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USF researchers find online shoppers more likely to click ads with curvy designs, resulting in higher sales for retailers

As shoppers scramble this week to grab their last-minute gifts before the holidays, University of South Florida researchers have discovered a trend among those making online purchases.  The USF researchers found that as customers shop, they may be drawn to digital ads with curvy designs without even realizing it. According to a new study, shoppers click on curvy call-to-action buttons, such as “Shop Now” or “Add to Cart,” at a significantly higher rate than those with sharp angles.

“It’s actually rooted in natural and evolutionary instincts,” said principal investigator Dipayan Biswas, the Frank Harvey endowed professor of marketing in the USF Muma College of Business. “According to research from different disciplines, our natural instincts send us signals that sharp angles usually denote danger and that we’re more likely to get hurt. In contrast, curvy designs are perceived as friendlier and more approachable.”

Biswas says this feeling leads people to subconsciously prefer things, including digital ad designs, that are soft-edged and curvy. As published this month in the Journal of Consumer Research, Biswas tested this concept through click rates and eye movement studies in the Muma College of Business Customer Experience Lab. The novel findings reveal how the shapes of virtual elements can subconsciously influence click-through rates.

“We studied a hotel search button and we consistently found the click rate was higher when the elements were curved,” Biswas said. “It translated to an increase of nearly 15 percent in total revenue.”

According to Biswas, this means companies can potentially manipulate consumers into clicking and subsequently spending more through the use of curved call-to-action buttons. For companies that put little thought or reasoning behind their design element choices, Biswas says this study could be eye opening for them.

“This information is a very powerful tool in the hands of companies if they can influence your behavior without you realizing it,” he said.

Biswas plans to continue researching digital ads and examine additional elements that he believes can also impact click rates and user engagement.

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Learn more about USF research by viewing articles from past years (2010-2019).

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