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Understanding Anticipation and How it is Linked to your Online Conversions


Let’s be honest, we are all unique in the way we feel, think and act. So, when marketing businesses online, our behaviour needs to be understood across all walks of life. It is vital for any business invested in their online conversions to understand this, as it will fundamentally alter how successful you can be as a marketer.

We need to be able to answer questions like: how do your customers react? What’s the emotional connection you are conveying? Is your call to action compelling? How easy is it to complete a conversion?

If we start to understand the psychological process of anticipation as marketers, we will be able to increase conversions and understand our customers on a much deeper level.

  1. People enjoy getting excited

Let’s get scientific for a moment. It’s nothing new to say that the human brain is one hell of an organ and is constantly working. Anticipation and excitement derives from the area of the brain called the cerebellum, and this looks after our non-conscious, automatic behaviour. With this anticipation in action, it means the brain requires dopamine, which is the chemical released that acts as a stimulant to prevent pain and causes excitement. All of these automatic functions of the brain work together in order to achieve a positive experience, helping a person anticipate them in a way complete separate to sad ones.

How can this work for you?

It’s important to continue this positive anticipation and create a message that allows the customer to agree with what you are showing. Headlines such as ‘78% of people don’t think marketers look at user experience, we do.’  Preparing a strong mental message will set you up for increasing conversions.

Use colours, fonts and images to support your mental image. Use colour schemes that are associated with positive connotations and emotions. Smiling people, senses of happiness blended carefully with a call to action will work wonders. Don’t forget to frame the call to action is a positive way too so the customer is reaffirmed they are making the right decision, e.g. ‘Yes, let’s get started.’

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  1. It all comes down to personal experiences and perception

Anticipation works in the sense that we are all drawn to past experiences to prepare for and base our thoughts on future events. This is called ‘perceptual anticipation’ and is caused by different types of stimuli. We compare things we have learnt, for example, the colour of a post box, the location of our office etc. Therefore, once this set of experiences change we are then confused and can no longer rely on our ‘perceptual anticipation’ to advise us on what we should do.

Example by the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/10/health/research/10mind.html?_r=1&

How can this work for you?

Well, in a nutshell, follow suit and keep it simple. We are all displayed with hundreds of different funnels and ways of making a conversion happen. For example, simple buttons and applying conversion best practices such as headlines, testimonials and any other credibility. Ensure that you create a set of conversion funnels that do the same thing – ensure they can anticipate the next step.


  1. Excitement decreases when the customer is stressed or disappointed

We all have different experiences and that’s what makes us all unique. So when users face an experience that is outside the norm of what they expect it to be, psychological stress kicks in. Maybe the form is longer than they thought, or they didn’t realise they had to confirm their bank details again. Either way, the anticipation process has been shifted and the customer either has to accept or avoid.

Ideally, the customer adapts and the conversion goal is completed. Avoidance, however, is when they remove themselves from the situation entirely and the conversion is lost.

How can this work for you?

If you create experiences that are ‘unexpected’ the anticipation backfires. The adaption process, therefore, needs to be easy, simple and obvious for the customer so they convert. This means even small changes can either improve or decrease conversions. All of these points really are the driving force behind any successful campaign. Psychology of your users will shape and reinvent your conversion funnel or website.

Create a greater understanding of anticipation, and you’ll be able to call yourself a scientist.

By Charlotte MacInnes

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