Applying Persuasion to Email Creative

Persuasion Architecture, developed by conversion optimization gurus Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, is a persona-based approach to marketing. If you know a customer’s “buying modality” (Competitive, Spontaneous, Methodical or Humanistic), you can tailor your design, copy and direct marketing to best persuade that type of personality.

It would be ideal to segment an email list by personality type. You can apply segmentation rules to on-site behavior, such as what the customer chooses to sort category results by. For example, if a customer chooses to see the newest or most expensive items first, he or she may be a “Competitive.” If the customer is logged in with an account, you may flag that customer as “Competitive” and send future promotional emails for the category accordingly.

Sometimes you simply have no information on a customer’s intent or personality type. Okay, let’s be honest – it’s most of the time. Is there a “shotgun” method to marketing that might cover the 4 buying modalities? Crutchfield shows you it’s possible:

Let’s look at how this email campaign appeals to each personality type:

Competitive Customers

  • Like to be the first to own a product – respond to new items, featured or best-sellers
  • Interested in facts and summaries – without clicking

Crutchfield explains why the items are featured, identifying which is the New Arrival, the Top Seller, the Featured markdown and the Customer Favorite. Great, that saves the competitive time.

However, I think it could be a bit more persuasive. New Arrival, so what? If I’m competitive, I want to know what about owning this model will make me the coolest kid on my block – I’d like to see a special feature about it that the older stock doesn’t have. I believe every pick could use a one or two bullet point summary to get more info before the click.

Spontaneous Customers

  • Interested in what other people bought
  • Respond to sales, discounts, limited stock and time-limited offers (like day-only sales)
  • Respond to free overnight shipping (I can have it tomorrow!)
  • Interested in “how many” reviews there are

This entire email is perfect for a spontaneous person who is more likely to make an impulse purchase than other types. To aid the decision making for the spontaneous shopper (if he or she is price sensitive or trusts top rated picks, for example) Crutchfield has made it easy to make a fast decision. Crutchfield creates excitement around the different picks, clearly showing the markdowns and star ratings.

Adding the number of reviews would help to instill trust for all buyer types (as Andy Beal reminds us in Radically Transparent, a 4.5 star rating for 300 reviews is more positive and trustworthy than a 5 star average with 2 reviews).

If Crutchfield upped the ante here and offer free overnight shipping, that would make it extra persuasive to the spontaneous.

Methodical Customers

  • Like product details, very thorough in researching a purchase
  • Like side-by-side product comparison to make a rational decision
  • Trust expert reviews – videos are especially helpful
  • May be skeptical of contests, free shipping and returns – what’s the catch? Will read the fine print every time.

The links to the buyer guides and other learning materials on the side are great for methodicals, who want to educate themselves before purchasing anything. The quick links to read reviews are great, because methodicals like me often read the majority of them.

For the product picks, classifying why a model was picked is brilliant. Methodicals lean towards skepticism, so clarifying that one was picked because of a sale vs. a new arrival vs. a customer favorite helps them trust your offers. Methodicals can also see the sale price, original price and dollar savings clearly.

Crutchfield could do even better by replacing the “Featured Product” with “Expert Pick” or “Staff Pick.” “Featured” is a vague adjective. It’s better to be specific about why something is featured, and there are no expert picks in this email, which methodicals would like to see.

Humansitic Customers

  • Cares what others have to say
  • Appreciates live chat support (or telephone service)

Humanistic shoppers will appreciate the star ratings, Customer Favorite and the “Call us for One on One Advice” messaging with shiny, happy people.

All-in-all, Crutchfield’s is an excellent example of selling to different types of shoppers in one email, without cluttering the creative. Hat tip to Chad White from the Retail Email Blog where I discovered this email.

And don’t forget, persuasion applies to every part of your site and marketing program. Are you optimizing your customer reviews and email subject lines for different buying modalities?

For more information on Persuasion Architecture, see the Eisenberg’s Waiting for Your Cat to Bark.

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3 Responses to “Applying Persuasion to Email Creative”

  1. Linda-

    Great post, as always!

    One thing for your audience to keep in mind, as we get this question all the time when kicking off Persuasion Architecture work with clients- the idea is *not* to know a specific customer’s personality type, and use that to tailor content to them in that style all the time (ala 1-to-1 marketing). In addition to scalability issues with that approach, more importantly, one’s type is simply their preference. This means it’s a good predictor of behavior over time, with a large sample size, but a poor predictor for any single purchase decision. You are just as likely to operate in a Methodical mode as you are to behave in the completely opposite Spontaneous mode, for any single purchase you make. After all, free will hasn’t been replaced by the MBTI :)

    Thus, the goal of planning your strategy around Persuasion Architecture is to better understand how people would behave, if they were in that specific buying mode when they came to your site, or engaged with an email or piece of content. It doesn’t matter if a visitor behaves like a competitive during the early stage of their buying process, then shifts to methodical during middle & late stages, it simply matters that the site/content can persuasively accommodate any of these buying modes/preferences.

    At the end of the day, as you’ve pointed out, avoiding “painting everyone in broad strokes” is the end goal, and the web provides some natural advantages to doing that than other offline mediums.

    Keep up the great content!

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  3. Great example on Persuasion Architecture. But as you mention adding the number of reviews would really help giving the rating some trustworthiness. I remember a recent think aloud usability study I conducted on a site that only showed the number of reviews in a mouse roll-over state. On a specific product page with 5 star review I tested 4 out of 8 subjects (50%) said something like “yeah right, they probably only have a single 5-star review, and that is probably submitted by the manufacturer.”
    - takeaway: show the number of reviews all the time.

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