A few months ago, I saw a watch online that I liked. I went to the brand\u2019s website and looked at their collection. I followed them on Instagram. I showed the watch to my partner and told him I liked it. But then I thought, I should shop around. So I looked online at other watches and found one or two that I liked more and that were less expensive. But in the end, I bought the first watch anyway, despite the alternatives.\r\n\r\nWhat happened here? Did this watch have some magical properties that made me reject all others? I\u2019m sure the manufacturer would like to think so, but probably not. What\u2019s more likely is that I fell victim to the \u2018Commitment and Consistency\u2019 principle.\r\n\r\nCommitment and consistency is the idea that if we make a small commitment to something \u2013 say, expressing an opinion on a topic or signing up for a newsletter \u2013 we tend to remain consistent in that commitment going forward. Why? As humans, we have a deep need to stick to our convictions, plus it\u2019s just easier than changing our minds all the time.\r\n\r\nFor retailers, this means that if you can generate a small action from someone, you stand a better chance of converting them later. Let\u2019s look at my watch example: I declared that I liked this product by telling someone else about it and clicking \u2018follow\u2019 on Instagram. These small acts worked as micro-commitments that contributed to my buying decisions \u2013 even in the face of better options.\r\n\r\nBesides generating follows and WOM, there are all sorts of ways that brands can use commitment and consistency to drive sales:\r\n\r\nAsk the right questions\r\n\r\nAsk your customers: Why are you shopping for this now? Why are you shopping with us today? Answers to these questions solidify motivations and get customers to commit \u2013 out loud \u2013 to their missions. I recently heard of how a subscription-model company reduced its cancellation rate: when customers called to cancel, rather than ask, \u201cWhy would you like to cancel?\u201d (the logical first question), call-centre staff first asked, \u201cWhy did you sign up in the first place?\u201d Answering that question reinforced customers\u2019 reasons for using the service and encouraged some to reconsider cancelling it.\r\n\r\nOffer gateway products\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s common practice for luxury fashion brands to offer small products \u2013 wallets, ties, sunglasses \u2013 that allow customers to own \u201ca piece of the brand\u201d even if they can\u2019t splurge on higher-priced items. This approach is smart because it keeps a brand top of mind and because it employs commitment and consistency: once I\u2019ve made a small purchase, I\u2019m more likely to make a larger one later.\r\n\r\nRun a competition\r\n\r\nWe\u2019ve all come across ads that implore us to enter to win by following a few easy steps: like us on Facebook, tag a friend, share this post. All are small actions, but all urge entrants to state, \u201cI like this brand.\u201d\r\n\r\nGive them a quiz\r\n\r\nBlame (or thank) Buzzfeed if you like: quizzes are everywhere, including on retail sites. Activewear site Fabletics is one example. Before you browse, you answer some questions: What kind of exercise do you do? Which colours do you like? How would you describe your style? These types of diagnostic quizzes are more than a fun way to engage customers and tailor recommendations \u2013 they also help a customer define what kind of person they are and what they like. Taking a few steps to help customers crystallise (and thus commit to) those ideas is a small but strong action on the way to purchase.\r\n\r\nCommitment and consistency is a powerful principle that retailers and brands can use to their advantage. The idea is simple: when focusing on the big conversion, don\u2019t forget about the smaller ones along the way.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nKate Jacobs is the Senior Consultant at Morar HPI, a company which offers consulting services to some of the top brands in the retail industry.