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Encouraging a feeling of crowds
2010-06-24: A little bit of neuroscience for you: people like to feel part of something and to feel that they are not the only ones doing something. We feel more comfortable in making a decision if others have made the same decision. IBM's hugely powerful meme used to be "no-one ever got fired for buying IBM", meaning, if you buy from anyone else you might be on your own.
That hints at the power of social media, but what can you do on a web page to fire-up those comfortable crowd feelings and encourage people to feel comfortable with you and your business?
One thing that's worked for me is to put a simple message on your site saying "there are 5 people browsing this site right now". Assuming that figure comes from real data so it ebbs and flows believably with the time of day and day of the week, it gives a warm glow of togetherness and, if you are selling something that is limited, a slight frisson of urgency .. if others are on the site, they may buy that last item before I get to it.
Better, you could provide links to the pages others are viewing right now. That way, you're providing a bit of insight into what those others are looking at, and we are nosey :-) So it helps people engage with the site and discover popular parts of it.
I just implemented that, and it's very early days but the first results are approximately a 50% drop in the bounce rate, a doubling of pages viewed per visit, and a doubling of the enquiry rate. Cool :-)
Oh, and it's quite quick and easy to do with a bit of PHP and mySQL.

By John Allsopp
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