How to get more in your shopping cartThroughout the web you will see a seemingly endless array of buttons saying “Buy This”. That is a quite direct form of words. Many sales people would be taught not to be so direct, but to ask questions that imply purchase, such as “how many would you like” or “what colour would suit you best”. There are some people who are very direct in the words they use to sell, others take a more gentle approach. However, new research suggests that we do respond to the direct approach if the product on sale fits certain criteria.

In a paper to be published in a forthcoming issue of The Journal of Consumer Research, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that we do respond to direct sales copy if the product we are buying is pleasurable or can lead to a good mood. So, a bar of chocolate advertised with the slogan “you must try our chocolate” does get people to buy it. However, a bank account with a similar slogan doesn’t get the same degree of take-up. Instead, for products and services that we do not associate with a positive mood, the sales slogans need to be gentle, such as “you could try our bank account”.

It is yet more evidence that there is no “one-size, fits-all” approach to selling online. There is no magic formula you can follow. Instead, you need to consider the attributes of what you are offering and then choose the wording that is most appropriate. This study means that if your products and services do produce a good mood, or lead to pleasurable experiences, then you are likely to sell more if you use direct sales headlines and “buy now” style buttons. However, if what you are selling is not associated with happiness in any way, then you will sell more if your copy is less assertive.

Sometimes, online sellers believe the only way to make more money is to reach more people, thereby seeking “number one” on Google, or by advertising more. In reality, what this study suggests is that you could well sell more if you pay close attention to the words you use in your sales headlines and assess the degree of assertiveness and whether or not it matches the pleasure your products produce.

Essentially, if your products are linked to a good mood you will sell more if you are assertive; you need to be much more gentle if what you sell is not associated with pleasure.

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