Using the F word to boost conversions

Aline Roux
Head of Optimisation

Using the F word to boost conversions

Part seven of our 'lessons in CRO' mini-series (7 of 10)

This mini-series covers 10 lessons we have learned from some of our favourite recent experiments (and the results).  If you're facing similar challenges and want to understand why some things work better than others, or you simply want some new ideas to test, we hope these lessons help guide and inspire you with your next experiments.

Here's lesson seven:

Lesson #7: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: “free” is better than “cashback” for conversion boosting


  • 16% increase in lowest-value package sales
  • 13% increase in high-tier package sales
  • 11% increase in post-sale leads

The problem

This client offers a service with four different levels of inclusive packages. The three most expensive packages come with a cashback offer that is unavailable with the cheapest package. However, this cashback offer is generating a lot of customer dissatisfaction as it is managed externally and validation times have been greatly affected by the Covid crisis.

All packages also include an offer for a free service that users are likely to require post-purchase, although this free offer is a lot less visible on the site than the cashback offer.

What we did

We removed all messaging relating to the cashback offer and replaced it with messaging about the free service offer instead. We hypothesised this would reduce customer complaints relating to cashback whilst not having any impact on overall sales.

On every page where cashback £ amounts would have been mentioned, we swapped the contents for messaging about the free service offer, relying on the presence of the word “free” to compensate for the absence of the cashback promotion.

The reasons it worked

Our hopes not to affect overall sales were over-fulfilled as we actually increased sales! How did this happen?

Cashback is fickle

Anybody who has a modicum of experience with cashback offers knows that they are not always reliable: they often come with obscure terms and conditions detailing why your purchase may not be eligible for cashback after all, being subject to validation. On the other hand, a free offer might look like a surer thing: it is more likely to materialise than cashback, and faster too.

Everyone likes a freebie

You can never underestimate the power of the word “free”! It is human nature to seek immediate gratification in everything, and online purchases are certainly not exempt. The mere presence of the F word is likely to trigger a positive cognitive response, all the more since the concept of the freebie has been around for longer than the concept of cashback and might better resonate with more mature audiences.

Your next experiment?

Whilst not every online experience offers the possibility to get something for free or even cashback, you can apply the learning that immediate gratification is important and can take many shapes and forms (e.g.: samples, faster delivery, etc.). The crucial thing is to clearly highlight this so your visitors take heed and let their instincts do the rest.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to follow us for the rest of the blog mini-series ( 3 parts to go!)

In case you missed it here's part 6.

If you have any questions about experimentation, Matt our Director of Optimisation offers a free no-pressure 30 minute CRO consultation. He's always happy to answer any weird and wonderful CRO questions you might have!

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