The 3 Most Important Traits of Human Psychology to Understand in Order to Boost Online Conversions: Instant Gratification, Reciprocity and Loss Aversion!

Mick Jagger cant get not satisfaction

Mick Jagger famously said “I can’t get no satisfaction cause I try and I try and I try and I try…”

This is what it often feels like to be a consumer in this day and age. People get bombarded with messaging and sensory overload, there is no wonder our attention spans are diminishing.

“The average attention span in 2015 according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information is 8.25 seconds.”

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, The Associated Press

Before we get out our pitchforks, denounce Buzzfeed and storm the gates of Snapchat Castle or Tinder Towers (sore thumbs anyone?) for our diminishing brain power, we need to think about what we can do to keep people engaged, interested and motivated enough to tell others about what we do whether it is selling software online, marketers engaging audiences or bloggers building up an online community.

Research has shown that instant gratification is such a powerful force that an ability to control against it is a great indicator of achieving success.

instant gratification

Like all things marketing these days, this knowledge can be used for good or evil. What is that quote: “with great power comes great…conversion optimization”. Forgive my lame jokes, but it is a serious point. Instant gratification can really work whether it’s giving someone priority access, offering them free content or giving away a reward/gift card/discount they can all work really well in boosting your online goals whether that is increasing sales, getting more referrals or reducing your churn rate.

If you can give something to your customer that your competitor can’t, you win — with all other things being equal.

This is where the power of rewards and incentives can play an increasingly important role in your armoury.

Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is legendary for using instant gratification to his advantage.

“For example, for most of our loyal repeat customers, we do surprise upgrades to overnight shipping, even though we only promise them standard ground shipping when they choose the free shipping option” – Tony Hsieh

This, folks, is one example of instant gratification that got Zappos on the road to being extremely successful, eventually acquired by Amazon, and Hsieh into the billionaires club.

It is also an example of why I think so many loyalty schemes based on points do not actually work. The customer doesn’t get instant gratification, they have to accrue points that often take ages to be translated into anything meaningful…eurgh!

“Most loyalty schemes based on points are a thinly veiled data mining exercise and customers know this.” Source: This is Money

The power of reciprocity

According to Wikipedia: Reciprocity in social psychology refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. As a social construct, reciprocity means that in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model; conversely, in response to hostile actions they are frequently much more nasty and even brutal.i will scratch your back if you scratch mine

In Prof. Robert Cialdini’s now infamous book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he notes that:

“The impressive aspect of reciprocation with its accompanying sense of obligation is its pervasiveness in human culture.

It is so widespread that, after intensive study, Alvin Gouldner (1960), along with other sociologists, reported that all human societies subscribe to the rule.

Within each society it seems pervasive also; it permeates exchanges of every kind.”

We can see this in action across numerous online referral schemes. How many of you have received an invitation for free Uber rides or discounts off your Airbnb stays…I imagine nearly everyone who reads this will have experienced it or will do in the near future (those based in the UK and USA most certainly will).

If you combine instant gratification along with the power of reciprocity you get a very very potent mix that can work really well in boosting your online conversion metrics.

Right! So you now understand all of the above and know that you need to look after your customers, surprise and reward them.

There is one more crucial psychological point to understand. Not acknowledging it could destroy all of the above good work…

Loss aversion

In economics and decision theory, loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Most studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains. Loss aversion was first demonstrated by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.

I highlight this because if you have been listening and are looking at ways to surprise and delight your customer through the powers of instant gratification and reciprocity, whether it’s through rewards, incentives, priority access or great customer service, you need to know that promising these and then not delivering could destroy all the good work you have done.


If you want to boost your online conversions you would be a fool not to investigate the three psychological traits of instant gratification, reciprocity and loss aversion along with the tools, technology and incentives you can deploy to boost or reduce these traits.

Useful links

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Loyalty Bay – increase EVERY conversion metric on your website including sales, signups and referrals.

Influence: The power of persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Statisticbrain – for all your statistic needs

I can’t get no satisfaction lyrics by The Rolling Stones


This blog post contains parts from our eBook The Ultimate Guide To Incentives. Check it out!

About the Author :

Founder, Director of Product and Marketing at Loyalty Bay. I’m tasked with creating global scalable products and building out the Product and Marketing teams, now that we are part of Perkbox.

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