Imagine you’re back in school, studying for a foreign language exam. The test is on Spanish vocabulary for fruits. You’ve made yourself flash cards, with a picture of each word you have to learn (‘apple’, ‘pear’, ‘banana’, and so on), and the Spanish word for each underneath. All of these flashcards are printed in blue ink, except for one – the flashcard for ‘strawberry.’ That one, unlike all of the others, is printed in green.
Chances are, on the day of your exam, it will be much easier to recall the Spanish word for ‘strawberry’ than any of the others you’ve studied. This is due to the Von Restorff Effect also known as the Isolation Effect.
Origins of the Isolation Effect
The Von Restorff Effect was named after the early 20th century German psychologist Hedwig von Restorff, who first published her findings in the journal Psychologische Forschung in 1933. The effect can be summed up in the observation that, “In any given number of items to be learned, an item that is notably different from the rest in size, color, or other basic characteristics will be more readily recalled than the others.” [McCallum, Cheyne W. “Attention” Encyclopædia Britannica (2015)]
How to use harness the Isolation Effect for ecommerce
When listing products, pricing plans, features or pretty much anything else, the Von Restorff Effect dictates that the one that sticks out will leave the most enduring impression.
The Conversio agency used this phenomenon to boost conversion rates for one of their e-commerce clients, Whistles. By making one particular item stand out against the others, Whistles was able to increase conversion rates for that item by 3.4%.
Similarly, Amazon uses the Von Restorff Effect to push their Amazon Prime delivery option: