The world of ecommerce is more competitive than ever. With so many options to choose from, you need to convince potential customers that buying your products over your competitors’ is the right choice – but how? 
The answer lies in tapping into the inner workings of the human brain. Psychology is a big part of marketing – after all, it’s all about influencing and encouraging people to take some kind of desired action, in this case purchasing your products. There are many tried and tested marketing techniques that rely on psychological triggers to make whatever you’re selling irresistible to your customers. 
 
It all comes down to the science of buying. Studies have shown that 95% of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously, so you need to appeal to your customers’ emotional core if you want to set up a successful online shop. 
 
People tend to rely on emotions more than logic when buying. This means you can influence their decision to buy from you by creating feelings of fear, excitement, or pleasure as they browse your products. 
 
We’ve rounded up the most popular persuasion tactics that you can use to help products fly off your website – read on to discover the secrets of ecommerce psychology. 
 

1. Sell the sizzle, not the steak 

You know the many benefits of your products, your would-be customers do not. If you want to inspire people to buy from you, they’re going to take some persuading. 
 
Consider the language that you use to describe your products. Your customers are driven by their feelings, so you want them to connect on an emotional level with what you’re offering. The key is making the product description less about the product, and more about the person buying it. 
 
Don’t just focus on features. Highlight the benefits of your products by identifying the needs of your customer base and then showing how your product is the thing that will fulfil these needs. You’re not just selling an item; you’re offering something they really need – a solution that will improve their life. 
 

2. Create a sense of urgency 

Scarcity sells. Showing the limited availability of products is a popular tactic used by online shops to inspire customers to take action and make a purchase before it’s too late. 
 
This is a form of loss aversion, a psychological phenomenon in which people are typically more worried about missing out on something than concerned about what they’re gaining. In fact, the theory says that the pain of losing something is almost twice as intense as the pleasure of gaining something of the same value. 
 
Creating the impression that your products won’t be around for long with low stock warnings – i.e. ‘only 3 left in stock’, ‘selling fast’, ‘low in stock’, etc. – triggers FOMO, the fear of missing out. This is effective as online shoppers can often be indecisive, so creating a sense of urgency will put an end to any procrastination and steer customers in the direction of your checkout. 
 
You can also use this with your promotions. Time-limited offers, such as seasonal discounts or a flash sale, will push your customers to make a purchase before the deal expires. 
 

3. Use the magical number 9 

There are many strategic ways to price your products in order to encourage your customers to buy them, and one of the most widely used is what psychologists refer to as the left digit effect. This is where prices ending in .99 tend to be perceived by customers as being better value for money, regardless of how small the saving actually is. 
 
For example, an item priced at £19.99 is likely to sell better than an item costing £20, even though the difference is a single penny. This is because reducing the price by 1p keeps it within a certain price range, with customers focusing on the left-most digit to inform their purchase decision – in this case the item costs in the tens, not the twenties. Customers will most often round down rather than up, so will see the value of this item as being closer to £19 than to £20, making it appear like a better deal. 
 
Experiment with your products and see if knocking a penny off your prices makes a difference to your sales – it might have more of an impact than you’d expect. 
 

4. Try the power of three 

When presented with two similar product choices, customers are most likely to opt for the cheapest one. Adding a third option into the mix can make things interesting – instead of choosing the lowest priced item, most people will instead go for the one in the middle. 
 
This works because the most expensive option changes the customer’s perception of what offers the best value – this is sometimes referred to as ‘good-better-best’ pricing. It’s why you’ll often see a choice of three products with the middle option highlighted as the most popular. This is particularly effective for selling service or subscription-based products, but is equally valid across all forms of ecommerce. 
 
When faced with a choice of three, most people will automatically exclude the highest priced item, narrowing down the choice to two options. Loss aversion again comes into play here – customers don’t want to spend too much money, but more importantly, they don’t want to miss out on a great deal. For this reason, most will choose the item in the middle, as it will seem to offer more value than the cheapest product, but will still be a bargain compared to the most expensive one. 
 
If you have three similar products at differing price points, try presenting them in this way. It may just increase the average order size for your online store. 
 

5. Anchor your products 

A useful aspect of human psychology to keep in mind when fine-tuning your online shop is anchoring. This is a cognitive bias – i.e. an irrational pattern of thinking – that causes us to rely too much on the first piece of information we are presented with when making a decision. 
 
How does this translate into online shopping? It means your customers will largely base their buying decisions on one specific detail when browsing your products, such as a particular price or standout item. And you can take advantage of this to influence their shopping behaviour. 
 
One way to do this is by altering a customer’s perception of your prices. When items are on sale, make sure you display the original cost next to the new, discounted price to highlight the great savings being offered. This will encourage customers to buy the product, as the original price makes the lower price seem like a better deal than it would if presented in isolation. 
 
Similarly, you can use expensive products to boost the sales of your lower priced items. The good-better-best example in the point above is one such example. Shoppers love to compare prices, and are always looking to find the best value in exchange for the least amount of money. Placing a premium product next to a similar product at a standard price will instantly make that average-priced item look like a bargain in comparison. As the old adage goes, the best way to sell a £2000 watch is to put it right next to a £10,000 watch. 
 

6. Offer something for free 

Nobody wants to miss out on a good deal, much less so if that deal involves something free. Promoting deals such as ‘buy one, get one free’, or throwing in a free gift with certain purchases can push people to shop with you who may not have even been intending to buy in the first place. Once again, the fear of missing out is too great an anxiety to ignore. 
 
One of the most persuasive things you can offer for free is delivery. 90% of customers are encouraged to check out when there are no delivery costs…even if that means spending more on their purchase. 
 
Adding a minimum spend threshold to qualify for free delivery is therefore an incredibly practical way of bringing about higher order values, as customers are compelled to add an extra item or two to their basket to negate the added costs. In reality, this is often a false economy, but the perceived value is higher and this is ultimately what motivates us when we shop. 
 

7. Show social proof 

91% of shoppers say that they are influenced by reviews, so it’s always best to back up your products with testimonials from satisfied customers. 
 
This falls under the principle of social proof – by and large, humans tend to follow the actions of the masses, as we instinctively trust other people and want to fit in with others. Think of it as a type of herd mentality, where a product that is shown to be popular instantly has more appeal as we believe it must be a bestseller for a reason and are thus influenced by other shoppers’ behaviour. 
 
Displaying testimonials on your website can also be useful at focusing customers towards a specific product. Faced with lots of options, our indecisive nature can often get in the way – this is called choice paralysis or overchoice. Make it easier for your customers to settle on a product by highlighting a ‘customer favourite’ or ‘popular item’ to show them what others are buying, and include ratings and reviews to solidify their choice. 
 

8. Deliver a great experience every time 

It’s all well and good triggering psychological responses in your website visitors that make them want to buy your products. However, if the checkout process leaves much to be desired, you run the risk of never actually converting these people into customers. 
 
User experience and psychology go hand in hand. People naturally prefer things to be kept simple, so don’t make your customers jump through several hoops just to buy from you. Shoppers can quickly become overwhelmed, therefore it’s advisable to make it as easy as possible to make a purchase through your online shop. 
 
People will respond best to a simple checkout process, and the faster it is, the better, as this will give people less time to reconsider their purchase or get frustrated with the process. Think about how many steps buyers must complete when checking out – do you need all that info, or are you potentially wasting your customers’ time? 
 
Another point of contention during checkout is hidden costs. Always make sure you’re upfront about any additional charges – such as a delivery fee – by displaying this information on the product page. An incredible 56% of online shoppers will abandon their basket when presented with unexpected costs at checkout, so it’s best practice to be transparent about these fees from the beginning. 
 
So, there you have it, several different psychological principles that you can use to better understand your customers and what makes them tick. These techniques should offer you plenty of opportunities to hone your ecommerce store by more closely aligning it with the subconscious behaviour of online shoppers. Now it’s time to experiment and see what works for you! 
 
Of course, you’ll need a brilliant ecommerce website to make this happen. If you’re struggling to convert your customers because your existing website is letting you down, why not get in touch with our team to find out more about our results-focused and affordable web design services. We can create a powerful online shop for your business that will deliver a great user experience for your customers and provide you with the perfect platform for putting your new-found psychology hacks into action! 
 
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