Subconscious Clues That Call People to Action

Decisions, decisions – we make them all the time about all kinds of things, and many times without even thinking about it. Sometimes, however, decisions take a lot of thinking, after which we may have our doubts about whether we made the right one. Helping your Customers make a decision is an important element in your Customer Experience design.

The Consequence of Choice

Choices have consequences both good and bad. All of us want to make the right choices for ourselves, but few of us believe that we have every time.

What about when you are choosing something more mundane, like bread or shaving foam? There are so many options that it can delay a decision. This delay is a consequence caused by the Paradox of Choice, first introduced to us by Barry Schwartz in his book of the same name in 2004, and then later in his TED talk. In summary, Schwartz tells us:

“Autonomy and Freedom of Choice are critical to our well-being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”

Zhecho Dobrev, one of our consultants, published his musings on this concept. Dobrev asserts that most consumers say they want more choices, but they really want just enough choices. Like the famous discerning fictional heroine Goldilocks, consumers want an amount of choices that is just right.

How Subconscious Clues Improve Calls to Action in Websites

All channels for your Customers make up your Customer Experience, including websites. By paying attention to the subconscious ways you help your customers make a choice they are happy with, you create a win–win for everyone involved.

Michael Aagaard on points out all the statistical changes they were able to observe by tweaking the call to action buttons (CTA) on websites. He explains how success rate increase when you position the message and appearance of the button in terms that benefit the consumer.

One example that caught my attention was a 213% increase in conversion when the copy changed from “Get your membership” to “Find your gym & get membership.” As Aagaard points out, which gym a person joins is often driven by where the gym is. So, the company added the words “Find your gym.” When you frame the CTA in terms that let the Customer know what he or she is getting by pressing it, it is far more helpful at getting them to make a decision to move forward in the process.

There are ten other examples given in the article. Of course, these examples are about the subconscious experience, as none of these things makes sense. Regardless, the article shows that statistically they had an effect.

What about Call to Action in the Retail Experience?

Strategy for CTA buttons is all well and good for the online experience, but what about retail experience and the CTAs that help consumers make decisions there? Surely the manager of the aforementioned market won’t leave you facing umpteen brands of shaving foam to muddle through on your own.

They don’t. Engaging the subconscious shopper is a skill supermarkets are always perfecting. The idea is that most of us are on autopilot when we go to the store, going for the items we came for and walking by the items we didn’t.

So supermarkets work to get our attention by where they put products, and the signs and color they use to grab our attention, and positioning end cap items to feature a particular item. Some markets even use scents to get us to notice different foods in the store. In fact, the importance of where things are in the store and on what shelf is so great that some retailers are recording behavior of their customers to get a better idea of how to maximize their purchases.

Other retailers are using different methods to get us to act:

  • Fry’s Electronics, a chain of discount electronics stores in the US, puts a plethora of small purchases like batteries, universal cables, photo cards, candy and drinks along their line corral to facilitate the impulse buy at the end of the shopping trip.
  • The large flagship rides at Disney often empty into a store that is stocked with the merchandise from that particular film, capitalizing on the good feelings associated with the characters and the ride experience their guests have just had.
  • Apple has an Apple Store app that allows you to buy merchandise with your Apple ID so you can get what you want without getting help or waiting for assistance, facilitating the convenience element some of their customers demand.

When you are designing your customer experience, finding a balance between “not enough choices to be happy with any of them” and “too many choices to choose any of them” can be a challenge. When you find that Goldilocks sweet spot, however, it is Customer Experience gold.

Finding this sweet spot can be easier, however, if you design a deliberate subconscious experience that helps them decide. By helping position the choice for your customer, you can help them take action that drives them toward an experience outcome that leaves them happy and pleased.

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX


Aagaard, Michael. “10 Call-to-Action Case Studies with Takeaways & Examples from Real Button Tests.” 25 March 2013. Web. 4 September 2014.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Colin Shaw – View the original post

About the author

Colin Shaw Colin Shaw is an established leader in the field of Customer Experience and as a result of his outstanding thought-leading work; Shaw has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the original top 150 business influencers worldwide with 84,000+ followers to date. Colin is also the Founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, author of 4 best selling business books & experienced speaker. Colin has not only helped shape the industry, but also leads & differentiates from others in this area as he ties together the emotional, subconscious & psychological experience. Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: @ColinShaw_CX

Read other posts by Colin Shaw

Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Published On: 4th Feb 2015 - Last modified: 3rd Apr 2017
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