Anchoring is a technique that is used by every single retailer in the world. But it also works wonders on the web. Here's how
Were there more or less than 50 hieroglyphs in the ancient Egyptian writing system?
If you know the answer, fine. If you don’t please don’t Google it just yet. Remember the number that you have in your mind.
The answer: the ancient Egyptians hieroglyphic system contained over 700 symbols. Though every time I put the question like this people tend to name numbers under 50.
What is anchoring?
What if I asked you in a different way: how many symbols Egyptians had? If you don’t know the answer you would probably play a guessing game. Something like: they had hieroglyphs, and those are different from the letters. What other system still has hieroglyphs? Ah, Chinese. And they say there are thousands of hieroglyphs there. So definitely over 50, maybe 1000. This number would be much closer to the truth. But because I placed 50 in front of your inner mind you made another shortcut, something like: she knows something, so maybe it must be somewhere around that number, probably no different from English language, so 26 maybe 30.
This placing an imaginary or real limit/anchor that would impact the perception and further reasoning of a person is called anchoring. It’s a behavioral marketing concept that is used quite often. Much more often than we would think is possible.
How and where the anchoring is used in marketing?
In many cases actually it is used by chance.
Imagine you enter the store with a desire to buy a new microwave (not likely with online deliveries but just imagine). You see what you need on the shelf and ask the assistant about the price because somehow it’s not specified on the tag. — $299. — says the assistant. — Oh, I apologize, my bad. It’s $199, mixed with another model.
Your emotional response? — Seems like good pricing. Maybe I should buy it.
The same scene but the assistant gives you another answer.
— It’s $79. Oh, wait. I mixed it up with another model. The price for this is $199.
What is your emotional response now? If you’re like most people, it’s disappointment. You are most likely not considering the purchase now.
What changed? The price is the same. The product is the same. The settings and the context are the same. The only change is an anchor — the random number that was placed in your head and that impacts your further reasoning.
This technique is widely used by real estate agents: they most often send the offers that have a higher price tag first, just to create an anchor. Most often, these offers don’t even fit your search parameters, or fit just partially. But when they send you the next options that better match your requirements you already have this high pricing anchor in your head and all other prices get compared to it by your subconscious brain.
Real-life examples of anchoring
One of my favorite examples of anchoring is described in an old Journal of Marketing Research article*. Two campaigns for Snickers bars. Message 1 says “Snickers bars. Buy them for your freezer”. Message 2 says “Snickers bars. Buy 18 for your freezer”.
Those customers who saw message 1 bought 2-3 bars on average. Those who saw message 2 bought 6-8 bars on average. This is a 300% increase!
Why does it work? In general, when you see messages like “buy them” they are mostly meaningless to your subconscious brain. “Ok, maybe it’s not a bad deal, I’ll buy 1 or 2” — this is what you’re thinking. But when you see “buy 18” it grabs your attention. You start thinking “18? That’s crazy! Who would buy that much?! I’m way too better than those people who buy 18 candy bars, I’ll take 6”.
Why do we always have fruit and veggies close to the entrance in the supermarket?
Anchoring is one of the concepts that retailers have in mind when they plan their stores. Almost every supermarket offer the same experinece: your route across the store is planned in a way that first come expensive categories (fruit, veggies, bakery, nuts, dry fruit). If a supermarket has eco-friendly or organic products that are priced higher they will be also placed as close to the entrance as possible. Why? One of the reasons is that the store is motivated to boost the turnover of the categories with a short shelf-life so they offer them to you first. But also because of the anchoring. As soon as your hidden brain accepts the high price tag, all other prices that follow for less expensive categories would not seem a much better deal.
When I was running retail stores I once tried to experiment with it. For one day in one experimental store I made a 15% bump on all price tags. Also I put an island display almost in front of the entrance and placed several new items with the highest price tag. In another store I did just the price increase. It was an exciting experiment that supported my hypothesis. In the first store managers got almost no complaints on the price increase. Customers bought items as though nothing happened. In the second store we received a flow of negative feedback and many customers left the store without a purchase.
A very valuable lesson learned: if you are about to increase prices a simple higher anchor may reduce the pain of payment for the customer considerably.
Anchoring on the landing page: Logology case study
Let’s see if the same useful principles to create anchors and impact the perception can be used on landing pages.
Disclaimer I’m not saying Logology co-founders are using all these “tricks” and “hacks” to “influence” your brain. I am pretty sure they have no idea that what they are doing is called anchoring. They probably came up with these specific UI and UX elements because they know from the experience that these things work. My goal here is to explain why exactly they work. Because the reasons why these landing page elements have proven to be efficient have to do with the way the human mind functions. Therefore, you can take these reasons and apply them to your use case. This way, you will be copying the “why” not the “how” part.
Anchoring in the tagline
Logology provides a productised branding service for startup founders: they can order a designer-quality logo that would be much more unique and reflect brand values on a much higher level than any logo provided by logo generators for the price that is x10 lower than hiring a professional designer. To provide unique logos Logology founders have come up with a set of questions aimed at determining the brand personality and marketing voice. The answers get matched with Logology’s database and founders get a more or less unique set of logos to choose from.
The tagline and the H1 already contain a great example of anchoring. Though it might take more than 10 or even 15 minutes for a user to go through the process of answering the questions, the anchor “500 logos in 5 minutes” sounds much better than, for example “You will get access to hundreds of logos as soon as you answer the questions”. It is the same anchor as companies use when they create offers like “10 for 10 dollars” (work much better than “1 dollar each”).
500 for 5 creates an anchor that says “this is a great deal”. But also it places a high but nevertheless limit in our mind just about the same I’ve mentioned in the example with the Snicker bars. “Buy 18 for your freezer”. It works much better than “Buy them for your freezer” just because number limits are perceived as much more compelling by our hidden brain.
Anchoring with pronouns
Another important anchor is the pronoun “my” instead of “yours”. Logology could have written “Check logos that match your values” — it would sound just as reasonable, would not it? Actually, this discussion in the UX-related community has been lasting for years: use “my account” or “your account”, “my assets” or just “assets”. I see the shift to a zero-pronoun framework that companies favor recently. And it probably makes sense if you’re a B2B service — in B2B users are not the same as owners, so placing a pronoun that would attribute assets to the user might sound awkward.
But Logology caters mostly to bootstrap founders and indie-hackers. Solopreneurs. They are the owners AND the users. And most importantly, these are people with a very developed sense of ownership. Therefore, it makes every sense to use the pronoun “my'' that instantly establishes the ownership and prompts visitors to check out logos that match THEIR (not someone else’s) values .
I don’t like criticising but I have to admit that in the pricing section Logology founders have created a wrong anchoring
They are placing themselves in front while it might work much better to put a higher pricing range as a high anchor that will help with perceiving Logology pricing as a better deal. AS I mentioned above, placing the higher price tag first ALWAYS impacts perception of any other prices users see. This is a change that requires almost zero effort, and I hope founders will give it a try in future.
But wait, you might argue. What about subscription plans? They are always written from the lower tier to the higher. The least expensive option goes first. This is correct. But let me remind you that Logology doesn’t present pricing tiers. It’s a one-off service. And what they are doing here is comparing themselves to other options. Their aim is to create a perception of a fair price for their service. While with subscription tiers pages the goal is to simplify visitor’s choice between different options of the same service.
Anchoring with the questions
Finally, Logology unique framework of brand values - logo matching is basically based on anchoring. The questions founders have to answer and the options they go through create strong anchoring points in their minds. When they see the final result, they compare it to the created anchors. It is the same as when you are asked.
— Think of a brand. Does this visual match what you’ve been thinking of?
— Think of a brand that is associated with a strong superhero who saves the world. Does this visual match what you’ve been thinking of?
Do you feel the difference?
Anchoring you can use on your landing page
How can you use anchoring on your landing page or in your processes? Here are several options that you can consider using