Conversion optimisation with the Big Five ‘in a galaxy far, far away…’

by Carrie Ellwood

posted on: February 3rd 2018

As the ability to gather data about an individual’s online behaviour becomes easier, the potential to use this to create a better, more personalised experience for the user grows.


One way to maximise the use of these data is to consider the personality type of your user. Undoubtedly, this will vary from person to person; however, there are numerous personality tests available to help categorise individuals into specific groups or identify their most dominant traits. The ‘Big Five’ personality test is particularly popular worldwide and scores people on 5 main categories: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Emotional stability (formerly known as ‘Neuroticism’).

Research has shown that evaluating one’s personality can be somewhat predictive of an individual’s behavioural patterns. Therefore, evaluating the personalities of your users, such as identifying those who score particularly high or low on any of the Big Five categories, could help you identify messages that specific users may respond best to on your website.

So let’s take Star Wars to illustrate this point. Star Wars is full of complex characters but each will have at least one dominant trait that will play an important role in their decision making.


Unsurprisingly, Darth Vader scores particularly low on both agreeableness and emotional stability in the Big Five.

To provide some context, those low in agreeableness tend to be more selfish, competitive and ruthless (if destroying a whole planet at the push of a button is not considered ‘ruthless’, I don’t know what is). Low emotional stability is generally seen in people who are anxious, hostile, tense and impulsive, making Darth Vader a prime candidate.

As he appears to score a little below or above average in the other 3 categories of the Big Five, I would choose to focus my targeted content on appealing to his low agreeableness and emotional instability.

So let’s say you sell lightsabers and Darth Vader has just arrived at your home page and you’d like him to make a purchase. In order to make sure the home page is sufficiently compelling, you may consider using the persuasion principle of “social comparison”, which can be particularly effective in those with low emotional stability.

This is the idea that people generally determine their own worth and value by comparing themselves to others around them. Therefore, the message Darth Vader sees may say “80% of the Rebellion have purchased our [insert latest lightsaber model]”. This could be followed by “Don’t lose your battles!”, as these individuals generally respond well to content that is directed to them personally. This message should be different for someone with high agreeableness or high emotional stability, but may work particularly well for Darth Vader.


Unlike Darth Vader, Han Solo scores distinctively average on agreeableness and emotional stability. Instead, his most dominant traits are low openness and conscientiousness, and high extraversion, which is somewhat evidenced by his traditional views, tardiness and thrill-seeking behaviour.

Let’s imagine he is looking to take out insurance on his Millennium Falcon… One cognitive bias that those with low conscientiousness and high extraversion are particularly vulnerable to is temporal discounting, where we overvalue the present and undervalue the future. Therefore, on your insurance website, you would want to emphasise short-term benefits of your policies to Han.

For example, you might show “Buy now, pay later” next to each policy and display the relatively low monthly cost in a bigger font with the larger annual price in a smaller font. This will appeal to Han’s desire to live in the moment and worry about the future in the future.


Yes, R2-D2 is a droid but he still has a determinable personality, such is the beauty of Star Wars. R2-D2 scores high on extraversion and emotional stability, demonstrated by his knack of remaining cool, calm and collected in high pressure situations. Therefore, if R2-D2 wanted to find a company to conduct his annual service and you had a website offering this, you may want to consider these aspects of his personality. Those that have high emotional stability may respond well to the principle of reciprocity, which is the notion that people generally have an innate desire to repay favours done for them. So you may push a message to R2-D2 that says “Download your free maintenance manual”, making him feel more indebted to you and subsequently book himself in for a service.

As with any optimisation strategy, you should make sure you test tailored messages with specific personality groups before you roll them out more broadly. However, the principles of personality and persuasion can tie together nicely to create personalised user experiences with great potential to increase conversions.

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Carrie Ellwood

As a conversion strategist, my responsibilities generally focus around the development of research and test ideas that will satisfy and exceed the strategic goals agreed between us and our clients. Aside from that, I love Football (Man United obviously), Cricket and Dogs

Conversion optimisation with the Big Five ‘in a …

by Carrie Ellwood Time to read: <1 min