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The Psychology of Conversion

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The hot topic in e-marketing these days is "conversion" - namely how to convert visitors into customers. If you want to convert customers, the first step is to understand that when people make a decision to purchase something, it's a complicated process. A simple-minded view is that buying decisions are based on impulse and low price. Sometimes they are. But if you want to convert most visitors into buyers you need a far more sophisticated view of customers.

That turns out to be more complicated than anyone can talk about in a short article. But one thing that will get you to be a smarter marketing person is to understand your customer's motivation, ability and opportunity. If you want customers to act, you typically need to make sure your customers have all three working together.

Simply put, motivation, ability and opportunity are the key factors that determine whether or not people will pay attention to your ads, how they form attitudes and what they remember. In short, it determines whether and when they will buy.


Motivation is that inner force that makes us want to act. It's typically driven by some goal, like a need to lose weight, collect trading cards, or go to college.

But just because someone is motivated to lose weight doesn't mean they'll go to a gym. That's why motivation is only part of the story.

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Debbie MacInnis is the Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration and a professor of marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business. She is co-author of a recent book on brand admiration, which blends years of best-practice thinking from academia with the real-world practice of marketing.

LinkedIn: Debbie MacInnis


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