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What Gimmicks Do Online Sellers Use to Get Customers to Buy More?

Marketers use all sorts of tricks, including psychological triggers, to get to woo customers.

Published
Explainers
5 min read
What Gimmicks Do Online Sellers Use to Get Customers to Buy More?
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A 2022 report states that India has the third largest online shopper base globally, with 180-190 million shoppers.

This number is estimated to grow to 400-450 million by 2027. The figures make one thing clear: online shopping is increasingly becoming popular.

Why are we talking about this now? As people increasingly switch over to online shopping, retailers and sellers marketing such products online are also coming up with various tricks to woo customers to buy and spend more.

A cursory search on Google shows all sorts of marketers advertising their products to help merchants boost sales. And they use a range of tricks and gimmicks to do so. Like a travel website tells you there are only five hotel rooms left at a certain price ahead of your next trip, or an e-commerce site tells you that you only have 5 minutes to buy that shoe in your shopping cart.

What Gimmicks Do Online Sellers Use to Get Customers to Buy More?

  1. 1. Manipulative Designs Deliver Good Numbers

    The message is framed in such a manner that the customer feels they might miss out on a good deal if they do not act urgently. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is real after all.

    It also explains why Amazon Prime Day and other such sales are such big successes.

    How do these psychological triggers work on a consumer's mind? And what are the other techniques marketers use to influence consumer behaviour? Sit down and strap in, because we're answering these questions today.

    "Manipulative and deceptive practices in commerce are nothing new, but modern tech makes it easy for businesses to use these practices on consumers - and measure the outcomes," Harry Brignull, a user experience expert who has tracked deceptive design, often referred to as “dark patterns,” for more than 10 years and is currently working on a book on the matter, told The Quint.

    What marketers are essentially doing is utilising triggers or scarcity techniques in order to influence buyers to act faster. This technique creates a psychological trigger by relating to human loss aversion or FOMO.

    "Unsurprisingly, manipulative and deceptive designs tend to deliver "good" numbers, getting users to complete more profitable actions (like purchases, opt ins, completions) than honest designs," he adds.

    Elaborating through a tweet, Brignull explained how these dark patterns work.

    "The tweet shows a phenomenon that is very common. While it makes it easy for people to sign up to a subscription online, if they want to cancel they have to get in touch via a different channel, at which point the business tries to talk them out of it," he explained.

    Expand
  2. 2. How Does Cognitive Bias Work?

    To put it simply, cognitive bias is a systematic thought process caused by the tendency of the human brain to simplify information, by processing it through a filter of personal experience and preferences. But how does cognitive bias come into play when making a purchasing decision and how do marketers use it to their advantage?

    As Dr Seema Gupta, author of How People Buy Online: The Psychology Behind Consumer Behaviour, consultant, former professor IIM Bangalore, and director of Great Learning, explained to The Quint, "Humans have many cognitive biases and the interesting thing is that despite knowing about them we still get influenced by them as they operate at a subconscious level."

    Gupta further explained that the brain has three layers: the neocortex (new brain), the mammalian brain (middle brain) and the reptilian brain (old brain).

    "We think that decisions are taken by the neocortex as we are very rational. However, in reality, the old brain driven by fear acts as a gatekeeper and influences the decisions the most. Unless, the marketers overcome the fears triggered by the survival instincts of the old brain, the other two brains will not have any role to play in making decisions."

    "The fear may be of innocuous things such as, 'will the company accept a return if I don’t like the product?', 'what if the product is defective?" and so on. So, marketers need to first build trust before influencing the consumers through a cognitive or a emotional route," she added.

    Expand
  3. 3. What Are Some of Tactics That Marketers Employ to Attract Customers?

    Gupta elaborates, "In the digital age, coupon codes have been a big success as they are like a treasure hunt, in which consumers have to play a part and hence it makes them feel exclusive. They work better than straight discounts for both marketers as well as consumers."

    She adds, "cashback is another success story as cash is king and denotes power. It enables stickiness and is used to get consumers back for repeat purchases."

    Gupta also focused on the FOMO technique deployed by marketers. which creates a sense a urgency with limited period offers.

    "For example when Netflix gives free trials and when the period gets over, the consumers feel a sense of loss and hence renew their subscriptions, " she said.

    The decoy effect is another tactic that marketers use, stressed Gupta. What is the decoy effect?

    The decoy effect works by introducing a third variant of a product, so that it influences a decision in favour of the already existing variants. "An example is small, medium, and large popcorn sizes at the cinema. The price difference between them is very less but the difference in quantity is huge. So the purpose of small and medium is to make consumers buy the large size as that offers the highest value for money," she added.

    Expand
  4. 4. How Do Reviews Influence Customers?

    Social proof is another motivator for customers. Generally, people trust and replicate the decisions they believe have been taken by others. So, what do they turn to in the online shopping space? The answer is: ratings and reviews.

    According to a 2022 report on the use of product reviews and ratings on e-commerce websites in India, 64 percent of respondents said they always go through reviews and ratings when shopping online. In comparison, only three percent said they do not go through reviews and ratings of product when shopping online.

    But, fake reviews are a very real problem. A 2022 study found that 41 percent of Indian respondents said that their negative review was not published sometimes.

    In contrast, only 23 percent of respondents said that their negative review was published on the website or application.

    In November last year, the Centre in a bid to solve this problem released a framework to curb fake and misleading reviews on e-commerce platforms and portals offering tour and travel services, restaurants, eateries, and consumer durables.

    According to experts, it's too early to speculate on how these curbs will have an impact, but the results are likely to make themselves evident in time.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The message is framed in such a manner that the customer feels they might miss out on a good deal if they do not act urgently. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is real after all.

It also explains why Amazon Prime Day and other such sales are such big successes.

How do these psychological triggers work on a consumer's mind? And what are the other techniques marketers use to influence consumer behaviour? Sit down and strap in, because we're answering these questions today.

Manipulative Designs Deliver Good Numbers

"Manipulative and deceptive practices in commerce are nothing new, but modern tech makes it easy for businesses to use these practices on consumers - and measure the outcomes," Harry Brignull, a user experience expert who has tracked deceptive design, often referred to as “dark patterns,” for more than 10 years and is currently working on a book on the matter, told The Quint.

What marketers are essentially doing is utilising triggers or scarcity techniques in order to influence buyers to act faster. This technique creates a psychological trigger by relating to human loss aversion or FOMO.

"Unsurprisingly, manipulative and deceptive designs tend to deliver "good" numbers, getting users to complete more profitable actions (like purchases, opt ins, completions) than honest designs," he adds.

Elaborating through a tweet, Brignull explained how these dark patterns work.

"The tweet shows a phenomenon that is very common. While it makes it easy for people to sign up to a subscription online, if they want to cancel they have to get in touch via a different channel, at which point the business tries to talk them out of it," he explained.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Does Cognitive Bias Work?

To put it simply, cognitive bias is a systematic thought process caused by the tendency of the human brain to simplify information, by processing it through a filter of personal experience and preferences. But how does cognitive bias come into play when making a purchasing decision and how do marketers use it to their advantage?

As Dr Seema Gupta, author of How People Buy Online: The Psychology Behind Consumer Behaviour, consultant, former professor IIM Bangalore, and director of Great Learning, explained to The Quint, "Humans have many cognitive biases and the interesting thing is that despite knowing about them we still get influenced by them as they operate at a subconscious level."

Gupta further explained that the brain has three layers: the neocortex (new brain), the mammalian brain (middle brain) and the reptilian brain (old brain).

"We think that decisions are taken by the neocortex as we are very rational. However, in reality, the old brain driven by fear acts as a gatekeeper and influences the decisions the most. Unless, the marketers overcome the fears triggered by the survival instincts of the old brain, the other two brains will not have any role to play in making decisions."

"The fear may be of innocuous things such as, 'will the company accept a return if I don’t like the product?', 'what if the product is defective?" and so on. So, marketers need to first build trust before influencing the consumers through a cognitive or a emotional route," she added.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Are Some of Tactics That Marketers Employ to Attract Customers?

Gupta elaborates, "In the digital age, coupon codes have been a big success as they are like a treasure hunt, in which consumers have to play a part and hence it makes them feel exclusive. They work better than straight discounts for both marketers as well as consumers."

She adds, "cashback is another success story as cash is king and denotes power. It enables stickiness and is used to get consumers back for repeat purchases."

Gupta also focused on the FOMO technique deployed by marketers. which creates a sense a urgency with limited period offers.

"For example when Netflix gives free trials and when the period gets over, the consumers feel a sense of loss and hence renew their subscriptions, " she said.

The decoy effect is another tactic that marketers use, stressed Gupta. What is the decoy effect?

The decoy effect works by introducing a third variant of a product, so that it influences a decision in favour of the already existing variants. "An example is small, medium, and large popcorn sizes at the cinema. The price difference between them is very less but the difference in quantity is huge. So the purpose of small and medium is to make consumers buy the large size as that offers the highest value for money," she added.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Do Reviews Influence Customers?

Social proof is another motivator for customers. Generally, people trust and replicate the decisions they believe have been taken by others. So, what do they turn to in the online shopping space? The answer is: ratings and reviews.

According to a 2022 report on the use of product reviews and ratings on e-commerce websites in India, 64 percent of respondents said they always go through reviews and ratings when shopping online. In comparison, only three percent said they do not go through reviews and ratings of product when shopping online.

But, fake reviews are a very real problem. A 2022 study found that 41 percent of Indian respondents said that their negative review was not published sometimes.

In contrast, only 23 percent of respondents said that their negative review was published on the website or application.

In November last year, the Centre in a bid to solve this problem released a framework to curb fake and misleading reviews on e-commerce platforms and portals offering tour and travel services, restaurants, eateries, and consumer durables.

According to experts, it's too early to speculate on how these curbs will have an impact, but the results are likely to make themselves evident in time.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from explainers

Topics:  India   Online Shopping   Online Sale 

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