How Psychology Can Boost Online Sales

As it is, consumers tend to be cautious when shopping; they want to get the best value, and they don’t want to feel deceived by the merchant. When you move the buying experience online, shoppers are even more careful. Without the transparency and reassurance of in-store human interaction, it becomes even more important for online merchants to understand the psychology behind buying, so their e-commerce sites are designed to encourage purchasing. Below are some common psychological insights, and how you can address them in your online shop:

Analysis Paralysis

If you’re offering too many of the same type of product or service, customers may be frozen by uncertainty and walk away from the sale. This is backed up by a study conducted by a Columbia University professor in 1995. Professor Sheena Iyengar set up a booth with samples of jam, switching back and forth between offering more or less samples every few hours. The customers who sampled from fewer options were 10 times more likely to make a purchase.

There are several ways you can make it easier for customers to decide what to buy. Most obviously, you can actually offer fewer similar products or services. However, you can also help customers without changing your product lineup by recommending a specific item. For example:

  • Feature a specific item on your home page. Spotlight a customer favorite, or a new or innovative product.
  • Bring in an expert to curate a list of their favorite products. For example, a stylist or a chef.

By recommending specific items, shoppers don’t have to sift through so many products to find what they want.

Urgency Leads to Action

For a variety of reasons, customers are often tempted to put off their purchase. However, if the customer feels that they’ll lose out on an important opportunity by waiting, then they’re much more likely to complete the sale. A few ways you can create a sense of urgency are by:

  • Offering a limited-time only discount
  • Letting customers know when you have a limited stock-If you’re running out of inventory, say so! This is a tactic commonly used for airline or concert ticket sales, but it can work for almost anything.
  • Seasonal inventory- Think of the pumpkin spice craze that begins every September. Many of these themed products are not available year-round, so shoppers have a limited time to buy and are also encouraged to stock up. This is a great way to motivate customers to buy your products.

Clarity and Simplicity

93% of shoppers consider visual appearance to be the most important factor when making a purchase. Use appealing photos and videos, and simplify navigation so customers can find what they want and then checkout quickly. Also, product details should cover everything that the customer would want to know in a succinct manner.


Customers are more inclined to buy if they feel acknowledged and rewarded for their purchase. Here are a few things you can offer customers to help them feel appreciated:

  • Referral programs- for example, offer a discount for every friend they refer that makes a purchase
  • Discounts- provide a coupon code for customers who spend over a certain amount
  • Loyalty programs- give customers points for every purchase or dollar spent that they can redeem later
  • Free samples or trials- samples are exciting for everyone, and they increase the likelihood that the customer will buy the item after trying it
  • Free shipping- this can be a standard policy or a reward for spending a specific number of dollars

A Personal Connection

Tell a story about your brand or one of your products. When customers feel that they can relate to your company on a human level, they’re more likely to buy. A key part of this is first being able to understand customers, so you can tell a story that will resonate with them.

Eliminate Fears

Customers should feel like they have nothing to lose when making a purchase. You can put their fears at ease by:

  • Having an easy return policy- if customers are hesitant to check out, it could be because they’re unsure that they’ll like the item or if it will fit right. Your return policy should be well displayed and easy to understand, so customers know that they can send back the item if need be. Offering free or cheap shipping is an even stronger incentive: 59% of customers consider shipping prices when making a purchase.
  • Showing security seals- 61% of customers decided not to purchase a product because it was missing a trust seal.
  • Posting customer testimonals- 77% of customers read online reviews before buying, so you might as well make it easier for them.

Transparency and Honesty

According to recent studies, 67% off people will abandon their shopping cart. Why? The most common reasons for this are discovering hidden fees at checkout, or needing to make an account before buying. Be fair and upfront with your customers, otherwise they’ll take their business elsewhere.


Incorporating these tactics into your online site will convey to customers that you care, that you believe in your products or services, and that they’ll benefit from buying them. You’ll improve the customer experience and increase sales at the same time- what could be better?