Understanding Consumer Behaviour series – The Psychology of Reciprocity and how to improve your conversion rate

Hear ye, hear ye! Welcome to the second instalment of the Understanding Consumer Behaviour series. (If you missed the first one, you can catch it here). Today, we’ll be looking at a principle called reciprocity. Reciprocity is a psychology concept around understanding the way people think.

Now psychology is no new technology, however as we discussed last month, this era has seen the internet become very powerful and in-turn, allowed the opportunity to create another shopping platform. This has also made a bridge for persuasion to jump on-board to help convert those stubborn shoppers, but how so?

We learned how Social Proof can help increase a business’ conversion rate, but how do we add more value to the concept; how do we acquire or retain customers? Let’s talk about how reciprocity fits into the game and if it can help your business in the long term.

What is reciprocity?

Reciprocity is the concept that people are obliged by nature to give back when they receive. If you give something to someone, they will feel obligated to return the favour, or vice versa. Not convinced? Let’s take a look at an example to see how powerful this concept can really be.

Regan’s Reciprocity Experiment

In 1971, Professor Dennis Regan at Cornell University, conducted an experiment to test the ability of this concept. You can call this an “art appreciation experiment” because the subjects were asked to rate paintings with a partner, who in essence, were research assistants.

Mid-way through the exercise, the research assistant would leave the room and return a short while later. For some subjects, they would bring back a soft drink, while for others they would return empty handed.

After the exercise ended, the assistant asked the subjects whether they would be able to fulfil a favour by purchasing raffle tickets from them. As you would expect, those who received a soft drink were far more inclined to purchase a ticket than those who didn’t receive one.

What does this mean for us in marketing?

If you were to provide something of value to your customers, they will be far more likely to provide you with business in return. For example, ASOS tend to send out holiday and birthday cards to their customers. There is no monetary gain from this act… Or so it would seem at first sight. The recipient is usually left with a positive feeling, meaning they are ready to reciprocate as they see someone has taken the time to compile a well-written note that could be considered a favour. I would see it as they have spent the time and energy to create something personal to me (even though I know it’s all for marketing), but it does give me a warm fuzzy feeling that at least forces me to check out their site. Do you get that feeling too?

You have the power

Okay, to clear things up a little, there are no rules on times when reciprocation can be used. This means all you need to do is give. Give, give, and give! This is definitely great news for you as most people will accept a “gift” when it is presented upon them, wouldn’t you? Now that you have implanted this gift to your recipient, they will subconsciously feel a sense of indebtedness and humans hate to feel in debt, so the outcome of this? To give something back when someone gives you something… You get my drift here – a vicious marketing cycle, having a large group of people feeling indebted to your company.

Go wild!

(Make sure you let us know how it goes!)

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