Thinking vs Feeling - Can Emotion Increase Conversions?

Emotions are funny things and have a huge influence over the decisions we make. So, the big question is ‘can certain emotions increase conversion rates?’

As a team of Conversion Rate Optimisation fanatics, we figured it was probably our job to find this out. So, we rolled up our sleeves and started digging. This is what we found:

How Emotions Impact Decision Making

A conversion is when a visitor decides to take your desired action. So, to understand how emotions affect conversion rates, we should first establish how they affect the decision-making process.

Most people like to think every decision they make is completely rational. That their mood doesn’t affect how they respond to a stimulus. But, that’s not how it works.

In fact, without emotion, you wouldn't make any decisions at all!

We know this because one clever neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, performed an extensive study about decision-making.

He observed a group of people with such severe brain damage they were incapable of feeling emotions. For the scientific amongst you, this is generally caused by damage to the limbic system.

Damasio also discovered that these individuals had trouble making simple day-to-day decisions (what to eat, what to wear etc). They could explain what they should be doing in a logical manner, but were totally incapable of completing the process.

This ties in to the well-known theory of ‘dual processing’ – get ready for a quick psychology lesson!

Basically, your brain has two systems:

  1. Emotional system – it’s automatic, fast, unconscious and low-effort
  2. Rational system – it’s controlled, conscious, high-effort and much slower than the emotional one

The emotional system is always 'on', so it would seem to make sense that you make decisions based on your emotions. Your rational system then kicks in and analyses the decision – this can take only a few milliseconds so it seems like the process is happening simultaneously.

Think about these 'either/or' questions:

  • iPhone or Android?
  • Dog or cat?
  • Bath or shower?
  • Cake or ice cream?

(Sorry, we know that last one is tough!)

Instinctively, you’ll have opted for one of these then your rational side will have explained why you feel that way.

It’s the emotional system that makes the actual decision, so it now makes more sense that Damasio’s subjects couldn’t decide what to wear that day!

So, How Does Emotion Help Conversion Rate Optimisation?

If the emotional side makes decisions, is it possible for marketers to evoke certain emotions through their content to persuade visitors to take their desired action?

At FABRIC8, we think this is possible, but using emotional persuasion should be done with care! Overdo it and you’ll come off as manipulative and creepy … not a good look for a company trying to entice new customers.

We’re not the only ones who believe that emotions are important in marketing; Unbounce has just released its Conversion Benchmark Report which is crammed with insights on the subject.

By analysing the behaviour of 74,551,421 users with a high-level Emotion Lexicon, Unbounce was able to determine how words associated with eight emotions affected overall conversion rates. Here are the emotions they focused on:

Positive emotions:

  1. Anticipation
  2. Joy
  3. Surprise
  4. Trust

Negative emotions:

  1. Anger
  2. Disgust
  3. Fear
  4. Sadness

Let’s look at what they found out:

Positive Emotions

Perhaps unsurprisingly, positive emotions can give a real boost to conversion rates.

By using happy, helpful phrasing and imagery, you can build a personal connection with your visitor and give them those warm feelings which will encourage them to convert.

Say you’re on a landing page for a site that discusses the tread thickness for shoes … not the most inspiring of topics, so you’re probably not going to convert based on that! However, if the page included a picture of a cute puppy chewing a shoe then you just might be persuaded.

Why? A picture like this evokes a feeling of joy and makes you more willing to stick around … even if it’s just to see more puppy pictures.

If your copy also evokes a feeling of trust, you’re bound to see a higher conversion rate. Use words like ‘understand’, ‘guarantee’, ‘certified’ and ‘genuine’ to really hit the message home.

Negative Emotions

It’s probably best to steer clear of negative emotions where possible.

If you evoke feelings of anger, disgust and sadness, it’s going to immediately turn people off your brand and lead them to seek a solution elsewhere.

It’s important to keep your language positive, where possible. In the travel sector, if just 1% of copy on a page evokes anger or fear, you could experience as much as a 25% drop in conversion rates!

Sticking with this sector, visitors often doubt the legitimacy of travel offers. However, including confidence/trust building words in 7-10% of your copy could result in conversion rates that are 20% higher! Here are some words to give your copy a boost:

  • Enjoy
  • Perfect
  • Secret
  • Top
  • Guide
  • Save
  • Personal
  • Policy
  • Star
  • Award
  • Recommend

Fear – It’s a Strange Thing…

For most industries, evoking a sense of fear really hurts conversion rates.

However, in business consulting, it can be beneficial. By filling up to 2% of your copy with words that represent fear and unease, you can actually boost conversion rates.

Anticipation can be a bad thing in this sector; resulting in up to 25% lower conversion rates – so avoid words like ‘predict’, ‘attainable’, ‘excel’ and ‘exceed’!

Remember, Testing is Key!

Emotional persuasion can work very differently according to industry and target audience. You should conduct your own tests on your audience to see what works for them.

Try using user analytics software to examine visitor behaviour. There are several tools you can use to help understand the emotion behind a decision.

One of our favourites is a heat map. This allows you to see which areas of your site people are drawn to, and identify the key emotion that’s attracting them from there.

A/B split testing is also effective; by comparing the conversion rates on your control page to a page with content targeting an emotion, you can see the impact it has. Here’s an example of how it works:

JCD Repair: Split Testing Emotions

Case study courtesy of wishpond

JCD Repair offers a while-you-wait iPhone repair service.

Hypothesis: Making copy more engaging would increase the number of customers

Variations: Here are the changes that were made:


Original Version

Version 1:

Version 1

Version 2:

Version 2

Version 3:

Version 3

Result: Version 3 won, achieving a 17.9% increase on the original’s conversion rate.

Why? Well, it evoked an emotion – joy – by making jokes and using a more conversational tone. It’s hard to say no if you’re smiling, so many more visitors clicked through.

That’s just one example of how emotion can positively affect your conversion rate. If you’re not sure how to go about implementing changes, or even what you need to change, our experts at FABRIC8 are always happy to help.

So, we now know that emotions can improve conversion rates, but be careful! They can hurt them too! Find the right balance and you’ll keep that conversion funnel running smoothly.