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The Psychology of Buying Online

The Psychology of Buying Online

With statistics showing that 67% of millennials and 56% of Generation X prefer to shop online, understanding the mind of the online shopper is increasingly more important.

As customer data is being analysed to the minutia, what else do we know about the online shopper that might influence buying habits?

Those who spend more time on social networks are more likely to make impulsive online purchases: these customers are likely to be more consumerist and have a higher level of identity confusion.

Unsurprisingly, impulse purchases are also driven by promotions and sales. As the total amount spent on other items increases, customers are more likely to add an impulse buy to their basket – like point-of-sale displays in physical stores.

More interestingly though, website design also plays a part; a more aesthetically pleasing website is more likely to encourage impulse purchase behaviour.

The Psychology of Buying Online

To encourage impulsive buying:

  • ensure that your website is easy to use
  • has a clear user journey
  • loads quickly
  • features tailored communications to highlight customer service and customisation.

These factors are task-relevant, meaning they help customers find what they’re looking for more efficiently and increase the likelihood of a purchase.


The colour of your website can have subtle influences on your users’ experience, especially through the use of blue.

Blue hues tend to increase ‘flow experience’ – a combination of website enjoyment and concentration – in comparison to yellow hues.

Research has also found that blue hues can increase customer patronage regardless of product price, whilst red hues make customers more price sensitive due to the connotation with ‘sales’ and discounted pricing; this finding is stronger for bright red backgrounds then dark red backgrounds.

The Psychology of Buying Online

A high priced item on a red hued background carries connotations of high monetary sacrifice, whilst on a blue hue the connotation is of high quality, regardless of the shade of blue.

Visitors to sites that allowed them to interact with products came away with a more positive view of the brand, a 2016 study discovered. This is especially true for luxury brands, where customers can’t touch and feel the product as they would in a physical store.

By integrating 360 degree views, detail zooming and the ability to switch between colours, prints and alternatives, you can replicate the sensory experience a customer would have in store.

The Psychology of Buying Online

Product categorisation

Organising products into segmented subcategories gives the impression of a greater variety of products – as well as making it easier for customers to quickly find what they’re looking for. Studies have found that this greater variety can leave customers with a positive impression of your store, meaning they’re more likely to come back.

A recent study has shown that site navigation has a huge impact on visitors, and can form part of their purchase intention.

Think about the design of your links carefully – as a rule, they should help customers find relevant information in 3 clicks or less. But, keep in mind that well structured menus resonate best with customers. Keep links relevant, with a clear user journey in mind.

The Psychology of Buying Online

Show what’s ‘trending’

Data has shown that showing the number of items sold, rather than the amount left, is more effective at encouraging sales.

High sales work better at selling than low stock, indicating popularity to the consumer.

Most websites feature thumbnails in rectangular grids, which replicate eye-movements used when reading text. For customers who read left to right, this means they spend more time processing images placed in the middle or left side of the grid.

Help customers find your most popular products by placing them in these regions.

With ongoing research, we’re likely to find even more ways to increase conversions in the future. But for now, whether you implement one of these points, or all of these, there is one thing that’s clear: the key to a successful eCommerce site is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.


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