Authority Principle

Theory explained by Oreoluwa Akinnawo and written by Robert Cialdini

We all have fallen into the trap of the principle of Authority. Think of these two situations. Assume that one of your friends advises you to add extra vitamins to your everyday diet and the second scenario is a doctor advising you the same thing. What would your reaction be? If you are one of the most people, there’s a high tendency that you question your friend. On the other hand, many of us would not question a doctor in a health concern but simply adhere to his/her recommendations. Now, this is a great example of how Authority theory in psychology works. Authority is the human tendency of following the recommendations or suggestions that come from a source that we accept as credible or holds a position of power. Our decisions are persuaded by many such sources in everyday life even though we never notice them. This happens because we tend to believe that the credible source has the best interest towards us, even though it may not be the case always. The authority principle doesn’t always work on the words of a person but works on the words of famous brands. For example, will you ever ignore a tip given by Rolex regarding watches? However, this tendency of human psychology has been used by marketers around the world to influence consumer decisions and is widely used as one of the major and strong tactics in online web stores and websites towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Authority bias refers to the natural tendency of humans to blindly follow or believe the instructions and views of a leader. Humans generally have a deep-seated duty to authority and tend to comply when requested by an authority figure. Individuals are motivated to view authority as deserving of their position and this legitimacy leads people to accept and obey the decisions.
Essentially, people tend to attribute greater accuracy/weight to the opinions of people they think are experts, whether or not it is true. Authority Bias is the tendency of a person in authority.
How Can One Use The Authority Bias?
As human beings, we have evolved over the millions of years as a herd, led by a leader. The leader alone, or a set of trusted advisors, made the big decisions and the rest followed suit. There are various ways to take advantage of the Authority Bias in marketing and below are some examples.

Think Logically and Ask Questions: In conversion optimization, practitioners are susceptible to the Authority bias as much as website visitors. It does not make sense to assume anything in CRO, especially with experimentation. In order to justify the position, one holds ( for example  C.R.O Project  Lead, Senior Conversion Optimization consultant) that person starts out needing to justify their existence and salary by using their past knowledge and experience, and that takes the form of opinion. They are literally valued for their opinion. Research, analysis and experimentation are often only employed in order to flesh out or test an idea or product feature which has come from an internal opinion.

This creates the illusion of a data-driven approach to the product, and yet what is really driving the testing roadmap is opinion and guesswork, with data employed to validate someone's personal idea. Done properly, Conversion Optimization is simply the combination of research and analytics with experimentation-driven innovation. It's about embedding the scientific method of C.R.O into your decision making and development. The purpose of having a leader is not to enforce ideas or curtail the suggestions of the team members. If you become too susceptible to Authority bias, you become a victim of groupthink, where the whole group simply accepts the idea of one person.

In conversion optimization, most decisions have a major impact on the success of optimization programmes, so one must take a stand and probe with more questions. Asking questions might help the team think in the right direction and change course.

Social Proofing: Businesses use logos/media files from global brands in order to give the appearance of being the best in their respective fields.

Authority Social Proof

Also, one can make use of Authority bias on checkout pages to assure visitors that sensitive information being entered into form fields are secure and exempt from misuse by criminal elements. There is no assurance that it would not happen but visitors feel safer seeing logos as below.

Authority Social Proof

For the same reason, health-related products can be advertised by an actor wearing a doctor’s coat. A toothpaste ad has a model with a white coat and a stethoscope because it portrays authority and expertise better than any other tool of a dentist.

Authority Trusted
How to increase Authority in your web store? The key to make authority in your web store is to establish credibility. Buying stuff online has a great difference to physical shopping. Start being more creative to convey a compelling message to your target audience making them realizes that you are credible and this creates a greater level of authenticity in the minds of your target customers. Here are our top tips on how to increase credibility of your online store to get the maximum use of the Authority theory towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Embed Expert Reviews As discussed in the example of a doctor prescribing vitamins, we are more likely to act according to the words of an expert in a relevant field of interest. We trust experts as we believe that they hold the necessary knowledge to make the best decision in a certain field. Assume that you’re an online Band-Aid seller. The ideal expert to embed to your website is a doctor. There’s another aspect of expert reviews. An expert doesn’t have to be an academic successor all the time. It could be any person that your target audience acknowledges as a person of knowledge in the similar area. A Youtuber with a few million subscribers is an example of such an expert. That’s why many web stores send their products free to relevant Youtube personalities to get the products reviewed in their channels. And such videos can easily be embedded to your website to attract more customers towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). It is a must that you, Select the expert based on your products and the interest of the target audience: If you ask a doctor to review your toy cars will not generate any credibility whatsoever.

Keep the reviews genuine: The credibility of an expert review is extremely high as they are not viewed as advertisements by the users. If your products or services lack the qualities which are being communicated, then definitely the authority created by an expert will be removed and your customers may not trust you or the reviewer any longer. To prevent such disadvantages, many experts wouldn’t agree to give false reviews online.

Become the Expert yourself
This is an ideal alternative to outsourced express reviews. How can you become an expert online? Have you seen web stores maintaining blogs and Youtube channels to discuss top tips related to their products and services? This is an ideal example of you becoming the expert yourself. What you should do is just to embed the links of such top tip content to your web store. If your web store is presented as a credible source of useful information, the principle of ‘Authority’ works to your favor. This will enable your target audience to accept you as an expert of the field and that can contribute immensely towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Don’t forget that becoming an expert does not happen overnight. You have put a lot of effort and investment and stay committed towards the goal.

Embed Credible Imagery
As we have discussed early, the authority does not only work for people. Objects too can display authority. Credible imagery is such an ideal element which can establish authority for you. You can embed imagery that represents the exact value you generate. Your imagery should showcase what you do and placed in a place where the immediate user's attention can be drawn. Homepage is a good place to embed your credible imagery. For example let’s assume you make high-end handcrafted dresses. An image of your people crafting dresses at the factory will speak a lot more than words do.

Embed influencer endorsement
A social influencer is any persona who can build buzzes on certain topics as many people follow their opinion. If you can get such an influencer to endorse your products or services through your website, then the effect of Authority will be supercharged. You don’t need Beyonce or any celebrity who may charge piles of bucks, but there are plenty of online influencers out there who are willing to help you through their social media channels. You only have to figure out the ideal person based on your target audience and embed their opinions of your brand on the web site. This is another proven way to get the advantage of the ‘Authority’ theory in human psychology towards Conversion Rate Optimization.

Authority being a human psychological tendency to accept suggestions from the individuals, who are known as credible, is used by many marketers online for Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). If you struggle to convert the visitors of your web store to potential leads, it’s the time to follow the top tips we’ve briefed for you and let the results speak of their effectiveness.

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