Consumer psychology – What eCommerce retailers need to know

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Consumer psychology has been studied for many years, with research showing the most effective store layout, what smells best tempt people to buy certain products as well as where these items should be placed on the shelves.

The rise of eCommerce and online shopping has taken this to another level, with retailers wanting to know how consumer psychology shapes the customer shopping experience online.

Having some knowledge of what motivates consumers to make purchases will give you a better understanding of what you need to do to increase the conversion rate on your online store.

For any business, understanding the wants, needs and desires of your target customer will help you develop a sales strategy to meet these needs, leading you to more sales and success.

Using online consumer psychology as part of your sales and marketing strategy can help you boost revenue, increase average order value and help avoid cart abandonment.

Here are six factors affecting consumer psychology and key considerations for your online store.


What colours attract customers to buy?


Ninety-three percent of consumers focus on the visual appearance when buying a product, and 80% believe colour is responsible for brand recognition. This demonstrates how colour dramatically affects shoppers’ behaviour and how important it is to consider when building awareness of your brand.

The appearance of your online store has a big impact on consumer behaviour. Your website’s theme and colour scheme should be carefully considered to appeal to your target demographic and help drive sales.

Colour has the ability to stir up emotional responses in people. Some colours make consumers more excited, elevating blood pressure, inspiring passion and action. While other hues are known to be calming and subdued. Understanding your target market will help you choose the colours that are appropriate for your online store, creating the optimum experience for consumers browsing your products.

Here’s how these colours affect online shoppers:

Graphic of different colours: Yellow: optimistic, happy and youthful. Often used to grab attention Orange: Aggressive. Creates a call to action: subscribe, buy or sell. Red: energetic, increases heart rate, creates urgency. Often seen in clearance sales. Pink: romantic and feminine. Used to market products to women and young girls. Blue: creates a sense of tranquillity, security and trust. Also strongly associated with masculinity. Black: powerful and sleek, a colour for strength and sophistication. Used to market luxury products Green: A soothing colour associated with calmness and nature, the easiest colour for the eyes to process. Purple: Used to soothe and calm. Often seen in beauty or anti-ageing products. White: projects purity, honesty, modernity and safety.


How does scarcity and urgency increase sales?


Creating the illusion of scarcity and urgency is a powerful tool for eCommerce retailers, but one that should be used with caution so as not to be misleading – you don’t want to draw attention to your brand for the wrong reasons.

The aim is to nudge potential customers into making a purchase decision through subliminal suggestions.

“Purchase anxiety” or the “Scarcity principle of persuasion” is a psychological trigger based on the elements of urgency and scarcity. For example, if someone is shopping online and can see there’s limited availability of the item they want, they are more likely to add it to their shopping basket straight away. The ‘limited stock’ type of messaging urges people to act fast before it’s gone.

For eCommerce retailers, rather than showing stats on how many people have purchased an item, when it drops below a certain threshold instead show how many are left available. This might provide that final push to turn browsers into paying customers.


Why is social proof important for eCommerce?


People trust reviews of products and services that come from third parties and “people like me”. Many use this information to help them decide whether to buy something or not and to validate their decision. Therefore, including reviews, testimonials, and ratings on your online shop can be a powerful trigger to convince your customers to purchase.

Here are some examples of how you can use social proof in your marketing:

Reviews and testimonials: These are two types of user-generated social proof in which existing customers recommend your products on your product page through review sites such as Trustpilot or social media. You can select testimonials to highlight on your website homepage or product pages and use them to evidence the quality of your products or services.

Celebrity and influencer endorsements: Celebrities and social media influencers have masses of fans who admire and follow them online. They are regarded as trust icons for thousands (sometimes millions) of people, which means that what they say about your products can massively affect people’s perception and knowledge of your brand. You may want to consider using carefully selected influencers as part of your marketing strategy, making sure to choose people aligned to your brand and values.

Friends and family: We trust our friends and family the most, so people put a lot of value in the recommendations they provide. Therefore, simply having the people close to us recommend a product is often social proof enough. It’s important to ensure you provide an excellent customer experience to each and every customer, because as well as sharing positive recommendations to friends and family, people will also share their negative experiences. Also consider things such as referral bonuses, which can encourage your customers to share your products directly with their friends and family.


Consumer pricing strategies to increase sales


Price plays a massive part in online shopping decision making, and there are numerous ways in which psychological pricing strategies can help increase your sales.

From our experience, allowing customers to spread the cost of purchases over several months can lead to a 50% increase in sales.

Giving customers the opportunity to pay in instalments influences their view of affordability. For example, splitting a lump sum payment into ten smaller, monthly, interest free payments, makes the purchase seem a lot more affordable.

By giving the customer the flexibility to tailor the payment amount and length of repayments, you’re empowering them to make spending decisions that better suit their circumstances. Using this as part of your marketing strategy shows them how easy it is to spread the cost of that expensive item.


Monthly instalments on a retail partners website showing 3, 6, 9 and 12 month segments.


Using free delivery to reduce shopping cart abandonment


Shopping cart abandonment is one of the main challenges for online retailers. We’ve previously looked at ways in which you can help reduce cart abandonment, one of which is offering free or reduced delivery costs.

When making purchase decisions, 80% of shoppers are swayed by the delivery cost and speed. Both shoppers and retailers know that postage and packaging costs money, but when it comes to consumer psychology, logic sometimes goes out the window and is replaced with emotion. Delivery costs are often the final blocker in an emotional and instinctive buying decision, rather than one based on logic, which can mean many consumers end up shopping elsewhere.

Offering free delivery can set you apart from the competition and some shoppers will be prepared to wait a little longer to receive their goods if they don’t have to pay for delivery. You could even incorporate a free-postage threshold, where customers have to spend a minimum amount to qualify. This could potentially encourage higher average order value too.


Advantages of delayed gratification for eCommerce


While brick-and-mortar shops can offer customers that feeling of instant gratification, eCommerce retailers don’t have that option, with customers usually having to wait days, if not weeks or months for their purchases to arrive. However, while some online retailers may be concerned about this, the feeling of delayed gratification is actually even more powerful than instant gratification.

Online shopping brings with it feelings of anxious anticipation, with excitement building the closer the ‘expected delivery date’ is. By being able to track packages online, the countdown is on until it arrives on customers’ doorsteps, it can feel like the countdown to Christmas Day itself! It builds a sense of sustained excitement and something to look forward to. Then once the package has arrived, customers have the reward of being able to unwrap the package and get a second shot of dopamine – the brain chemical related to pleasure, causing a “shopper’s high”.

Making sure this is a good experience for your customers is key, try to offer trackable delivery and make sure the packaging is fit for purpose – there’s nothing worse than receiving a tatty looking box. With over 90,000 people typing “unboxing” into YouTube every month, the delivery, your packaging and the unboxing experience is something to consider in your marketing strategy too.


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