The use of psychological influence in ecommerce

insights  July 30, 2019

Ecommerce has become an essential part of people’s lives and is gaining popularity every year. Nowadays, almost everyone has bought a product online. The digital consumer can choose from a huge number of different stores and product variants. As a result, consumers are becoming increasingly demanding. If one online store does not know how to attract consumers, then they simply go to another one. This makes it more difficult for online stores to attract and retain customers.

For online stores it is therefore important to understand consumers. This applies to both their behaviour and their needs. In one of our previous blogs you read that 60 to 80% of online shoppers choose to leave the website without completing a purchase. By making smart use of psychological influencing techniques, online stores can increase the chances of them proceeding to completing a purchase. In addition, these techniques ensure that purchased products are returned less often. Curious about the different ways in which web stores achieve this? Then definitely read on!

By making smart use of psychological influencing techniques, online stores can increase the chances of them proceeding to completing a purchase

1. Creating scarcity
The first way in which online stores tempt consumers to make a purchase is by showing scarcity. Think for example of hotel booking websites that indicate that “there are only 2 rooms left”. This makes consumers feel rushed and gives them the feeling that a decision must be made quickly so not to miss out. The result of this is that consumers get the urge to make decisions quickly and therefore proceed to purchase faster.

2. Allow consumers to create a wish list
Many online stores nowadays offer a feature on their website which reduces shopping cart abandonment and attracts visitors: a wish list. This feature ensures that consumers can save products in a list so that they can review or buy them later. Offering a wish list as part of shopping cart is a smart way for online stores to ensure that consumers revisit their ecommerce stores. It also allows online shoppers to create a list of their preferences for future purchases.

Research shows that people like to have a choice, because it gives a sense of control. By offering such options on store sites, it appears that consumers are more likely to place something in their shopping cart and therefore proceed to purchase faster.

3. The ability to write reviews
Allowing consumers to leave product reviews can help with the promotion of products as well as encouraging consumers to proceed with a purchase. Research shows that 92% of the consumers first read reviews of others before making a purchase[1]. Customer reviews are found more reliable than information from sellers themselves[2]. It even turns out that 80% of consumers find online reviews as reliable as personal recommendations from friends and family.

Reviews radiate a form of authority and thereby give consumers a sense of security. If a product has a good rating, then the consumer is more quickly persuaded to buy the product. Here applies: if everyone does it, then it will be fine, right? However, too high a score can lead to fewer purchases. It appears that product purchases were most influenced by reviews with an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5 out of 5[3]. Products with a perfect score were less influenced. A five-star rating is less credible because it is seen as “too good to be true”.

4. Offer a longer return period
Another way to ensure that more products are sold is by offering a longer return period. When the consumer gets more time to return the item, this will result in fewer return shipments. A decrease of 47% in return rates has resulted previously from the stretching of the return time to one month. An endowment effect can be seen here: the longer someone has a product in his or her possession, the harder it will be for them to send it back. The reason for this is that the person becomes attached to the product. Another explanation lies in the construal level theory. This means that something that seems far away (for example in terms of time) leads to a more abstract processing by the human brain. The other way around is that if something feels close (for example, a shorter return time), people start to think about it more concretely.

Our own research shows that European consumers expect the return period of a purchase to be at least two weeks (17 days). Italian online shoppers expect the shortest return period, namely at least 14 days. British online shoppers, on the other hand, expect the return period to be 19 days minimal.

5. Omit the currency sign
Brain scientists have conducted research into the effect on the brain after seeing a price. It showed that the insula is activated as soon as a person sees a price. This is the same brain area that is activated the moment someone experiences pain. This shows that seeing prices has a negative effect on people. The omission of prices on products in online stores therefore ensures that this negative association is not linked to the product, which means that consumers are more likely to purchase the product.

[1] Emerce (2017), Online reviews verzamelen: acht reviewsites vergeleken.
[2] Madia (2017), 3 redenen om ook via online marktplaatsen te verkopen.
[3] GatherUp, Study Shows Perfect 5 Star Review Ratings Aren’t Best.
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