Actionable Optimisation

Actionable Optimisation #43 – Accidental Negative Messaging

 March 9, 2021

By  Will

Why Accidental Negative Messaging Can Ruin Your Conversion Rates

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Sometimes you can have this great idea.

You think you’ve got a powerful message that will resonate with the customer and convince them to purchase.

But sometimes that message resonates the wrong way.

Sometimes what you thought was a big plus point, a nice benefit to the customer actually gets perceived in completely the opposite way.

Now obviously this can be difficult to detect in advance. Sometimes you’re just confident that customers will like this messaging.

It could be about free returns.

It could be a line stating that products are in stock.

But if you then provide the information in the wrong way, you can actually put customers off the purchase.

Let’s take free returns for example. You might find through feedback that customers are struggling to find your return policy.

So you might think to yourself, well let’s highlight the key return statement on the product page - ‘14 Days Free Returns’.

But in the context of what you’re selling, or even just compared to your competitors, this could be a harmful message to use.

If all your competitors offer 30+ days, then highlighting 14 days does little for you.

Likewise, if your product is something that customers might need to try out for a while a 14-day policy might sound way too short - mattress companies are offering 100-200 day trials for that exact reason!

In a similar way to highlighting weak messaging, another issue you might have is introducing questions into the customer’s mind.

‘Why are they telling me this is in stock? Surely it would be unless they said otherwise?’

That’s the question one client was posing to their customers, and by removing the In-Stock tag conversion rates shot up just over 20%.

Another example someone explained to me on a podcast recently was printer paper that stated ‘99.9% jam free’.

That might sound like a fantastic message, but it has 2 problems.

Firstly, you’ve just given the impression that it's your paper that causes the jam, not the printer.

Secondly, if there are 5,000 pieces of paper you’re going to cause my printer to jam 5 times. That seems a lot for one pack of paper.

Neither of those are great messages for the customer, and there was just no need to introduce them into the mix.

As always, just ask yourself ‘why do we need this message? What will it achieve? What will it make the customer think? And, why would the customer care?’


Will is a Customer Journey Marketing consultant, specialising in CRO, CRM and Customer Experience. Will has over 7 years experience working across a range of consumer facing businesses and has worked for huge brands such as MyVoucherCodes, Europcar, JackpotJoy, Virgin Games and Virgin Bet.


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