11 Mind Tricks Ecommerce Marketers Use to Make You Buy

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Ecommerce websites are turning your own brains against you. How you ask? By exploiting human psychology to create feelings of fear, excitement, or pleasure that influence your decision-making.

Next time you’re shopping online, keep an eye out for these ten methods used to influence your buying behavior.

And ecommerce marketers, pay attention! Used properly, these tricks can and will improve your ecommerce conversion rates.

ecommerce magic placeit


Creating Urgency with Scarcity

Make something appear limited in availability and its perceived value rises. The diamond market has been taking advantage of this for years and so are ecommerce companies.

1. “Only 1 in stock”

There’s a reason why you’ll never see “we have more than enough in stock” on an ecommerce product page. It doesn’t motivate a potential buyer to take action.

Most merchants on Amazon know that if you enter an inventory of less than 20 items, the product page will show potential customers the number of items remaining. Inventories are kept artificially low to take advantage of this trick.

left in stock
Sure, showing remaining inventory on product pages can be helpful for customers making purchasing decisions. It can also get that wallet out faster.

2. “Limited Time Remaining”

Introducing a deadline into the purchasing decision equation is a powerful tool for getting those potential buyers who are on the fence to buy. This is a popular tactic used by deal sites and private sales sites. is famous for their limited time deals.
Limited time only
Creating urgency with a countdown forces people to make up their minds quickly. The price they’re seeing may not be available after time expires and the opportunity cost of missing out on those savings is sometimes too much to pass on.

3. “Order today and you’ll have the item by Saturday”

This is a clever one. You’re browsing a product page and considering if what you’re looking at is the solution to your problem, when you see the message, “Order today and you’ll have the item by Saturday.”

Limited time only 2
Now you’re not even thinking about whether or not you’ll buy the item. You’re thinking about when it will be showing up at your door step. It’ll be here by Saturday? I can use it this weekend when I’m visiting my parents…. Yeah, you fell for this one.

This psychological trick turns your ‘what if?’ into a tangible reality.

Loss Aversion

We’ve all experienced FOMO at one point or another. That’s the Fear Of Missing Out on something valuable by doing nothing. This is as applicable in life as it is in ecommerce.

4. “You save 34%!”

Why does it seem like everything is on sale all the time? Because both online and offline retailers know how powerful the psychological effect of loss aversion can be.

The most common way that ecommerce companies take advantage of this is by displaying the original price next to the discounted price, while pointing out the savings.
Special Buy
They want you to think that the cost of missing out on this savings is greater than the cost of the product. Said another way, the cost of not buying exceeds the cost of buying.

Displaying savings prominently relative to the original price is also a form of anchoring. We humans like to latch on to the first piece of information we come across to guide our decision-making. All subsequent decisions are based on that initial anchor.

For example, if you see a $100 item discounted to $70 for $30 in savings, the high original price makes the discounted price seem more reasonable than if you simply saw the product being sold at $70 without a discount. In this case, the original price anchors your decision-making.

5. The ‘Best Value’ Option

Another loss aversion sales strategy is to display several similar options at different price points. You see this a lot in the software space where there is a good, better and best version of the product. Usually the best value option is reinforced by standing out among the pack or is pointed out as being the most popular.

Best Value
Like the cost savings example above, we anchor our decision-making on the cost of the cheapest option. It makes the most expensive option seem unreasonable, so we narrow our decision down to two options.

While most of us have it in mind to save money, what we really want is a deal. Next to the cheapest option, the next best choice offers relatively more value per dollar spent. We place more value on this option, in part, because it costs more. Not many people will feel secure purchasing what they see as the crappiest choice.

This psychological effect is called value attribution. In the end, you buy the product that the seller wanted you to purchase all along. But you feel good about it, so it’s a win-win I guess.

6. “Spend $50 and Get Free Shipping”

Who wants to miss out on free shipping? Free shipping on ecommerce sites is fairly common these days due to the competition for sales. However, many of these shipping offers are contingent on a minimum order amount.

While its a good strategy for customer service, there’s often an ulterior motive at play. This strategy can be used to increase average order values and cover the cost of shipping for the ecommerce company.

Free Ground Shipping
When you find your shirt order on at $42, you’re probably going to add that pair of socks to be eligible for free shipping. You’d be spending that $8 on shipping anyway right?

If your ecommerce site is charging for shipping, show the total price of the item with shipping directly on the product page. Why? One of the most common reasons for cart abandonment is extra expenses during checkout. You could go even further and let them enter their zip code for more accurate pricing if your shipping isn’t flat rate.

Online Shoppers

Risk Aversion

There’s anxiety associated with purchasing something online. Especially if you haven’t bought from that site before. Is this company reputable? If there’s a problem will customer service help me? Good ecommerce sites like to break these barriers up front.

7. “100% money-back guarantee. Lifetime warranty. Free returns!”

No-questions-asked returns and lifetime warranties are common marketing tools used in ecommerce. Yes, they elevate the site’s customer service and build credibility. But, these guarantees have also been shown to increase sales and customer satisfaction.

Zappos is well-known for their exceptional customer service and friendly return policy. They offer free shipping on all orders and returns, making the risk of buying from their site extremely low. As a result, 75% of Zappos’ sales are from repeat customers who order 2.5 times more product than a new customer in the 12 months following their first purchase. The average order size of these repeat customers is 26% higher than new customers. Not a bad strategy.

If you purchase a product that comes with a lifetime warranty or free return policy, you are more secure with your decision than if you bought a similar product without this guarantee. You’re less likely to be dissatisfied with the product because the company you bought it from stands behind it.

Abandonment Issues

Over two-thirds of shopping carts never make it through to checkout. Ecommerce marketers see their checkout process hemorrhaging sales and take action to motivate you to complete the purchase.

8. “Have a Coupon Code?”

You’re making your way through the checkout process when you spot a box beneath the final price that prompts you to enter a promo code. What do you do? I’ll tell you what I do. I immediately open another browser window to search for those elusive coupon codes to get a discount.

Ecommerce marketers are wising up to this behavior and removing this feature from many shopping carts. According to a study by PayPal, 27% of online shoppers cited searching for a coupon as a reason for cart abandonment.

9. “Express Checkout”

All I have to do is click that one button and I’m done? This ecommerce trick removes the cost of time and thought typically associated with the order process. I like it because:

  1. I don’t have to dig out my credit card and squint at the nearly-rubbed-away CCV numbers
  2. I don’t have to look at upsells
  3. I don’t have to type
  4. I don’t have to think

‘1-Click’ ordering by Amazon is an example of this abandonment-reducing technique.

Add to Cart

10. The “Where’d You Go?” Email

Next time you abandon a cart, you may get a follow up from that ecommerce site. Abandoned cart emails are growing in popularity due to their undeniable effectiveness. Check out some of these stats provided by SalesCycle:

  • 46% of abandoned cart emails are opened.
  • 13.3% of abandoned cart emails are clicked.
  • 35% of these clicks lead to a purchase back on site.
  • Purchases resulting from an abandoned cart are, on average, 19% higher than ordinary purchases.

Email example
A lot of people just need a little nudge to get the off the “buy or don’t buy” fence. Even something as small as an auto-generated email can do the job.


Whether we like to admit it or not, it matters to us what other people think. We value outside opinion when making our decisions.

11. “5-star rated!”

Our desire for outside approval has a name, it’s called the interloper effect. We like to optimistically think that third-party judgements are unbiased and trustworthy.  We value them so much that 63% of customers are more likely to buy from a site that has user reviews over one that doesn’t. (iPerceptions, 2011).

It’s no wonder why we’ve seen so many ecommerce and review-based websites get hit with phony reviews or generate their own. According to the review site EXPO, customers reviews are way more trusted (12x more) than descriptions originating from the manufacturers.

Shopping Online
Three of the top six influencing factors for purchasing online have to do with third-party opinions.

While most ecommerce websites have review policies in place that prohibit fake reviews, they have very little incentive to police them. Reviews of all kinds help sales, so be wary of fake reviews, arbitrary ratings and generic testimonials the next time you’re browsing products online.

Next time you’re browsing an ecommerce site, keep an eye out for these psychological tricks that are designed to get you to buy. Do you find yourself falling victim to their influence? If you sell products or services online, test some of these tactics on your own site and watch your site become a conversion machine.

How else have you seen psychology applied to conversion optimization?

Keep up with Crazy Egg posts by Griffin Roer


Griffin Roer is the Director of Strategy for Snap Agency, a Minneapolis-based agency that specializes in ecommerce marketing. We believe in using data to drive online marketing decisions.

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