5 Psychological Insights To Help Create Better Emails

There are many levers -- many of which are not immediately visible to email marketers -- that determine the performance of an email program.

I’ve recently been taking a look at one lever: psychological methods to drive opens, clicks, and conversions. I found the list of psychological insights at getmentalnotes to be a useful framework for this approach.

The next time you are building a new email and you are stuck for new ideas, here are some approaches you might want to try:

Social proof: We look to the actions of other people to validate our own choices. When you are traveling somewhere new, you talk to friends who have been there before and look at comments on travel sites to make sure that you have made a correct choice. How might you apply this to email?

-- Note a product as a best seller.
-- Add some stats to show that the product/service has been purchased frequently or is being actively shopped.
-- Include testimonials and reviews.

Gifting: Giving away something unexpected drives the need to reciprocate. How might this apply to email?

-- Free gift card
-- “Bonus” functionality or product
-- Something cool and unexpected—maybe with a dash of humor

Loss aversion (often combined with “limited duration”): Loss aversion is a powerful psychological tool well studied in behavioral economics. We hate losing what we have —- more than we like gaining new things.

Having a deadline can frequently push us to take action. What can subscribers lose by not taking the actions you desire? Here are some thoughts;

-- Give clients a gift certificate or “bonus” product/service/feature that expires soon.
-- Make free gifts “one session only”—once subscribers click, they have to take the desired action in that session or lose the free giveaway.

Scarcity: If something is scarce, it must be good — and it may be gone soon, causing a loss of opportunity (see “loss aversion”). How can you apply this principle to emails?

-- Show a count of units available in stock (when that number is low).
-- Combine scarcity with a  story of the provenance of product (“handcrafted by ….”), which increases the perceived value of the product and explains its scarcity.

Contrast: Our attention is fixed by objects that stand out against their surroundings. When something is on a regular schedule, changing that schedule catches our attention. How does this apply to email?

-- Use color, imagery, and other design approaches to make something stand out in your email layout.
-- Introduce motion (via animated gif or other approach).
-- Change up your sending pattern (day of week, time of day).

I’ll add an unexpected bonus insight -- for a limited time!

Pleasant ending: People tend to judge things by their endings. In ecommerce environments, the ending is at the end of the shopping experience: the "success” page.  By doing something unexpected and humorous on the success page, you can provide a long-lasting impact on the customer’s perception of  your company.

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