A few months ago, my friends and I bought tickets for a festival in the summer, meaning that we would be needing a place to stay for a few nights. After deciding to finally get around to it and book somewhere, we checked some websites to get the best deal.
While looking online I noticed that these companies employed various persuasion techniques within the websites, making use of the scarcity principle, as well as the concept of social proof.
We first checked Airbnb, thinking this would be our best bet. After finding somewhere seemingly appropriate, we decided to ‘request to book’ meaning the website would contact the host to find out if it is possible for us to book the accommodation. On this page, this message came up:
By letting us know that the place is ‘rare’ and ‘usually booked’, the website is making use of what Cialdini (2007) describes as the scarcity principle. This is where we are more attracted to things which are likely to soon become unavailable. Labelling the property as ‘a rare find’ suggests that we were lucky to have found it and should therefore book it soon before someone else does.
As it so happens, we did request to book this accommodation, however were left disappointed to later find out that someone had also booked it just slightly before us. This meant that we needed to continue our search.
The next website we tried was Trivago, as the properties on Airbnb were getting booked by the minute. We looked again and found somewhere else, so proceeded to the booking stage. When we reached the booking confirmation page, this is what came up:
Again, this made use of the scarcity principle by saying ‘only 5 rooms left’. As well as this, by saying ‘15 people are looking at this moment’ this creates a sense of competition, making us more likely to want to book the hotel as it appeared more attractive to us.
Not only this, but Trivago also used the concept of social proof, a technique whereby we are convinced that because everyone else is doing something, we must also do it, as it must be good otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. Because of this, we ended up booking this hotel as we felt like if we didn’t then there would be nowhere left, and we wouldn’t be able to go to the festival. This just goes to show that persuasive techniques do work, by getting people to book hotels due to manipulated desperation.
Cialdini, R. B., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion (pp. 238). New York: Collins.