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How to apply the Cialdini principles with a CDP

Companies need to go the extra mile to show they care about each individual to capture customers’ attention in a world overloaded with information. For online businesses, this is even more evident. Therefore it is crucial to understand how consumers make decisions and what influences them.

The American psychologist Robert Cialdini introduced the seven principles of influence over 30 years ago. His theories are still relevant and are being used by many marketers today. The persuasive techniques introduced by him are used to increase conversion rates in any industry possible. When you understand these seven principles, it contributes to your knowledge of the way people evaluate information and form decisions.

Robert Cialdini’s 7 principles are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, sympathy, unity and social proof.

“We’ve always thought of successful persuasion as an art – something that people are born with, a natural gift of saying just the right thing at just the right time. That’s true, but what we haven’t recognized traditionally is that it’s also a science. It’s something that can be taught and learned.”
– Robert Cialdini

In this guide we will take a deep dive into some principles and provide relevant examples of how you can use this within your business.


The reciprocity principle is based on give and take. Give what you want to receive. Have you ever caught yourself smiling at a co-worker because they smiled first? This smile is the thought behind reciprocity. In a way, you feel inclined to smile back, so this is what you do. To be successful with reciprocity, you need to be the first to act and give something. Make it as exclusive and personal as possible. In this case, people are willing to give something in return. An example for your online business could be a free trial, free content, or a discount. See an example below:


People want more of what they can have less of. Several studies have shown that people see more value in products that become less available. (Let’s not forget the toilet paper purchasing craze at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Showing real-time stock as soon as a few products are left, consumers are faced with the fact that these products are not on sale forever, and they might miss their chance to get them. This creates a sense of urgency. Businesses in the travel and leisure industries use this principle a lot. For example to show how many rooms are left available in a hotel on the dates you want. But also, the fashion industry makes use of this principle by showing how much stock is available of a specific item on your size. See the example below:


Authority and credibility are the basis of trust. When we trust an individual, we as consumers are easily influenced and persuaded to buy or use what this individual is using. Especially in fields where we aren’t experts.

Examples of authority in our daily lives are diplomas hanging on the wall, email signatures with qualifications, doctors who recommend a particular toothpaste, and even job titles. But how can you apply this to your online business? You could show recommendations or testimonials from clients or make use of influencers who promote certain products. See an example below:


People need to be and stay consistent with their identity and previous actions. Therefore, they prefer to make consistent decisions that are in line with their beliefs. For marketers, this principle is beneficial as it can create brand loyalty. Once people say “yes” to you, they are more likely to keep saying “yes” in the future.

Examples of consistency are a subscription to a newsletter, the visibility of how many other people bought the product before, or the reward you can give to customers for investing time in your brand. We show an example below:

Sympathy or liking

People like those who like them. To influence people, you need to win friends. This can be done by looking for similarities or appraisals. Cialdini calls this: “charm and disarm.” In our human nature, we like people more when they give us compliments or if there are similar interests. Keep in mind that when you give compliments, they are as sincere and specific as possible.

The same applies to companies. People prefer to purchase products or services from a company they feel compatible with. A way for online businesses to use the sympathy or liking principle is to have an attractive and well-designed website or allow customers to share what they just bought.

Replying to mentions on social media to make your followers feel special or even put them in the spotlight by featuring photos is also a way of applying this principle.

Social Proof

People rely on the people around them for suggestions on how to think, act and feel. Before making a decision, we find it essential to know what others are doing. Especially the people we trust. This could be friends, family, but also an expert in a specific field or industry.

A way to use social proof in your online business is, for example, by collecting online (product) reviews. Consumers tend to value the reviews and opinions of others more than the information shared by a salesperson. A positive review or good product rating is nowadays an important factor in considering whether to buy or not. Also, the approval from relevant experts is an example of social proof. Below we show you an example of social proof.

One thing to keep in mind is that timing matters when applying a principle. When someone is, for example, in the orientation phase of looking for products, it is unnecessary to trigger this person with scarcity.

Additionally, like all good marketing, it needs to always rely on truth, and these principles must be applied ethically. The consequences of tricking customers just to persuade them could be harmful to your brand’s reputation. If the principles are appropriately used, the outcome will be beneficial for both sides. 

How does it work with Spotler Activate?

With our CDP Spotler Activate, you can understand in which phase of the customer journey a consumer is, so the right persuasion type of Cialdini can be used at the right time. These types are based on a prediction that is constantly improved through machine learning. As there are several principles to persuade someone, the Spotler Activate algorithms can determine which persuasion type a person is most sensitive to. Subsequently, the most relevant persuasion type is shown, and the chance of conversion increases. To make our predictions more relevant and precise, we use look-alikes. We can create 360 degrees customer profiles where we identify the customer type and the buying phase.

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