Choice Architecture and Nudge Marketing In Conversion Rate Optimization

Choice Architecture: Nudging Visitors to Buy

So, you’ve invested countless hours fine-tuning click-through rates with a barrage of A/B tests, meticulously selecting the perfect CTA color, product images, and pricing. But despite your Herculean efforts, those conversion rates just won’t budge.

Now, we all know that e-commerce conversion rates tend to linger under that 5% mark. That means most visitors aren’t enthusiastically clicking that ‘Buy Now’ button. They’re more into leisurely browsing, searching, and occasionally tossing a few items into their cart. But that final decisive click? It’s like chasing a mythical unicorn. Keep reading then. In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the ways you can gently nudge your users in the right direction by designing their shopping journey using the choice architecture theory to give your conversion rates a well-deserved boost all along the way.

Choice architecture

The choice architecture theory suggests that consumer behavior and spending patterns are heavily influenced by the way products are presented. Therefore, changing the way products are presented can strongly influence how they’re perceived and what is bought.  These principles can work wonders for your conversion rates.

Choice architecture originated in Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. (2008) by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The idea is not to trick or coerce users to buy, you want to retain consumer’s freedom of choice, but to nudge them to make certain choices and encourage them to take a step closer to purchase. According to the authors, humans are prone to making choices without much thinking, relying on our automatic systems, bypassing the conscious thinking process embedded in our reflective system.

Okay, but what is nudge marketing?

Nudge marketing is the process of communicating marketing and advertising messages, using creative, and designing your website and on-page micro copy in a way that is appealing to your user’s automatic systems. Nudging is gently persuading users to go in the right direction, toward the purchase, by designing their choices every step of their journey on your website so the decision to buy becomes easier.

Web conversion rates

Web conversion? That’s the action you’re itching for folks to take on your site, like making a purchase. The conversion rate is just the percentage of visitors who actually do what you’re after. So, let’s say a hundred people swing by your site, and only five of them do what you want. Your conversion rate for that visit? A humble 5%.

Sure, online stores might have different conversion goals, like luring visitors to add items to a cart, sign up for newsletters, or stash things on a wish list.  But your ultimate mission is to convince more people into hitting that ‘Buy Now’ button. But your visitors aren’t typically whipping out their wallets the moment they land on your website, instead they’re embarking on a shopping journey from the moment they land until they finally summon the courage to hit that ‘Buy Now’ button. Your job is to give a gentle nudge in the right direction at every step of the way.

Give Them a Reason

The word “because” is so powerful for one simple reason. It explains why. You need to give visitors a good reason to buy your product because people tend to resist change and need a reason to part with their money. They’ll keep doing what they normally do unless you give them a reason to do something different. As we delve into the art of shaping consumer behavior, it’s essential to grasp the impact of providing a reason or justification for the choices you want users to make. Humans are driven by emotions and we need a reason why we should make a decision such as purchasing a product, that is beyond the transaction.

Research consistently shows that offering a reason significantly boosts the likelihood of a positive response. In the classic study, Ellen Langer had people request to break in on a line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine on a college campus. It found that people were more willing to let someone cut in line when given a reason. The mere addition of “because” and a justification, no matter how trivial it might seem, had a remarkable impact on compliance.

Brands like Patagonia have effectively put this principle to work in their marketing strategies. They don’t just ask customers to make a purchase; they provide a compelling “because.” Whether it’s the promise of environmental conservation or supporting ethical practices, Patagonia gives customers a reason to align with their brand, encouraging more purchases and fostering loyalty.

Patagonia reminds you that you’re buying because 82% of their line is Fair Trade.

Don’t Focus on the Money

It’s important to shifting the focus away from money because simply put, people don’t like parting with their money even when they’re buying something genuinely essential. The concept of the “pain of paying” sheds light on the psychological discomfort consumers experience when parting with their hard-earned cash. This phenomenon encompasses not only the actual act of payment but also the anticipation leading up to it and the lingering post-purchase unease.

Understanding this aversion to spending money is vital for marketers, as it profoundly influences consumer behavior. To mitigate this pain, marketers can employ strategies that minimize or even eliminate the sensation of spending, making purchases appear less costly or providing enticing discounts. This approach seeks to make the transaction process smoother and more appealing to potential buyers.

Another way is to reduce the size of the font used for showing the price and blend it with the overall design of the product page, like Mango does.

However, don’t confuse this with upfront disclosure. As Jakob Nielsen highlights, building trust with visitors to your site hinges on providing complete transparency about costs. This includes being crystal clear about what customers can expect from your store and what it will cost them, encompassing shipping expenses where applicable. Concealing charges until the last minute may entice a few customers, but the majority are likely to abandon their shopping carts early in the process if they encounter hidden fees. A study by eConsultancy and TolunaQuick underscores this point, citing “hidden charges” as the primary reason for shopping cart abandonment. In essence, by disclosing all costs upfront you foster trust and your perception as trustworthy.

Use Large Numbers Frequently

First and foremost, it taps into the influential bandwagon effect, where people tend to follow the crowd or adopt beliefs and actions because others are doing the same. By showcasing impressive numbers, such as the quantity of customers who purchase from you each month, you not only build trust but also create a sense of popularity around your products or services.

Moreover, these numbers can effectively quantify the quality of your offerings. When 10,052 customers choose your products monthly, it inherently conveys that your offerings are reliable and of high quality. This appeals particularly to the “caring persona-type,” individuals who are genuinely concerned about how your products benefit others. Demonstrating the number of people who have already benefited from your offerings reinforces the idea that your products have a positive impact.

Beyond trust-building, large numbers have a distinct appeal in headlines and product copy. Research suggests that a significant majority of people, approximately 36%, prefer headlines that incorporate numbers. This preference emphasizes the persuasive power of numbers in capturing attention and conveying key information effectively.

Furthermore, employing large numbers can trigger the anchoring effect, a psychological phenomenon in which the first number encountered heavily influences subsequent perceptions. This means that when users see impressive numbers associated with your products or services, such as the quantity of satisfied customers, they are more likely to perceive your prices as comparatively lower, making them more inclined to make a purchase.

Incorporating these numerical elements strategically into your website’s content can not only bolster trust and credibility but also guide users towards making conversion-friendly decisions, in line with the principles of choice architecture and nudge marketing.

Astra shows you several large numbers before ever mentioning the price. Any price you’ll see after your perception has been anchored will seem like a great deal in comparison.

Focus on People, Not Products

Our natural inclination as human beings is to gravitate toward images of fellow humans. Research consistently underscores the persuasive power of incorporating human imagery on websites. Sites featuring clear facial images of individuals tend to earn substantially higher trustworthiness scores than those lacking human photos, a phenomenon that transcends cultural and regional boundaries. This trust-building effect extends its reach into the realm of e-commerce, where stores employing videos and images of real people are perceived as notably more trustworthy. A striking illustration of this principle in action can be found in a test conducted on an online art gallery, where replacing paintings with the artist’s face led to an astounding 95% increase in conversion rates.

Spirithoods is and entire lifestyle of unique personalities, the hoods are only an accessory.

Help Them Feel It’s Already Theirs

The strategy of helping potential customers feel like a product is already theirs is rooted in the principle of personalization. While images play a central role in the online shopping experience, they often fall short in addressing a critical aspect: demonstrating how products are used by real customers. To address this gap, consider incorporating user-generated photos that showcase the product in actual use. These authentic images enable prospective buyers to visualize the product seamlessly integrating into their lives. A prime example of the success of this approach is Urban Outfitters, which experienced a substantial 5-7% surge in conversion rates simply by integrating user-generated images into their product pages.

Furthermore, another effective technique is featuring images of individuals who represent your ideal customer profile. This leverages the power of affinity bias, a subconscious inclination to connect more easily with those who resemble us. By presenting images of people who share characteristics with your target audience, you create a relatable and welcoming environment, making it easier for potential customers to imagine themselves using your products. This taps into the ownership bias principle, further strengthening their sense of ownership and inclination to make a purchase.

Tieks focuses on showing you how it feels to be a Tieks girls by using customer created photos using their brand hashtag #tieks

Help Them Feel Good About Their Decision

People want to feel confident about their choices so it’s important to show visitors that others have already purchased your product and are feeling good about their decision . Central to this approach is the concept of social proof, which taps into a deeply rooted psychological bias, signaling trust in the decisions of others. This trust extends to the belief that the majority often knows better, making it worthwhile to consider the choices of fellow customers when making decisions.

User reviews are at the heart of social proof in the online shopping realm. These reviews serve as a vital foundation, offering insights into real users’ opinions about a product. Recognizing their immense persuasive power, top-performing eCommerce stores make concerted efforts to gather and prominently display reviews on their product pages. These reviews provide valuable context and personal experiences, making them particularly valuable for customers contemplating purchases from new brands, stores, or product categories.

Madewell offers the ultimate social proof, not only these people made the right choice but they’re socially approved.

Additionally, incorporating testimonials from social media further reinforces the value of your products. When customers publicly endorse your offerings on platforms like social media, it serves as a powerful form of social proof. This genuine, enthusiastic customer endorsement not only builds trust but also helps potential buyers feel even better about their decision.

Furthermore, enriching the customer experience with videos and 360-degree views offers a more comprehensive understanding of the product. These interactive elements provide a holistic view that goes beyond simple product images, showcasing the product in action and offering additional details such as build quality and size. Retailers like Zappos have successfully implemented videos to enhance their product pages, providing customers with a deeper understanding and, consequently, more confidence in their purchase decisions. These strategies collectively guide customers toward choices they can truly feel good about.

Help Them Find the CTA

Eye-tracking studies reveal an intriguing phenomenon: users tend to concentrate their attention on the same areas where people in images are looking. This finding underscores the importance of visual cues in directing user attention. For instance, in a widely recognized test, when a model gazes at a product, that product captures maximum attention. Conversely, when the model’s gaze turns toward the user, the model herself becomes the focal point. Another study highlights that when a picture of a baby is featured on a page, users tend to focus on the baby rather than the surrounding text.

Leveraging this insight, you can strategically use images where models are looking directly at key areas of your site, such as a CTA. By directing the model’s gaze toward the desired action or focal point, you nudge users to pay closer attention and take the desired action, amplifying the effectiveness of your CTAs.

CTA with images

Remind Them Where to Go

In the quest to guide users effectively through the conversion path, it’s vital to remind them precisely where to go. Visual cues, such as arrows, serve as powerful tools for this purpose, as they are simple and universally understood.

Arrows, whether they are static or dynamic, are among the most widely employed explicit directional cues in web design. Their simplicity and clarity make them an excellent choice for nudging users toward specific actions. A prime example is the use of a stationary, hand-drawn arrow by Loud Rumor on their two-step opt-in form to influence CTA button clicks. This unobtrusive yet effective approach exemplifies the principles of choice architecture, subtly guiding users in the desired direction. By incorporating visual cues like arrows strategically throughout your website, you can provide users with clear and intuitive signals, reducing friction in their journey toward a conversion.

Don’t Let Them Scroll

The concept is rooted in the understanding that a significant majority of your users will engage with the content within the initial viewable portion of your webpage before considering scrolling.

Nielsen’s tests affirm this phenomenon, revealing that users allocate a substantial 80% of their attention to information presented above the fold. Even if they do venture to  scroll, only a fraction of their attention, a mere 20%, is directed towards content below this threshold. Given these insights, it becomes paramount to optimize the above-the-fold area in your design, especially if your goal is to drive conversions. This prime real estate should be dedicated primarily to selling your products or conveying essential information. By doing so, you maximize the potential for users to engage with key elements and take the desired actions.

You can buy this Everlane sweatshirt without scrolling down.

Help Them Find It

A crucial aspect of optimizing online stores for better conversion rates is aiding users in effortlessly finding what they seek. One emerging and effective practice involves incorporating images into navigation menus and search results.

This approach capitalizes on the power of visual cues to enhance user experience. By including product images in search results, for instance, achieved an impressive 15% increase in site search conversion rates. The rationale behind this strategy is that images provide users with an instant and clear understanding of the products or options available, making it easier for them to make informed decisions. When users can quickly identify and access what they are looking for, it reduces friction in the conversion process, aligning perfectly with the principles of choice architecture and nudge marketing. By facilitating a seamless and visually intuitive journey, you can enhance user satisfaction and drive higher conversion rates.

Modcloth shows you matching products as you type to help you find exactly what you need.

Instill Trust

Online shoppers often approach the “Buy” button with a sense of trepidation, unsure if they’ll receive the desired product or a disappointing surprise wrapped in glossy packaging. To alleviate this anxiety and instill confidence, trust markers play a pivotal role.

Trust markers, encompassing security seals, guarantees, and badges, are a familiar sight on reputable websites. These visual cues serve as tangible indicators of trustworthiness, assuring customers that their transactions are secure and their purchases are backed by guarantees. The impact of trust markers on conversion rates is well-documented, with numerous retailers reporting significant improvements in profits after their inclusion. For instance, experienced a substantial $2.6 million boost in additional revenue by adding a “hacker safe” seal to its checkout page. Similarly, witnessed an impressive 7.6% surge in conversion rates by introducing a guarantee seal on its checkout pages. By strategically deploying trust markers, you not only alleviate customer concerns but also bolster their confidence.

Support Them

Supporting customers effectively is a highly accessible avenue for enhancing conversion rates.

Live chat support, when strategically placed, can be a game-changer, especially on checkout pages. It offers hesitant customers, teetering on the edge of making a purchase, a convenient channel to seek answers to their queries. The efficacy of live chat is underscored by studies like Forrester Research’s findings, which revealed that Wells Fargo experienced double-digit improvements in conversion rates after incorporating live chat on their website. Moreover, proactive chat, where customer support actively assists customers with their purchases, ranks as one of the “most important features” a website can offer for 44% of customers, as per another Forrester study. A compelling example is Wasteland Skip Shop, which saw remarkable results, generating 1,020 leads and significantly reducing the bounce rate on booking pages by 1,000% after introducing live chat support to their shopping pages. By prioritizing customer support and embracing live chat, you not only nurture trust but also provide valuable assistance.

Remind Them That They Will Miss Out

Activating the fear of missing out (FOMO) by creating scarcity-based incentives is a compelling way to prompt users to take action on your product pages.

By showcasing that a limited number of items are available or that an item is running out of stock, you ignite a sense of urgency in potential customers. Faced with the prospect of missing out on a desired product, users are more inclined to make a swift decision. Additionally, employing time-bound promotions with specific start and end dates can further amplify the FOMO effect. Implementing countdown timers on your site for limited-time promotions serves as a visual reminder that the opportunity is fleeting, compelling users who may be on the fence to take action before it’s too late.

These scarcity-based incentives capitalize on the psychological trigger of FOMO, gently nudging users toward conversions by tapping into their desire to secure valuable opportunities before they vanish. This strategy can significantly enhance conversion rates by leveraging the fear of missing out.

Amazon gently reminds you that there are only 3 left and you’re about to miss out.

Drive Them to Action

Leveraging action-oriented words in your content is a strategic approach that aims to propel users towards the desired actions on your website. The core purpose of every page on your site is to prompt users to perform specific actions, whether it’s adding products to their cart, completing a purchase, or signing up for a service.

The use of action-focused verbs in your copy is a compelling technique to transform passive users into active participants. By incorporating words like “put,” “turn,” “get,” “show,” and others, you infuse your content with a sense of urgency and direction, motivating users to take tangible steps. These action words serve as powerful cues that resonate with users, nudging them towards the desired actions. This strategy capitalizes on the principles of choice architecture and nudge marketing, reinforcing the notion that every page should be designed to guide users towards specific outcomes, ultimately leading to improved conversion rates.


In the world of e-commerce, where every click counts, implementing choice architecture strategies can be a game-changer. By understanding the psychology behind user behavior and making subtle yet effective changes to your website, you can gently guide your visitors toward the actions you want them to take.

From harnessing the power of “because” to minimizing the pain of paying, using large numbers strategically, and focusing on people over products, you can create an online shopping experience that resonates with your audience automatic responses. Additionally, helping users feel like a product is already theirs, feel good about their decisions, find the call-to-action easily, and providing visual cues can make a significant difference.

Establishing trust through trust markers, offering effective customer support through live chat, and creating a fear of missing out can further boost your conversion rates. Finally, using action-oriented words in your content can encourage users to take the desired actions.

Incorporating these choice architecture and nudge marketing principles into your e-commerce strategy can help you nudge your users in the right direction at every step of their journey, ultimately leading to improved conversion rates and a more successful online store. So, why wait? Start implementing these strategies today and watch your conversion rates soar!


Helen Evenchen

It’s time to grow

I work exclusively with fashion brands, DTC brands, and online stores.