This is the third lesson in ecommerce psychology 101! Today we will go over using the authority principle to persuade your shoppers to make a purchase. In these lessons we will take the teachings of Dr. Robert Cialdini and apply them to ecommerce specifically. Last week we went over how to boost sales with scarcity, this week is about using authority!
What is the Authority Principle?
If a police officer asked you to move your car from a parking spot would you? Most people will obey this request no questions asked because of the authority that the officer holds. Now this is an extreme example but it is a great illustration of what the authority principle is.
We are more likely to be persuaded to complete an action if the request comes from a source that we view as credible or in a position of power. This is because we believe that this credible source must have our best interests in mind, even though that is not always the case.
The authority principle does not require a person to hold a position of power, like a police officer or our managers. We can even be persuaded through authority from other cues such as clothing (a lab coat) or expensive items (luxury car).
But how can you use authority on your ecommerce site? We can’t just become a doctor and tell people to buy. While it is difficult to use the authority principle in the traditional sense it is still a powerful force of persuasion you can use to increase sales online.
Tactics to Increase Your Authority
To get authority working for your ecommerce store you need to focus on establishing credibility. An online shopper will be interacting with your website rather than a salesperson, so you need to be a little more creative.
I will focus on using authority to boost your sites credibility. When your site is viewed as credible it holds more authority. This leads to shoppers feeling more comfortable shopping with you, and makes it easier for your site to convert!
We are more likely to trust a man in uniform on the street than a man in regular clothes. We are also more likely to trust something that is said about a product from others than if the company tells us themselves. We are even more likely to trust what is being said if it is seen as coming from someone knowledgeable.
In this example Herbalife gets doctors to share opinions on some of the products they sell. This a great way to establish authority. Shoppers will see a doctor as a credible and trustworthy source of information on nutrition. Shoppers are much more likely to buy based on features outlined by a doctor than if Herbalife had stated the features themselves.
That last example may seem like a no brainer. Obviously a doctor can help sell nutritional supplements, but your expert doesn’t have to be an academic. An expert just has to be someone your target audience will see as knowledgeable about the subject.
Many companies are beginning to send products to Youtube personalities to get them reviewed (featured on their channels). A Youtuber who talks about fitness and style can be seen as a credible source for new products, even though they are not a doctor or lawyer. Here is an example.
This Youtube video was a great way for Umoro to establish credibility through an online authoritative figure while Aaron (alpha m) was also able to boost his own authority in the space. More on that next.
Key Aspects of Expert Reviews:
Keep them genuine: An expert review is credible because it is not viewed as an advertisement. If you dictate what is said you will remove the authority they create.
Match your expert: Match the experts you ask to review with what your online store sells. Asking a doctor to review your china dolls will not establish any credibility at all.
Become the Expert
A great alternative to asking experts to review your products is to become the expert yourself. When your store is seen as a credible source of information on a topic you gain the authority to influence purchases.
Let’s look back at alpha m as an example of becoming the expert yourself. Aaron sells his own products on his site but he also frequently publishes helpful mens style and lifestyle videos on his Youtube channel.
These videos are helpful for his target audience and he has established himself as a style expert. He has now become an authority, and he can much more easily persuade us to buy products that he is viewed as an expert on.
Aaron isn’t the first person to adopt this very successful strategy known as an ecommerce content strategy. There are tons of examples of people selling online once they established an audience first.
Key Aspects of Becoming an Expert:
It is not fast: Establishing yourself as an expert is a lot of work and will be a significant time investment. Do not expect to establish yourself as an authority over night you will need to stay committed for the long haul.
Select a niche: You cannot become an expert on everything. Select a small niche of a category you are familiar with and start to make your opinion known. Once you are viewed as an expert in that niche you can begin to broaden your scope.
Like I had mentioned in the intro, authority is not reserved only for people. Objects can also display authority for you. Savvy ecommerce merchants are using imagery on their site to establish authority and increase conversion. Let’s start with an example.
This is an image taken from the homepage of Otter Box, the world’s most durable phone case. The image quickly shows exactly what they do and the value they can provide you. They established their authority in the space in mere seconds with this well constructed image.
Here is another example of using imagery to establish authority. The below example is a video thumbnail on Proactiv's site.
I am not sure what is happening in that image, but boy does it look scientific. They must know exactly what they are talking about. This image is a great example of establishing credibility based on looks alone.
Key Aspects of a Credible Imagery:
Showcase what you do: A great way to establish your sites credibility is to immediately show what you are known for. Do you make high end suits? Show an image of your suit being expertly crafted on the homepage.
Use authority cues: While an image is not an authority figure, it can be seen as a source of authority. Use cues that we would normally associate with authority figures in your images, like in the Proactiv example.
Celebrity endorsements are a tactic as old as marketing itself, and there is a reason… it works! Getting a celebrity to endorse your product immediately supercharges it with authority. Your customers look to be like that celebrity and will see the endorsement as a reason to choose your product.
Unfortunately, the average ecommerce merchant does not have a couple million lying around to get an A-list celebrity endorsement. Instead of going for the universally recognized celebrity try reaching out to some industry related celebs.
Say you are selling a product that is used in home renovations. You could reach out to someone like Mike Holmes, who has his list of “Holmes Approved” products.
If this tactic still comes with too steep of a price tag you can always look to social media influencers. They may not be a legit celebrities but an endorsement from them can go a long way.
Key Aspects of Endorsements:
You don’t need Beyonce: An endorsement doesn’t need to come from an A-list celebrity. There are tons of influencers out there that can help you create authority with a strategic endorsement.
Persuading in eCommerce
This lesson has now given you the basics to establish authority on your site. This added credibility will increase your conversion rates and set you up for future success. To see more principles of persuasion applied to ecommerce click on the image below.