Conversion vs Persuasion – Understanding the Difference

Conversion and Persuasion are two different parts of the same puzzle

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Conversion is a linear process. Consumers move along a path that goes from initial interest to purchase. Once you have defined your path, it is completely possible to measure and optimize the defined steps that move consumers along that path – or “sales funnel”. Either the customers took the next steps or they didn’t and you can see the level of drop-off at each point along the process.

The term “conversion rate optimization” means people want to easily anticipate the next step and accelerate to the purchase-conversion as quickly as possible. It means that if people want to purchase now, they can because you’ve made it easy and not because they’ve deciphered the code of the purchase process. Complicated checkouts are not your friend.
Persuasion is certainly not linear. This has as much to do with your company as it does with the thousands of other products and companies that exist outside of your website. Do you really believe that you can control all of the information that exists out there on and off the web?

Persuasion has to do with understanding your customer and knowing the questions they ask and the information they seek in making purchase decisions. This helps you build a more predictive model of user behavior on your website and that is how you persuade or influence their purchase decisions.

Here is an example of conversion vs persuasion:

Suppose you are at a hot dog stand that serves all sorts of varieties of hot dogs and toppings. How do people order?

  • “I want a chili dog with jalapenos.” I just order based on the toppings I wanted.
  • “I want a polish dog.” I ordered the type of hot dog I want first.
  • “I want a tofu dog.” I ordered one based on vegetarian status.
  • “I want a low carb dog.” Now I’m ordering by dietary components.

Persuasion is the understanding of these elements and how people make their purchase decisions. If you sell the best all-beef hot dog with mustard, that’s great. But how well would you do if you planned scenarios around all of the possibilities and how people behave? If you made everyone order toppings-first, you’d likely only be serving a small number of clients successfully.

Understanding the Difference Between Conversion vs Persuasion

Mapping the experience buyers have when evaluating their problem and possible solutions is not a linear process. Think about the last time you had a question. You may have Googled it and searched a few sites and then maybe asked some friends and family. You checked multiple sources, likely made multiple initial decisions only to have something change your mind. The process in not necessarily predictable.
Persuasion scenarios, like in our hot dog example, show just how non-linear decision making is. If you force people into your sales funnel too early in the process, you are likely to turn them off. For example, if you make everyone order topping-first, you’re not helping as many people as you could. Understanding the scenarios surrounding the true questions and desires real customers have allows us to optimize our website to help answer those questions and make the purchase decision easier for the customer.

These scenarios should lead you to two results: 1) a customer behavior map and 2) customer experience plans. These are how the persuasion plans lead into your conversion plan.

A customer behavior map gives you insight into what your customer wants and how to approach them. You may have tested some headline varieties to find which type you like, but what kind of verbiage do you use? Your behavior map should give you insight to answer this question.

Customer experience plans should give you an idea of the “how” of your customers purchase. You create pathways unique to each customer segment to accommodate their different tastes and preferences for ordering (i.e. do you order toppings first or the hot dog first?). You can’t force someone to do it your way.

As linear as we like to make the sales funnel and conversion process, the lead in is all about persuading the customer they are making the right decision and this process is definitely not linear.

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2 thoughts on “Conversion vs Persuasion – Understanding the Difference

  1. I think that this is a real breakdown in our process, being a rather new company. We are in the process of re-vamping our menu and making other changes, but since this is a new concept for us I am not completely sure how to give this practical application yet. Can you think of any great “for instance” examples to throw our way?

  2. Hello and thank you for the comment. As a new business, it can be challenging to adapt to your customers and find your groove. I like that you’re continually optimizing in search of higher conversion rates.

    Much of the persuasion cycle may happen before customers even reach your site. The amount of influence you can exert ultimately depends on when you reach them in the cycle. You can help them by providing reviews, testimonials, product information, video demos, tutorials, etc. Additionally, all of this helps your SEO which can help you exert more influence earlier in the cycle.

    Once they are persuaded, it must be easy for them to purchase which is why user-experience and design play a huge role in the persuasion/conversion process.

    You may have noticed on our site that we have blog posts and content pages which help our SEO, free resources and newsletters, testimonials, client examples, and even some external resources. Our goal is different from a typical product website and our persuasive materials reflect that aspect. We do our best to answer questions our potential clients might ask.

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