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You seem like a smart and well informed online store owner, you no doubt know the importance of using the consistency principle in ecommerce. When you get your customers thinking or acting a certain way they will begin to act in ways that are consistent with that initial action or thought.

Let me explain this concept in a little more detail, I will then give you some tactics to get the consistency principle working for you.

What is the Consistency Principle?

The consistency principle is one of six principles of persuasion proposed by Dr. Robert Cialdini. The basic premise of consistency is that we act in ways that are consistent with the image we have portrayed to others.

consistency principle definition

For example, if I am told that I look like a knowledgeable person about an upcoming election, I am much more likely to participate in the later political conversation. If I had not been identified as someone who knows about politics I may have avoided the conversation, or even said I don’t know much about politics.

With consistency you are looking to create an identity among your customers that makes them more likely to purchase with you again. They will shop with you again because they want to stay consistent with a previous thought, belief, or value you have established.

Here are some ways to establish consistency in ecommerce.

Tactics to Build Consistency

Consistency Building Statements/Questions

This is a technique I picked up in my days selling computers (dark times). Basically you use consistency building statements to disarm common objections. When selling computers the most common objection was “I will have to ask ______ about it, he/she is my expert.”

After running into this statement multiple times a week I decide to try the consistency card. I began throwing this statement into my sales pitch “But I won’t go into too much technical detail, you look like someone who’s done their research.”

consistency principle alex statement

Shameless plug, but it illustrates the point.

By establishing their knowledge of computers they were much less likely to say they needed to ask their expert. They needed to stay consistent. Why would they need to ask anyone when someone else already thinks they are an expert.

Unfortunately, we don’t have that face to face interaction in the ecommerce world. Instead of using consistency building statements you can use questions. Ask questions to your shoppers that they will answer yes to.

A yes leads to another yes. When you get your shoppers saying yes (even in their head) they become much more likely to say yes to buying your products. You can add a yes question to your homepage to get the consistency principle working for you.

Key Aspects of Consistency Questions:

consistency principle questions

Be sure it is a yes: When asking a question to your shoppers be certain they will answer it with a yes. An alarm company would ask something like “Want to keep your family as safe as possible?”

Match the question to your store: You can easily get someone to say yes. You could ask “do you want 1 million dollars?” Yeah of course I do but how does that relate to what you are selling? Be sure to get people saying yes in a way that your offer is the next logical step.

Referral Programs

When you get a customer to agree or identify with something internally, like in the previous example, they are more likely to shop with you. If you get that shopper to share their opinion about your store publicly they are more likely to shop with you again and again.

Customer retention tools like a referral program are a great way to create consistency in your shoppers. If you can get a shopper to endorse your store to their friends through a referral you are getting them to publically display their opinion. It becomes very difficult for us to change our mind on something once we publicly state it.

consistency principle referrals

Getting a customer to send a referral is often easier said than done. That is why most stores use a referral program to incentivize referrals. You can use many things to encourage referrals including discounts, free shipping, and samples. But, we find that offering loyalty points for a referral is often the most effective.

A few loyalty points is an inexpensive way to get customers to expand your store’s reach to their friends while at the same time using the consistency principle to encourage them to become a repeat customer.

Key Aspects of Referral Programs:

consistency principle referral programs

Incent a referral: A referral is valuable in so many ways! In order to get as many as possible consider incenting referrals using a referral program. you can reward discounts, products, or loyalty points.

Allow referrals to happen over social: Consistency works best when you are trying to stay consistent with a public opinion. When a customer endorses your store over social media they have made their opinion heard by an entire network.

Purchase Sharing

Sharing a purchase takes publicly sharing to the next level. Not only are you showing that you have purchased from a specific store but also letting others know exactly what you purchased. This gives even more insight into how you shop and creates even more consistency.

Major online retailers like Amazon know that this is an extremely valuable activity. That is why they always ask you to share your purchase after checkout. This was my most recent purchase from Amazon. Yes I love wiffle ball, so….

consistency principle share a purchase

However, I did not share this. There was absolutely no reason for me too. No discounts, free shipping, or points. You can increase the rate at which people share purchases by tieing the share to rewards like in our Magento loyalty integration.

Key Aspects of Purchase Sharing:

consistency principle purchase sharing

Incent a share: A shared purchase is valuable in so many ways! In order to get as many as possible consider incenting them with discounts, products, or loyalty points.

Allow products to be individually selected: A customer may not want to share everything they purchased. Say they bought underwear or adult diapers. They probably want to omit that from the purchase share. Make items selectable!

Persuading in eCommerce

You may have noticed a theme in this lessons recommendations. They focus on getting a customer/shopper to perform something publicly. These are effective strategies but it is often difficult to get customers to share without an incentive.

One of the most effective ways to incent these actions is with a customer loyalty program. You can see if a loyalty program is a good match for you with our free loyalty program assessment.

You can also see how to use the other 5 principles of persuasion in ecommerce by clicking on the corresponding images below.

consistency principle reciprocity
consistency principle liking
consistency principle scarcity
consistency principle authority
consistency principle consistency
consistency principle consensus
psychology become an expert CTA