The Psychology of Online Selling

Why do we buy things? Well, some thing are out of necessity; we need food and water to survive. But which food do we buy? You see we do have a choice, which means we make decisions to buy one kind of food against another. That means our choice can be influenced - even for 'essentials'. So even though a principle reason for buying something is 'out of necessity' the chances are you didn't HAVE to but 'that one'. You made a choice, conscious or otherwise.

A common factor behind such choices is the driver for humans to do things which require least effort. There are all sorts of biological and evolutionary theories involved here, but in essence we tend to do things which help preserve energy and lessen the impact upon our bodies. It may be some kind of essential self preservation in play, but humans tend to avoid excess effort. That means when faced with a choice we tend to opt for things which require least effort on our part. We want things 'easy'. That's part of the reason behind the success of convenience foods. They take only slightly less time (apparently) to prepare than normal foods, but this saving is 'translated' by us into a benefit. Logically, we realise that fresh foods, freshly prepared are better for us. Logically we realise that the time taken to prepare and cook our own recipes is not that much longer than bunging something in the microwave. But the perceived time saving in convenience foods is enough to convince our subconscious that less effort is required - bingo! - product sold.

Not only does the principle of least effort apply to all our buying decisions, so does the 'problem-solution' concept. We tend to buy things which apparently, though not actually, solve our problems. If you have a dishwasher you probably bought it because it solved the 'problem' of washing dishes by hand. Partly, this is the 'least effort' principle in play. But partly it's because of your perception that washing by hand is a 'problem' that needs solving. Gosh, all that dry skin you might get by doing the dishes by hand! And what about the need to keep buying rubber gloves for years to come! Goodness me - get me something to solve these 'problems'. When buying things we often 'invent' problems that need solving, or we are convinced that a problem exists for which a particular product is a solution.

So how can you use these principles when it comes to selling your products online? The first and most important factor is that your web site needs to make things easy for your buyers. They want the path of least effort. If you require registrations, several pages to click through or complex searches for items, the chances are you will lose buyers because of all the effort involved. Make it as simple and as easy as possible for people to buy. This also includes your text - get straight to the point. You don't need welcome pages or tons of information 'about us'. Just direct and to the point information that shows people what you are selling. Make it as easy as possible for your readers - they do not want to commit any effort in making a buying decision.

You could also use the 'problem-solution' principle. Instead of providing a list of benefits your product or service offers, instead talk about all the problems people could have which could be solved by your items. These problems do not need to be 'real'. The dishwasher does not solve any real problems - only perceived ones.

If you are selling online information products, or ebooks, for instance, you need to spell out the problems which your infoproduct will solve. Many sales people will tell you that you need to list benefits, rather than features. That's true - but people do not actually buy benefits. They buy solutions to problems which will make life easy for them.

So if your web site suggests that your products and services will help people reduce their efforts in a given area and that their problems will be solved, you'll be tapping into the two key psychological principles of buying decisions.

Graham Jones is a psychologist who has specialized in the way we use the Internet. He is an expert on information products and runs where you can get a FREE report on how to sell your own infoproducts.

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