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Ambiguity effect

Reviewed by expert Scientifically proven

The ambiguity effect is a cognitive bias in human psychology that discusses how we are most likely to avoid options that we feel like ambiguous or lacking information. The major reason behind this is that we don't admire uncertainty. Therefore, we are more motivated to select options that are accompanied with known favorable outcomes.

Table of contents:
  1. How to counteract the ambiguity effect for conversion rate Optimization (CRO)?
    1. Address frictions carefully
    2. How to present more information without overwhelming the users?
    3. Make your instructions and call to actions clear
    4. Use high quality visual content
    5. Invest in a professional copywriter
    6. Embed testimonials to lessen the perceived risk
  2. Wrap up
  3. Ambiguity effect example

Ambiguity effect must be taken into consideration by every marketer in order to get rid of the damage it can do to their marketing attempts. This tendency in human psychology is increasingly addressed by the digital marketers around the world in order to keep their Conversion Rate Optimization at a safe pace.

How to counteract the ambiguity effect for conversion rate Optimization (CRO)?

The key here is to identify how to present better and more useful information to your prospects. Here are some top tips that you can implement on your website to make your customers have a less scary experience.

Address frictions carefully

According to this effect of human psychology, as a marketer you must anticipate frictions from your target audience such as questions, their fears and objections. You need to have a clear understanding on what your customers consider before making a purchasing decision. The main concerns will be about the price, unique value proposition, availability, quality of your products or services. In order to remove these obstacles, reassure your customers by providing enough information to support their decisions. A separate FAQ page for your website comes in handy to assist you with such situations. The fact that the fractions of your customers are addressed carefully can contribute greatly towards conversion rate Optimization (CRO).

How to present more information without overwhelming the users?

Sometimes overwhelming your users with a lot of information can act adversely toward your conversion. At the same time, more information is crucial to offer more clarity. How to balance this? Here is the key. Keep the top level web pages of your website concise, but provide your customers with an easy gateway to access more details whenever they desire them. In order to fulfill this, you can simply embed a 'more details' button below the content to provide additional information for those who seek it. If a person does not require additional information, he or she can simply skim over it.

Make your instructions and call to actions clear

As the result of the ambiguity effect in human psychology, unclear information can scare your potential customers away or mislead them. This can be avoided through clear language. For example, 'complete sign up' button gives more clarity rather than a simple 'submit' button. And if you denote 'complete sign up', do not make your customers walk through any more steps before the actual sign up takes place, as it can weaken the authenticity you've created. If your call to action is not crystal clear, people can have second thoughts of proceeding which will contribute adversely towards conversion rate Optimization (CRO).

Use high quality visual content

As your customers do not have the potential of touching the things they are going to purchase online, you have the responsibility to make them feel like they really know your product in every perspective before making the actual purchase. There is no better way to accomplish this than embedding high quality visual content to your website to make your target audience feel comfortable buying from you. For example, you can use different angles to present your product, enabling the users to examine them quite thoroughly. Visual content with lacking quality can definitely create ambiguities to weaken the process of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Invest in a professional copywriter

It is true many of you are experts in your field of marketing, but you may be lacking the potential to communicate your values as effectively as a copywriter can. A professional copywriter processes the ability to communicate your values without ambiguities and most importantly in a compelling way.

Embed testimonials to lessen the perceived risk

A customer testimonial acts as a social proof which is one of the most efficient ways to incorporate authenticity to your website. A product or service offered with a customer testimonial can remove the disadvantage of uncertainty. The more you to lessen the perceived risk, the easier the conversion rate optimization (CRO) will be.

Wrap up

As a digital marketer, you should seek every opportunity to get rid of the situations that can affect conversion rates adversely. Ambiguity effect is such a cognitive bias that should be eliminated from your target customers. According to this bias, people tend to avoid options incorporated with ambiguities and uncertainty. By adhering to the top tips we've briefed for you, you can weaken the consequences of this bias towards enhanced Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Ambiguity effect example

In this example from Facebook, we address friction by saying "its free and will always be free", we provide information to the user without overwhelming them "why do I need to provide my birthday?"

Ambiguity Effect used by Facebook as can be seen on the screenshot

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Example of hypothesis applied

If we add a micro-copy to one of my friction point, then conversions for new users on desktop devices will increase, because of Ambiguity Effect.


The references contain experiments and studies that prove this bias is there.

1. Ambiguity and rationality

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