Persuasive Web Design, Part 24: Ambiguity Kills Sales | Cardinal Path Blog
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Persuasive Web Design, Part 24: Ambiguity Kills Sales

We don’t like uncertainty. We’ll take a less-than-perfect choice over an ambiguous choice any day. It might take some convincing to make us buy a less-than-perfect choice, but at least we’ll consider it. An uncertain choice? Forget about it.

Consider the real-world example of being set up on a date. Which would you go for?

  1. Photo of an attractive but less than perfect person. Plus a description of how wonderful the person is: Kind, honest, successful, funny, smart…
  2. Same description as above, but no photo.

Most of us would take Option 1. Sure that person isn’t perfect, but he or she has lots of redeeming qualities. And when it comes to looks, at least you know what you’re getting.

Option 2 — no photo at all — is just plain scary.

This same principle applies on your website. Your customers want to know all the important details of your offerings, even if they’re less than perfect. We can justify imperfections, but we can’t justify ambiguity.

Some of the specific applications (along with possible justifications) are:

  • Shipping Costs – Not free, but reasonable, quick and reliable. Besides, our low product price more than compensates.
  • Price – Yes we’re expensive, but we’re the best.
  • Market Position – We’re #2. We try harder.
  • Product Appearance – Okay, we’re not sexy. But we work better. (Think original Volkswagen Beetles and BMW motorbikes.)

Not only do the explanations compensate for the imperfections, but they also make you appear more honest and transparent. That, in turn, makes you more likeable and trustworthy. Customers will want to do business with you.

To sum up: A slightly imperfect choice is preferred over the unknown, especially where the “imperfections” can be rationalized. If your product has some warts, show them and address them. Don’t attempt to hide them.

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