revealed to be far more favorable of him and his acts throughout history thanks to a Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study
Here's how to apply these findings to your ecommerce marketing to better engage potential customers.

Construct Your USP Around Your Ideal Customer

Construct Your USP Around Your Ideal Customer
Would you use Betty White to advertise your product? You should construct your unique selling position (USP) around your ideal customer. Identify which customers are right for YOUR product, and craft your brand, testimonials, and marketing efforts to play on those traits favorable to this customer. 
For example, a flashy "explainer" video on your homepage might work well for a tech startup, but it will throw people off if you're selling hearing aids. Similarly, is it any wonder why Gillette would grab celebrities like Adrien Brody & Andre 3000, while the AARP reaches out to people like Betty White?
AARP knows their demographic. They're well known to use celebrities in their 60's and up, because nobody would want to listen to a young person discussing the difficulties of preparing for retirement. 
You can also take a page from political campaigns. Have you ever noticed that no matter how rich a candidate is, they run as an average Joe? Despite having wealth and business experience, many politicians choose to showcase the traits that appeal and relate to the most amount of voters. 
As an online store owner, it's vitally important to define who your best audience is, and market to them.


I hope you found this article useful. More and more these days fields like Behavioral Psychology are producing research that can be used to help ecommerce store owners build a successful online business. Lets talk in the comments.


  • Thea
    November 15 2012, 01:44PM

    What I especially like about this article is its emphasis on relationship building and becoming related with your client. Taking the time to get to know their goals and aspirations right from the start builds trust right away. It’s funny, I am currently reading the book Incognito – the secret lives of the brain, by David Eagleman, and there is a section on implicit egoism as well.

  • Kenyon Adei-manu
    Kenyon Adei-manu
    November 15 2012, 02:04PM

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. As an the field of marketing evolves and we see more and more big data I predict we will see more influence of behavioral psychology, I’m glad to see you cited Gladwell, his book tipping point also raises some great point on behavioral psychology.
    Great article good sir :)

  • Ben Hebert
    Ben Hebert
    November 15 2012, 03:02PM

    We all are special and want to be treated special. Making a connection with someone, whether it’s a customer or a blog reader will go further than you can imagine. Treat your customer with respect, get to know them and it will humanize your business. This works wonders.

  • Terry A. Davis
    Terry A. Davis
    November 15 2012, 05:00PM

    The world is perfectly just. God said it is calling Him lazy to say it’s not.

  • Mike Mason
    Mike Mason
    November 16 2012, 10:30AM

    Great post! We’ve been using a service called Intercom ( to help us with this. They have a great blog post on user engagement and how to create lasting one on one relationship through their app. Relationships that are human, not automated.

  • Michaela
    November 16 2012, 12:25PM

    This article is fantastic! So much useful information & great studies backing it up.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Justin
    November 16 2012, 12:30PM

    This blog continuously amazed me. Keep it up.

  • John
    November 16 2012, 05:56PM

    The point re prisoners needing lawyer facetime blows my mind – what a lesson. Thank you. JS

  • zuzu
    November 19 2012, 03:39PM

    What about the on-line shopping? Do you guys, enjoy to stay long time in the web site?searching for your best mach the the product that you looking for? Or, do you preffer to find this item and continue with your activities?

  • Derek
    November 21 2012, 08:57PM

    Of course relationship-building is important.

    I had a customer call me this morning, trying to figure out if her order went through.
    From the sound of her voice I knew she was a grandmother who needed some guidance at checkout. I created a new order for her, entered her credit card on the second page of checkout she was thrilled that I made it so easy for her. She thanked me profusely.

    I had to call another customer this afternoon to tell her the bad news that the product she purchased had been discontinued by the manufacturer. Even though it was bad news, she was thrilled that I called her and thanked me more than I expected.

  • Lana
    December 22 2012, 03:39PM

    Lesson: Tell every client: “Oh that’s my birthday too! I also love skiing! You’re right that is what that politician should have done!” lol

  • Steve Smith
    Steve Smith
    December 26 2012, 01:10PM

    We all known about the blog/website very well, we can found many websites in our internet now days many business company and peoples are opening blogging and building website for their business and if you are interested in online business then blogging is most important part.
    Website or blog is specially designed for the providing information and increasing customers all around the world, example if you from USA and building your international business then blog/website is the best way for the providing information and services for all around the world, you can promote your business in India distance doesn’t matter, you don’t need to watch customers from other countries you can sale your products, services for all international customers.

  • suhana
    April 09 2013, 07:40AM

    Today i came across this amazing new website named…i really think you guys should check it out..

Leave a comment ...

Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify