The Art of Persuasion, Part 1 – Targeting for Persuasion

Art of Persuasion Online

The father of persuasion, Aristotle concluded that high levels of emotional appeal during the act of persuasion greatly increased the chances of success.  The most persuasive of all appeals was emotional, logically argumentative, and credible. 

So how does this translate to the online world of ecommerce?

More recently Dr. Robert B. Cialdini expanded upon this thinking with his 6 principles of influence, this was back in 1984 when most of us did not even have the internet at home, even so, all modern CRO techniques and practices used today are based upon this thinking and Cialdini’s 6 principles.

How To Get What You Want.

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment + Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity

Individually there is plenty already written about the 6 points above on this blog, so I’m not going to expand on these here.  Whether online or offline, successful persuasion is heavily reliant upon knowing your consumer groups, their tendencies toward specific behavior, which in turn are vital for determining the timing of your interaction (sales pitch) and what to offer in the first place.

Timing (when to deliver your sales pitch)

Just like with face to face sales, employing the art of persuasion is all about timing, knowing when to intercede to deploy persuasive argument or to show empathy or to highlight the benefits of a specific feature of a product or service. 

While you may not have the same visual cues that are available in a face to face sales inquiry, there is still much you can still do to detect buying signals.  Just like in face to face sales, determining your moment is all about listening to the potential customer, not in this case with your ears but by monitoring their behavior through content engagement, – your analytics data.

Listening (sales signals + what message to deliver to your customer)

Face to face a seller can hear the verbal tone and see facial expression both great ways to detect buying signals.  Offline these cues are just not available so you have a lot less information about buyers needs or interests.  However, you can still detect that a question has been asked.  The following 10 examples are clear buying signals that should facilitate movement down the sales or conversion funnel whether online or offline.

Buying Signals

  1. Asking support about a product
  2. Asking about the support that comes with the product or service.
  3. Asking about contract
  4. Asking about price
  5. Asking about warranty
  6. Asking about returns policy.
  7. Asking about service or delivery date
  8. Asking about the mode of payment.
  9. Asking about the next step
  10. Repeating the benefit of your product or service back to you.

Online sometimes they ask the question directly, perhaps by support messaging or by email, other times the question is inferred + implied.  For example, someone who looks at a pricing page is obviously interested in the price of a product or service, they asked the question by clicking on the pricing page link.  These signals should be treated the same way that an inbound sales lead would be handled in RL, face to face or over the phone.

Every one of the actions /questions above is an opportunity, points to intercede with a sales message and deploy a micro-conversion to get your sales point across.  First and foremost these points are a chance to build trust in you and your brand.

Outbound Sales Leads

The title above is misleading, it implies there is a separation of inbound or outbound online, but in reality, it’s all the same once they are on your website. 

The goal is the same, to elicit information from the customer based upon the customer’s onsite behavior, in order to personalize the consumer journey and, effectively give the customer what they want. 

In order to do this you need to engage with them to understand their problem (pain points), get them to explain their problem and to visualize and explain their version of good solution so that you can provide a sales pitch that puts your product in the best possible light, in a user context that meets the customer needs, highlighting their desired outcome as the main result.

Tip: A pre-sell page with persuasive power words, sentences, USP’s and other WIFIMs is essential.

The Difference Between Persuasion + Manipulation

Often people confuse persuasion for manipulation, both are often thought as bad because in the sense that someone is trying to get you to do something you probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.

The difference is that persuasion is always placing a sale in a win/win context with a goal of doing something beneficial for the customer, whereas a manipulation occurs if facts buyer’s in order to get the sale that would make it a win for the seller but not necessarily a win for the buyer.  To put it more succinctly, the product might solve the buyers’ problem but if the cost outweighs the benefits, and the seller knows it, then it’s not persuasion, it’s manipulation.

Ask yourself the question, will the buyer thank me for this down the line?  Yes = Persuasion No = Manipulation. Not sure = grey area, your conscious is your guide.

The difference between persuasion and manipulation greatly determines whether potential customers are likely to buy from you or not.  They need to trust you and your brand are not manipulating them and must trust your expertise and intention.  It always helps if they like you because they are more likely to trust blindly.  How and what you communicate to your audience has a big impact on consumer trust.  Gain social proof for your product claims is an essential step.

Tip:  Identify points of potential distrust on your ecommerce website and take steps to alleviate those concerns with concrete measures.  For example, consider adopting/applying for a trust seal to counter concerns about website security.

Other Buying Signals

Data analytics provides ecommerce owners with a wealth of information about consumer groups but also on each individual shopper as well.  For instance, what the customer chooses to look at, and how long they look at that item or group of items provides an indicator of the level of interest.  Consequently, you can tailor and trigger different messages for differing levels of interest.  There are some great tools out there that simplify the analysis of data, for example Conversific, which is available for both Shopify / Shopify Plus and Woocommerce.  It integrates with Google analytics and does all the heavy lifting analysis-wise for you and generates important insights to capitalize upon with CRO.

OptiMonk, which works with any ecommerce platform, enables the reliable targeting of visitors based upon data insights.  In addition, through custom fields, you can collect all manner of information about customers for your specific business model, data that enables the segmentation and targeting of niche persona’s.

Customer Journey Intervention

Behavior Message / Action Reason
Just Browsing Ask for feedback, what are they looking for? Engaging but not finding, you need to know what they are looking for to add it to your shop.
Disinterest (avoids engagement messages) Remove all further messages + barrier to progression down conversion funnel (leaving exit intent message) High chance this person will leave, never to return.  Additional messages will be counter- productive.
Clicks share button (seeking social consensus on buying decision) Thanks for sharing, share this discount code with 3 friends for a 20% discount. Increase the likelihood sharers friends will like and buy the product
Blog Topic Interest In depth guide, message in exchange for subscription (micro-conversion) OR pre-sell page. Fulfils visitor’s objective of learning more and builds trust in your brand as a knowledge expert
Exit Intention is shown by moving mouse cursor to x on the browser tab. Additional offer if visitor buys today.  Subscribe with Messenger. Visitor was going to leave, don’t let them without getting their details

Onsite retargeting is the technology needed to reach your customers at exactly the right moment depending upon their consumer behavior.  Specifically OptiMonk provides the means to target visitors or any of your consumer types, customers all, – that you need to re-engage with to upsell or cross-sell.  No matter what ecommerce platform you are using OptiMonk  can be used to increase ecommerce conversion rates.


Although you can not hear or see your customers while they visit your ecommerce store, it is still possible to communicate with them through onsite messages that are automatically triggered according to specific scenarios, or through real time messaging through chat support.  In the second part of this Art of Persuasion guide we look at what needs to go into your messages, while the article is focused upon how to create a presell page, the topic of power words is applicable to every onsite message.

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