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Consistency bias

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It is said that 8 out of 10 customers tend to do a thorough research, especially on online platforms before initiating a purchase. With every purchase, we are concerned about whether the right value has been provided for the money we spent. Let’s assume that we have found what we were looking for and immediately notice that something is not correct with consistency; for example, the product description of the product on Facebook is not the same on the website! What will be the end result? Definitely, such an incident will kill our intention to purchase that particular product. As the next step, we will not only move to a competitor but also never visit the previous site again assuming that all the other product information is inconsistent too. This is the horror as it will strike Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) so badly. All these happen as a result of the ‘Consistency theory’ in social psychology.

Consistency theory discusses how people prefer their thoughts, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, intents, and knowledge on something to be true rather than not being contradicted. Consistency is one of the key elements to increase one’s loyalty towards something which is widely used by marketers around the world. Avoiding the negative consequences of inconsistency is as important as taking the advantage of consistency to survive in the world of business.

Table of contents:
  1. What makes information inconsistent in online business?
    1. Missing information
    2. Inconsistent reviews
  2. How to use consistency theory to your favor towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?
    1. Check every wee bit of content you present
    2. Leave the space only for genuine reviews
    3. Never list your products in the wrong category
    4. What made Marianne Williamson's as one of the worst political brands online?
  3. Conclusion

What makes information inconsistent in online business?

Missing information

Assume that you have limited space in your living room and you want to buy a TV online that suits the space. You visit a web store to find that the width of the TV is missing. As the width being the deciding factor, of course you can consult online assistance from the site and obtain required knowledge. But, will you bother to do so or, will you simply move to a competitor? Many of us would choose the second option as incomplete information has already made us unsecured.

Inconsistent reviews

People of the present era tend to shop online never than before due to the benefits of convenience, richer content, competitive pricing etc. When shopping online, the reviews play a major role to influence the buying decisions of the people. Just assume that you compare the same product in a few different websites to find that the reviews on each are not compatible. What will your next move be ? It will definitely not be a good one towards the site with fake reviews.

How to use consistency theory to your favor towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Check every wee bit of content you present

Perform a thorough check on the content and the information of your website to see if something is missing. This something could be anything related to what you offer from your site. You might describe your products or services in a compelling way but still certain crucial information can be missing. Checking for misleading content is as important as missing content. Be precise with what you say. Don't create ambiguities and always be crystal clear while communicating your values. Finally perform a compatibility check if you have other social media platforms linked to your business to see if everything is in order with consistency.

Leave the space only for genuine reviews

This method can avoid the issue of inconsistent reviews a great deal. There's a misleading practice followed by some online stores which is to hire people to post good reviews on their products and services. This malicious practice will backfire on them sooner or later once it's tracked by their target audience. On the other hand, poorly handled reviews too work in a negative way to decrease the customer loyalty no matter how well and competitively you present yourself online. Once a customer visits your website, he/she expects to fulfill their needs in many ways. After all, they visit your site because your website was listed in a way relevant to their search queries. They already have preset expectations and when they track their expectations are not consistent with what you offer, it leads them towards disappointments and therefore works adversely for Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Never list your products in the wrong category

This may not be a common case. But it happens sometimes. If you are one of the resellers online, it's always safe to do a prior study on how your major competitors categorize products. We can never assure that a customer would always visit your site first. If he/she visits your site after visiting your competitors, then there is a high chance that they expect the target product in the product category in which your competitor placed it. Deciding the right category for a product is not always difficult. There will only be some tricky situations which will make it not work. In whatever the case, the key should be not to disappoint your customers due to inconsistency. The consistency theory implies that you can make a customer happy or otherwise. It's just some thought that you have to put into the design and the elements of your website.

What made Marianne Williamson's as one of the worst political brands online?

This is one of the ideal examples of recent past how 'Consistency Theory' worked negatively online. US presidential election candidate (2020) Marianne Williamson did a great job conveying the wrong message that she doesn't suit very well for a political candidate. Why did the people decide so?Can you believe that the design of her website majorly caused the case? First of all, she used a novelty font of bubblegum pink and white for her homepage. Secondly, the slogan was not something expected from a political candidate; 'Stand with Marianne.' The question, 'For what?' was raised in the minds of the people. Being a political brand majority of the people expected the seriousness of their political mission to be highlighted in the website of the candidate Marianne Williamsons. But, Marianne failed to recognize the expectations of the people and that inconsistency backfired on her, finally naming her as one of the worst US political brands online.


Consistency theory should never be overlooked by any seller or service provider online as it has a direct bearing on influencing consumer decisions towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). The ideal strategy is to understand your customers and align your services on par with their expectations to get the maximum use of the Consistency theory.

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Buy this book

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