How far are you sitting from the screen right now? Before you carry on reading, please take a moment to move slightly further away. There; that’s better already. Assuming your eyesight managed the shift backwards your brain has started to do different things. That’s because it appears we make decisions better when we increase the distance from the very thing we are thinking about. You may have read the headline and thought “should I carry on reading”. The fact that you sat back a bit increased your ability to make the right decision – by reading on…!
In a simple experiment looking at online purchasing one group of people were told to sit close to the screen and a second group were asked to sit further back. The group sitting closer found it more difficult to make a decision about buying. The detailed analysis of the research found that closeness increases anxiety – and anxiety inhibits decision making. The research confirms an earlier study which showed that the distance between you and your computer screen can affect your thinking abilities.
Psychological studies of people in real world, bricks and mortar stores have found that people often look at something on display and then move somewhere else in the shop before returning to the original item and then picking it up. What they are doing is removing themselves from the physical proximity of the product they are considering buying. They are then able to think more clearly about whether or not to buy because they are no longer close to the product. Distance appears to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with making the purchase, thereby increasing the buyer’s chance of making the right decision.
Shops sometimes use little “tricks” to increase the distance between shoppers and products making it difficult to touch things or pick them up – putting them in display cases, for instance, or behind some kind of barrier. Not only does this increase desirability because the item is “untouchable” but it also makes it easier for us to decide whether or not to buy, because the anxiety of purchasing is diminished by the distance.
Online, of course, it is difficult to create the distance people need to make purchasing decisions. But you can do things which help people feel they are stepping back and therefore more able to make a decision to buy. For example, product images can initially be set in context, rather than close-up. This makes people feel they are further away from the item on sale – only clicking to see the close-up images once they are in “buying mode”. Similarly, you can use wording to create distance such as “as you sit back and look at this offer today you will be astounded by it”. That simple phrase includes what is known as “an embedded command” – it will make many people physically move back from the screen slightly, thereby making it more likely they will be able to decide to buy.
What this really all means is that you need to pay attention to small details on your ecommerce website in order to make it easier for people to decide to buy. Any way in which you can create physical distance between the web page and the buyer is likely to help increase sales. Otherwise, people who might buy become too anxious and click away from your site without buying.
- Can’t decide what to buy? Oddly, leaning back from your PC screen can help you decide when shopping online (dailymail.co.uk)
- Finding it difficult to make a purchase? Try creating some distance from the problem (eurekalert.org)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+