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Consumer psychology tactics for e-commerce

Consumer psychology tactics for e-commerce

Consumer psychology is more commonly used in e-commerce than one might think. Many retail brands have incorporated psychological elements into their online presence, but spotting it may take a little help from consumer psychology experts.

Here is a list of some of those consumer psychology tactics for e-commerce sites, as shared by four thought leaders. 

1. Best sellers

Broadcasting best-selling products is more than a quick way of showing consumers how credible your brand is — it’s also an exercise in consumer psychology.

We first learned about this tactic from Sue Moore, founder of Virtual Gold Dust, a marketing psychology consulting agency, when discussing the benefits of social proof.

The best-seller section of your website plays on two consumer psychology principles: simplicity and social proof. The science of simplicity rules on the idea that consumers are hardwired for easy tasks and that complicated processes can overwhelm consumers and influence them to walk away from a brand. Social proof is the idea that individuals determine appropriate behavior for themselves in a situation by examining the behavior of others involved, especially if others involved are similar to the individual(s). A best-seller section encompasses both principles by clearly outlining which products are most often verified and purchased by other customers.

Being able to easily locate the best products a brand has to offer can simplify the decision process for consumers and confirm that they’d be making a smart choice by going with any of the options available, as other customers have repeatedly done in the past. 

2. Reviews and testimonials 

Consumers have pretty strong feelings about reviews and testimonials. So much so, that there’s a set of criteria that they look for when deciding whether or not to trust a review. Much of that criteria comes directly from consumer psychology.

Reviews and testimonials are a form of social proof. And according to Dr. Eric Frazer, top psychologist and Yale professor, trustworthy reviews are how consumers base their decisions in relation to a brand, product or service. This is because social proof heavily relies on the level of trust a consumer feels toward others. 

When you clearly display reviews, testimonials or any other comments from customers, it gives consumers extra information about the products they’re interested in (easing any uncertainty they might have). It also increases your brand credibility, as consumers can see that you’re confident enough to allow open conversations around your products. 

3. Shopping cart popups

The psychology of social proof can be displayed in many tactics. Shopping cart popups are one of the ways you can leverage it on your website. 

Consumers can spend hours looking for products online. And while those products might be well-displayed on your website or have many great qualities, consumers may still need help finding them or feeling confident about making that purchase. 

Sometimes, taking a look at the products other people have purchased can make the shopping experience easier. If a customer is unsure of an item or doesn’t know what to purchase, a small pop-up at the bottom or top of their screen (that doesn’t interfere with what they’re currently looking at) may lead them to look at items other customers are interested in.

4. Countdown timers

Feelings of scarcity can be huge motivational factors for consumers. Scarcity marketing is the promotion of brand-related materials that are viewed as limited in supply, either due to a real or perceived threat to product availability. 

Being aware that a product or service will only be available for a limited time can give consumers a sense of urgency that promotes fast action. Countdown timers give consumers a real-time snapshot of how much time they have to make a purchase. You could also leverage a visual that counts down the quantity of an item that is available to purchase.

5. Expert endorsements

Consumers have a lot of decisions to make around the products they purchase and having an expert sign-off on a product can make a huge difference in their behavior. 

Andres Lares, co-author of "Persuade" and Managing Partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute, a negotiation training consulting firm, offered us insight into how brands can build credibility with consumers. His main piece of advice? Rely on experts. 

Online shopping certainly has its benefits, but in-person communication with experts who stand by the brand isn’t one of them. Fortunately, many brands have been able to bridge the gap between consumers and trusted advisors with the use of expert endorsements. 

Some retail brands will showcase positive quotes from experts working in related fields who have reviewed the products. When consumers see experts trust a product, that validation gives them the confidence to do the same.

6. Gamification

Have you ever entered a website and been met with a spinning wheel covered in different incentives? Gained points from engaging with a brand campaign? These are examples of gamification, and they’re rooted in consumer psychology. 

Gamification is the process of implementing game-like tactics (competition, levels, points, teams, rules, etc.) into traditionally non-gamified arenas — like marketing — to encourage a more playful atmosphere. It activates the areas of the brain that enjoy accomplishing tasks and getting rewarded.  

Vitaly Tkach, Co-founder and Creative Director at JumpERound Games, a creative laboratory and game design company, told us that games correspond to people’s desire to have fun, entertain, simplify, socially interact, get rewards and compete. Gamification amplifies a number of psychological responses as a result. Anticipation, competition and social proof can each drive consumer engagement and motivate your audience to act. 

Consumer psychology elements have made their way into various e-commerce tactics. Elevating your e-commerce website is as simple as promoting consumer psychology with any of the strategies above.


Picture of Lindsay Keener

Lindsay Keener

Lindsay Keener is a brand journalist for Quikly. She covers stories that help to inform and educate consumer-facing marketers.

Picture of Lindsay Keener

Lindsay Keener

Lindsay Keener is a brand journalist for Quikly. She covers stories that help to inform and educate consumer-facing marketers.