We human beings are social animals, so we like to make sure that we always pay our debts. For example, if you know that the person you’re meeting is making a long journey to get to you, you’re more likely to make sure that you’re on time. This is because you’re aware that they’re contributing something to the deal, so you feel the obligation to return it in kind. In the world of e-commerce, this is a trick that can be incredibly simple to use: you make your customer feel like they’re getting special treatment, you’re more likely to get them to make a purchase. By doing so you apply the reciprocity principle.
What is the reciprocity principle?
The reciprocity principle is a social psychology principle based on the idea that we as humans feel obligated to pay back those who do something for us. It is in our nature to help those who have helped us, and savvy e-commerce marketers can use this principle to boost sales.
The principle of reciprocity in sales psychology means that when someone gives us something, we feel compelled to give something back in return. Have you ever gone to the supermarket and ended up with an unplanned sausage purchase because you felt an obligation to buy after you tried a free sample? That was the principle of reciprocity in action.
Of course, online retailers can’t personally visit the house of each person who interacts with them to shove a sample in their hand. So how can you make reciprocity work for you?
Free gift with purchase
This tactic will not help you with the initial sale, but it will help you create repeat business, establish customer loyalty and even increase the marketing reach of your brand.
You might not be able to offer something in advance, but you can definitely offer something alongside. Even if you don’t advertise the gift, slipping samples of other products into your shipped product is a sales psychology technique that can encourage repeat purchases.
Another way to establish reciprocity is with an online points program. A points program allows you to reward points to your customers for different actions, and when they are given points they feel the need to give something back: their loyalty.
When your customers are given points they now have to make a decision to forgo those points if they choose not to shop with you again. This creates a reciprocity opportunity and establishes a strong switching cost.
The strongest thing a customer can reciprocate to your store is their loyalty! A returning customer is much more valuable and a points program is one of a few customer retention tools that can get your customers reciprocating their loyalty.
The gift of content
They say knowledge is power, and in e-commerce that is definitely true! Stores that provide customers with knowledge in the form of content are much better off than those that don’t.
Education is the best thing you can give your customers if you want them to reciprocate with a purchase. There are tons of potential customers out there looking for answers you can provide.
Content is an effective way for online retailers to provide value to potential customers. It’s a different way of providing a gift.
Surprise and delight
A surprise and delight approach to this tactic in the psychology of selling means that you don’t tell customers ahead of time about what they’re getting for free. Instead, they’ll find out when they receive the product that you’ve thrown in an extra freebie.
Not only does this help drive repeat purchases and word of mouth, but it also introduces customers to new products that they otherwise may not have discovered.