Conversion Optimization Upselling, The Economist and Relativity

In his book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely’s 1st chapter is something every one who is interested in conversion optimization should read. Actually, everyone who buys anything on the Internet (and offline) should read it too. If everyone takes my advice, Mr. Ariely will make a lot of money.

Airely’s experiment proves that we are easily manipulated by the way price options are presented on the Internet (and offline too).

He found that The Economist had 3 subscription options:

  1. Web Subscription for $59
  2. Print Edition for $125
  3. Print and Web Subscription for $125

When faced with these choices students at MIT chose:

  • Web Subscription: 16 students
  • Print Edition: 0 students
  • Print and Web Subscription: 84 students

This makes sense as the Print Only Edition was the worst deal.

However, When Ariely removed the Print only edition you might expect that rational students would make the same choice as no one chose this anyway. Here are the results:

  • Web Subscription: 68 students
  • Print and Web Subscription: 32 students

Apparently the decoy Print Edition option was added by The Economist to increase revenues. The take away for conversion rate optimizers and consumers is to understand that:

How the information is presented can be used to manipulate buyers.

We focus on comparing things that are easily comparable. That is why the students tended to compare option 2 and 3 above – and ignore option 1.

For more information on the concept of relativity read the book and take a look at the video below.

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