When people discuss the product detail page (PDP), it’s typically about tactical, data-driven improvements, or usability fixes. And those are great. Red calls-to-action may contrast more with the theme of the page, and provide a conversion lift. Images of people looking at the button may help with the visual prioritization of the call to action (CTA). The headline may not be straightforward enough, so you may want another version for A/B tests.

All good things to think about, and great things to test. But there’s another, more subtle layer to the PDP. Think of it as the “soul” of your page. And it’s made up of the persuasive aspects that tug and pull your visitors toward action. These elements are usually subtle but highly critical to your product page’s mission, and their presence (or absence) can make or break conversions.

High on Emotions: Hopes and Fears in One Place

When thinking of a persuasive product detail page, the first that always comes to mind is Amazon, the ecommerce giant whose site has a plethora of user experience and usability issues yet still manages to rake in a lot of money. You could argue that brand strength is what keeps propelling Amazon to the top, but that’s not the whole story. UX issues aside, there are core philosophies behind their pages that smaller companies can learn from.

I’ve spoken quite a bit on how our brains process information, and on techniques like anchoring. “Anchoring” is a technique used to influence visitors’ perceptions of your products/services by changing how values or options are organized on your pages. Simply put, visitors create expectations based on the first thing they see so they’ll evaluate all other values relative to the one they saw first. And that affects their likelihood of converting.

If you review the above-the-fold section of Amazon, you’ll notice they do this quite a bit, and provide a mix of the persuasive elements on the page.

Amazon VAIO with Yellow Tags

First, they anchor visitors on the more expensive “list price” and then show the discounted price right below the higher price-point to convince visitors that they’re snatching up a bargain or getting value for their money. Other persuasive elements are also thrown in for good measure. The idea is that all the elements designed to evoke emotion and get you to decide faster are there.

  • Hopes: The big product name and the accompanying hero shot helps remind the user of his or her hopes, and the visually pleasing stimuli provides an extra emotional boost.
  • Rewards: By showing the potential savings right off the bat, the page creates the extra push for people who need it.
  • Fears: Finally, by showing the limited number of stock left, the page creates a sense of urgency which prods the visitor to buy immediately lest the item sells out and he/she loses not only the item but also the sweet deal.

Brain Triggers: Visible CTAs, Use of Free

Then, of course, there’s the tactical stuff that ties into persuasion:

  • Large CTAs: This is a usability standard, but you’d be surprised how often this gets broken. The call-to-action should be large, highly visible, and predictable. Amazon has this tuned.
  • Use of FREE: Again, this is one of the most tested brain triggers, but using “FREE” for elements like shipping definitely helps persuade the user to act soon.

Putting it All Together

Most discussions about online persuasion wouldn’t be complete without referencing BJ Fogg’s work. Under his model, the key components that motivate people to act include the following:

  • Pleasure and pain
  • Hopes and fears
  • Social acceptance and rejection

This may be an oversimplification, but the role of your PDP goes beyond pure usability. It needs to motivate your users to act on the page. As you’ve seen in Amazon’s case, highly effective pages take into account the psychological and cognitive aspects that influence human behavior. To make your product detail pages as convincing as possible, you need to know what would motivate your visitors to act. Is it the need for social belonging? A desire to own or experience something? Or perhaps avoid the the loss of a thing they consider valuable?

Usability is essential, and incremental, tactical improvements are important. But it’s not enough to think about just those things. Keep emotions, motivations, and triggers in mind as you design your product pages—these could be just the boost your pages need to lift your conversions sky-high.