4 Magic Words That Increase Sales

4 Magic Words That Increase Sales
There are four secret weapons in the marketing copywriter's arsenal that can have immense power. 

Four words have been defined by recent studies in behavioral economics, psychology and neuroeconomics to appeal to consumers primal instinct. These words powerfully engage consumers at a subconscious level and increase retailers chances of making a sale. 

Inject these 4 words into your marketing copy and ecommerce product descriptions to increase conversions: 

1. You

1. You

It's the most powerful word in the English language. For most marketers, It's more influential than words like 'money' and 'sex.' Your customers want to feel like you're talking to them directly and the word 'you' does that better than any other word.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we're all a bit egocentric. When promotional copy (or product descriptions / ads) focus directly on us, a powerful subconscious connection is created. 

Here's an example of an online retailer who uses the word 'you' in their product descriptions to increase their conversion rate:

“The Epson ES1000 Ultra Portable Tabletop Projection Screen is the ultimate screen for mobile professionals. Whether you're walking across town, commuting by car or flying to your next destination, this lightweight, compact screen is the perfect traveling partner for on-the-go presentations. When you're ready to present, the Epson ES1000 Ultra Portable Tabletop Projection Screen's unique one-piece design allows you to set up quickly and easily on any tabletop in less than 30 seconds. It conveniently accommodates up to a 50" (diagonal) image. When it's time to shut down, the Epson ES1000 Ultra Portable Tabletop Projection Screen stores quickly and easily in just seconds.” (Source, TigerDirect)

A form of the word 'you' appears 4 times in this clever marketing copy. Notice that the narrative is focused on how this portable projector makes the shopper's life easier. It's solving a problem that most prospects have.

Take a look at all of your ecommerce product descriptions and make sure you're addressing your prospects directly. Use words like "you," "your," and all similar forms to make a connection with your customers and potentially increase sales. 

2. New

2. New

When you see the word 'new' you subconsciously think improved, exciting, and I want. According to several behavioral psychology studies, new products, novel solutions, and a sense of adventure draw shoppers to products with the 'new' label.

Take a look at how Apple describes the iPhone 5's design. It's a new design, with new technology, for their new iPhone. Seems excessive when pointed out but it works. 

Dr. Bianca Wittmann is a cognitive neuroscientist who studies how copywriters use language to influence shoppers. She uses the candy industry's obsession with creating 'new' products as an example:

"I might have my own favorite choice of chocolate bar, but if I see a different bar repackaged, advertising its ‘new, improved flavor,’ my search for novel experiences may encourage me to move away from my usual choice." 

Consumers have a positive association with everything new - we're constantly wanting a newer car, new clothes, and the newest technology. As an online merchant you should play to this as much as possible. 

If you sell clothes online, for example, create a section to showcase all your latest products. Make sure your product descriptions, press releases, and blog posts use the word 'new' and focus on new products as well.  

3.  Free

3.  Free

The word 'free' isn't just a price - it's a powerful emotional trigger and a source of irrational excitement. You know that feeling you get at a buffet, where you're full but you keep eating because it's free? Or perhaps all those free pens you took at the trade show that you won't use but you took them anyways? Powerful stuff that word 'free' is. 

Nobody knows the power of using the word 'free' like Amazon.In 1999, Amazon began offering free shipping on orders of $99 or more. Since then they have been experimenting with and perfecting their marketing strategy (and copywriting) to best take advantage of our desire for 'free.' I know I'm guilty of buying another book (cost $10+) just to save $3.95 on shipping. 

Gregory Ciotti, founder of Sparring Mind, argues that the word 'free' exposes humanity's general aversion to loss. In economics, loss aversion describes the idea that people will frequently choose not to lose something (money) rather than to gain something, even something of relatively greater value. 

To make this point, Ciotti refers to research from famous behavioral economics professor, Dan Ariely. In a series of experiments, Ariely found that consumers would pick a free item over a very low-cost item, even when that low-cost item represented a greater overall value. 

When Ariely offered buyers a choice between a Lindt 'Lindor Truffle' for 15 cents — about half of its usual cost — and a Hershey Kiss for 1 penny, 73% chose the Lindt because of its apparent value. But when the price of both items was lowered by just one cent to 14 cents and free respectively, 69% of shoppers took the free Hershey Kiss. 

So how do ecommerce merchants use this research, along with Amazon's "free shipping" strategy to increase sales? As an example, a retailer in the Northwestern US offers free shipping on some orders. The retailer first offered free shipping for orders of $50 or more. On average shoppers spent a little more than $50 on the site. 

In November 2012, the policy changed, so that free shipping required a minimum $75 purchase. The retailer's average order rose to nearly $80. People spent more just to get something 'free' - so consider offering free shipping after a certain purchase threshold on your ecommerce store.

Furthermore, using the word free in your email campaigns can significantly increase open rate. Christopher Penn, the co-host of the “Marketing Over Coffee” podcast has pointed out that in-spite that the word 'free' can set off some spam filters, it's often worth using in email subject lines because of how dramatically it boosts open rates. Shoppers simply like the idea of getting something for nothing - and can you blame them?

4. Guaranteed 

4. Guaranteed 

The sleazy used car salesman stereotype is often associated with a 'guarantee' - but the word 'guarantee' is a key component of most good ecommerce marketing copy.

'Guaranteed' appeals to consumers emotional triggers like security and trust. It's a safety net - a promise made by a retailer to a consumer that they will be satisfied with their purchase. 

Studies in behavioural economics show that humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. When you purchase something there is the chance of disliking the item for one reason or another. Guaranteeing their purchase diminishes the possibility of loss. If they don't like the item, they can return it. 

Ecommerce merchants should inject their copy with 'guarantee,' 'money-back guarantee,' and variations like 'or your money back' on their product page. You should also develop a return policy and it goes without saying that you must hold up your end of the guarantee. 



  • alexandre
    January 09 2013, 11:06AM

    wooow!!!!! what a GREAT, NEW, FREE, post YOU guys wrote!

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    January 09 2013, 11:14AM

    Haha, thanks Alexandre.

    Do you think I should have titled my blog article “NEW FREE Guide to Teach YOU 4 Words to Increase Sales GUARANTEED” ???

    …. I thought about it. :)

  • Josh
    January 09 2013, 12:24PM

    Wait a couple weeks, and you’ll see “NEW FREE Guide to Teach YOU GUARANTEED!” all over the internet.

    Definitely just made our list for split testing :)

  • Katie SuavEco
    Katie SuavEco
    January 09 2013, 12:43PM

    Yes, a great free new article, guaranteed to satisfy!
    VERY helpful right at this point.

  • Kris
    January 09 2013, 12:57PM

    LOL I love the pic of the sleazy car salesman.

    @Mark Tempting as it may have been I think you made the right choice!

    Free is very powerful. When Amazon was charging $1 for shipping their sales were lower than expected. They made it free and it increased about 20%.

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    January 09 2013, 01:14PM

    Josh: I sure hope so!

    Katie: Thanks so much, I’m glad you found it useful.

    Kris: Haha, I love it too. I have way too much fun searching the stock image sites and Flickr hunting for the perfect images for the blog.

  • Kev Kaye
    Kev Kaye
    January 09 2013, 02:09PM

    Good post Mark. I think this a useful summary of good copy.

    I’m wondering how perceptions of these terms will change as frequency of use increases. Based on the research I do, I have a hunch trustworthiness will largely impact the effectiveness of each phrase.

    Which should naturally lead us to the question…what influences trustworthiness? This is a topic I’ve been spending a lot of time with lately.

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    January 09 2013, 03:47PM

    Kev: Absolutely. Trustworthiness is paramount in selling online. Nobody is going to give you their credit card number if they don’t trust you.

    It’s very important that merchants don’t simply pepper their marketing copy with false promises!

    If a product isn’t new, don’t call it new. If it’s not free, don’t say it’s free (that’s illegal). Also, don’t misuse ‘guaranteed’ – and this is the word that’s most often used maliciously. It’s fairly easy to trick a customer into thinking a purchase is ‘guaranteed’ but in reality, there’s a laundry list of conditions.

    Thanks for stopping by Kev, and I really appreciate your comment!

  • Jessie
    January 09 2013, 05:41PM

    FANTASTIC article Mark, a lot of ‘food for thought’. We offer free shipping on all of our products but I would be interested to see the conversion rates and difference in average sale value if we moved this to free shipping for all products over a certain amount. Will try it out and see how this affects figures.

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    January 09 2013, 06:07PM

    Jessie: Thanks so much! I’m really interested to hear how your experiment goes. Please do let me know the results!

  • Ruben Chez
    Ruben Chez
    January 11 2013, 09:16PM

    Great stuff..Simple but powerful…I’m newbie who’s just trying to get into this on business of affiliate marketing..
    twitter/face book?

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    January 12 2013, 03:11PM

    Ruben: Thanks a lot. We have a great affiliate program, check out http://www.shopify.com/partners

  • Sunday'sBestCo
    January 13 2013, 10:08PM

    Mark – your post inspired us to try something new! This weekend we tested out “Buy two shirts get free shipping.” We’ve done free shipping before but never tied it to the amount of product customers purchased. Almost 90% of customers purchased two or more shirts! This was a significant change for our norm.

    Thanks for the advice, you’re responsible for a great weekend of sales!

    Amy & Emily Jolly

  • Jeff
    January 14 2013, 10:08AM

    Nice quick morning reminder, thanks Mark!

    I would add a caution about the word “new”. It turns off a large segment of people because (depending on context/industry) it also implies “untested, unproven, lacking history, not backwards compatible, potentially flawed, risky, etc.”

    Although new things will appeal to people in many cases (as you note with candy & clothing), be careful with older audiences and specific industries where history, stability, proof, and guaranteed performance are key.

    Cheers, have a great day!

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    January 14 2013, 10:53AM

    Amy & Emily Jolly: I am SO thrilled to hear such wonderful news. Congratulations, and thanks so much for letting me know about your pricing test! :-) :-)

    Jeff: Excellent advice, your’e absolutely right.

  • gina de le  esparias
    gina de le esparias
    January 20 2013, 02:30AM


  • vietanh
    January 29 2013, 12:45AM

    How to add my avatar?

  • Deyson
    January 31 2013, 08:41AM

    Hello and thank you for such a great read!

    My question is what would you recommend for guarantees on digital downloads?

    Thank you and have an amazing day!

  • Randy Melton
    Randy Melton
    February 08 2013, 10:59PM

    Nice stuff! thank you very much for providing such a great knowledge of increasing sales.—>GatorHosts.blogspot.com

  • Ahmad Ali
    Ahmad Ali
    February 15 2013, 07:09AM

    Peace be upon you,
    Really I fond you guys active at new articles for distributing free knowledge with guaranteed improvements of readers.

  • Shahla Reynolds
    Shahla Reynolds
    February 17 2013, 06:16PM

    Thank (you) for this (free) article. (Now) that I know these tips will
    (guarantee) increase sells on my site: sonarta.com , they will be in every copy I send out.
    Great Job!

  • Felecia
    February 28 2013, 09:48AM

    Hi I am new to the online business yet my husband and I have been trying to promote our online store we put a new line of products we have offered 20 off orders over 99 dollars not really sure what we may be doing wrong. Can anyone offer advice or help???

  • Seema Sayyidah
    Seema Sayyidah
    February 28 2013, 05:50PM

    Great Read!!! And being an Artist I love the images!!!

  • Andrew Kelly
    Andrew Kelly
    March 30 2013, 11:29AM

    WOW! Super cool article. These four words are actually the key to making a sale. I believe that of these four, Free and You are the most powerful. Whenever, someone reads the word free, they get more attentive and start reading even more carefully.

  • suhana
    April 09 2013, 07:01AM

    Today i came across this amazing new website named nupinch.com…i really think you guys should check it out..
    Link: http://bit.ly/XczfI3

  • Tommy Hobin
    Tommy Hobin
    April 09 2013, 12:38PM

    You know it’s those easy and cheezy CTA’s that always bring them in. Great reminder to get back to the basics of talking to the customer.

  • Atul Jain
    Atul Jain
    April 14 2013, 06:05AM

    Nice article… However, I believe enhancing the usability of the website goes a long was in increasing ecommerce sales.

    I have written an article on how to increase ecommerce sales at http://www.atuljain7.com/tips-to-increase-your-ecommerce-sales

    Keep writing

  • Mike Rafati
    Mike Rafati
    May 30 2013, 02:33PM

    Great post Mark – thank you! I see writing is a challenging activity for my clients, so this is really helpful. Thanks, Mike

  • Nick
    May 31 2013, 07:18AM

    All that’s fine if your product lives up to the rhetoric, that’s the weakness of a sales driven company, just ask Ford Australia.

  • Steve Hem
    Steve Hem
    June 11 2013, 01:00AM

    Learn your 4 magic words – You, New, Free, Guaranteed. Thanks!

  • Benj
    December 21 2013, 07:39PM

    Subconscious Wording is a very awesome thing, love this article. Thanks

  • Claudia Pires
    Claudia Pires
    March 25 2014, 05:06PM

    The free shipping is a big deal. I absolutely hate paying for shipping and will absolutely spend more on products to get the free shipping; that’s a no brainer to me! Who wouldn’t rather buy more of a real thing than spend the same amount on postage. Another item that really bothers me is the handling fees. Shouldn’t you just add that to the product cost (overhead?. I don’t need to know how much you are charging me to package my items and drive them to the post office. I really don’t like to “feel” nickeled and dimed!

  • Nicole
    April 28 2014, 01:15PM

    You say “Four words have been defined by recent studies in behavioral economics, psychology and neuroeconomics to appeal to consumers primal instinct.” Could you provide the references for these studies? I find a lot of articles stating similar research but am having trouble finding any academic sources.
    Thanks very much.

  • Vicki
    November 27 2014, 01:49PM

    Words to sell a blanket? Dang things are not moving

  • Preeti
    September 29 2015, 06:19AM

    Thanks Mark!
    Totally agree with you!
    Using these power-packed words-You, Free, New, Guaranteed will certainly make a difference!
    I am editing my product descriptions already! :)

  • professional digital copywriting
    professional digital copywriting
    November 12 2015, 05:41AM

    Honestly, the pleasure of approaching your blog!

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