There is no doubt that the onset of easily accessible, fast internet revolutionized commerce in a way that hadn’t been seen for half a century or more. Suddenly, any business could have an impressive storefront that allowed it to compete on a global scale. In the very early days, many digitally-savvy bedroom businesses presented websites with more style and sophistication than multinationals.

However, in the last twenty years, the digital market has matured, and while e-commerce has grown beyond most people’s expectations, today you need more than a nice-looking website to succeed. With billions of websites and millions of choices, consumers are inundated with offers every day. To stand out, your e-commerce site needs an edge. 

Integrating marketing psychology ideas into your e-commerce approach is that edge, and it can transform your conversion rates and turn any campaign into a successful one.

The Theory behind Marketing Psychology (source: Exponea)

What is marketing psychology?

Human beings are all unique. However, humans are all susceptible to the same behavioral impulses built into our brains. Marketing psychology uses the predictable way you respond to specific situations and stimulation to steer you towards the desired action. 

In marketing, this usually means persuading someone to sign up for an offer or an email campaign, make a purchase, and so on. It is used by brands of all sizes, as well as marketing professionals building campaigns for clients due to the proven effectiveness of the approach. 

In a world where no matter your niche, there is extensive competition for your e-commerce enterprise, incorporating marketing psychology into your sales funnel and marketing material should be at the core of your strategy, and here’s why.

Why use psychology in e-commerce?

The beauty of online sales and marketing is that you can reach out to a massive audience, even people on the other side of the world if it suits your business. Your e-commerce site needs constant management and tweaking of course, but it is very much a set-and-forget type approach, providing the sales pitch for you 24 hours a day to any visitor that arrives. 

But that strength can also be a weakness. Unlike in a face-to-face environment, there is no dynamic interchange, you can’t vary your sales message based on the consumer’s response. What you set up, even for that particular day, is what they see and react to. 

Without the ability to respond directly to a consumer’s questions or concerns, as you would in a store or on the phone for instance, then a static sales message can seem dry and unengaging. Many things can affect how your visitors react to your content, even sleep. However, by incorporating marketing psychology, you can steer readers in the direction you want, largely without them knowing why you are doing so.

There are a broad range of impulses you can use within such a strategy. However, there are three that are both highly effective and relatively easy to integrate into your e-commerce marketing strategy.

The Power of Social Proof

The first method of adding psychology to your marketing efforts is known as social proof. While you may not have heard of the term before, you know what it is referring to. People feel more comfortable in forming an opinion on something or taking action, such as purchasing a particular product, if lots of other people are doing the same.

You can find this phenomena anywhere, it is the driving force of a lot of trends. A good example is in the phone market, where consumers flock to a specific phone once it has been established as the phone to choose, despite hundreds of similar options available often at cheaper prices. In fact, an entire industry has been built around social proof, influencers. 

What is an influencer really? A member of a community who others look up to and someone who holds an opinion of importance. When influencers say that a particular phone is good, that is the social proof that it is the one to get. Similarly, with music and any other product, if influencers all recommend a specific artist, song or any product, the combined effect is millions of people compelled by social proof to follow that choice.

Integrating Social Proof into your site

Given how effective social proof is proven to be, with research showing that many people make purchases not based on product research, but almost exclusively on what choices others are making, it really should be part of your marketing strategy. 

Influencers can be a great way to bring social proof into your marketing approach, but, there are other ways to do this as well. Use your social media platforms to promote user-generated content, including photos and videos of customers with the product or recommending it. 

Reviews in general are a great source for social proof, but you can also add a visitor number banner to the site as well, with “115 people are looking at this right now” or similar wording again invoking social proof. The other option that is very easy to implement is a purchase counter. “35 people bought this item today/in the last hour/in the last week” or something of the sort.

The power of social proof (source: Exponea)

From a landing page to product detail pages, you can easily incorporate social proof into your marketing. It is also a great option for increasing email deliverability in your promotional campaigns, as people find it hard to reject messages that are perceived as popular with others.

Taking advantage of Price Value Bias?

Another effective strategy for marketing psychology takes advantage of what is known as price value bias. This refers to the way consumers see value in a product or service by assessing the cost and features of that product. 

A good illustration of this would be marketing material that proclaims a product to have “double the features at the same price” compared to the previous version or the market leader. The consumer sees this as offering great value, even if they may not need additional features, or do not even know what those features are. It is the perceived value of “more stuff” for the money that makes your product seem to have a better value. 

Putting it into practice

You can use this strategy on a product page, where the features are listed alongside the buy button to show just how much “stuff” the consumer is receiving for their purchase, or even within a shopping cart system as incentive to buy additional products or promote an offer to increase sales.

The other way this can be used is in your marketing offers. The “buy this and get all of this” style sales prospecting techniques can be incredibly effective, and with price value bias, you don’t always need to add much in terms of product cost to be able to present a compelling offer by outlining all the extra items or features involved with the additional products. 

Because of price value bias, consumers will be assessing your offer on the amount of “stuff” added, whatever that may be, rather than the actual value of the offer products.

Taking advantage of Price Value Bias (source: Exponea)

Building consumer acceptance with Zero Risk Bias

The other easily-implementable way to take advantage of marketing psychology is the concept of zero risk bias and the closely-related need for certainty. This works on the basis that most people will prefer to take an option with zero risk, rather than something with even a small risk. This applies even when the option that carries even some risk has the potential to deliver much more value, most people will still choose the no-risk option.

Alongside this, the need for certainty is another driving factor, and this describes the way the majority of people will feel more confident in a choice if they understand the processes and outcomes of that choice. 

This is a larger issue for e-commerce because any e-commerce site, and the internet in general, carries some risk and uncertainty. The consumer may not know your brand, who operates the site, or the quality of the products. All of these trigger zero risk bias and the need for certainty, and they are an inherent barrier to online sales.

How do I use Zero Risk Bias?

You can overcome those barriers though, and by adopting the right strategy, this alone can place your e-commerce strategy above those of the competition. The basic aim then is to build trust in your site and brand to eliminate the feeling of risk, and create a transparent, simple purchase process that gives consumers confidence in the service.

The best way to address this is to ensure that your site features a known safe payment gateway and other trust building badges alongside prominent customer reviews. Customer reviews in particular are a great way to show that purchasing is risk free.

On the other side of this sits the need for certainty. A comprehensive FAQ section will greatly help fill this need as will clear instructions for purchasing and ensuring that all buttons and functionality work as they are supposed to. This will help to alleviate the unknown and provide confidence in your purchasing process.

Building consumer acceptance with Zero Risk Bias (source: Exponea)


E-commerce has certainly evolved quickly, and today with so much competition in every niche, standing out from the crowd is a challenge. However, by leveraging marketing psychology strategies, you can enjoy better results than the competition through subtle guidance for your visitors that boosts conversion rates and increases sales. With easily-integrated tools like Exponea, there has never been a better time to add marketing psychology to your e-commerce strategy.


Author Bio:

Lukas is the Inbound Marketing Specialist contracted with Exponea, where he prepares B2B content strategies. Lukas has years of experience in online marketing fields such as analytics, inbound marketing, customer lifecycle marketing, and customer experience. His passion is psychology and behavioral economics and he is currently developing his skills in these areas.
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