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How Online Retailers who Refuse to Use Customer Psychology Lose

Those who understand human psychology have a head start in the grocery store. They walk in and grab a shopping cart, and are armed for battle.  But just what battle are they preparing for?  They are ready to see the store for what it really is – a war full of ways to trick and trap their wallets and credit cards.  Lurking in the grocery store are well planned, well thought out ways, to use human psychology against the average shopper.  One of these methods is the end cap.  This is the oh-so-convenient aisle on the end of the super long regular aisles. Because this end location is easier to see, easier to access and easier to select products from, many customers do so without giving it a second thought. Often, these items are things that the store desperately needs to sell to make room for other products. By offering the extra end cap convenience, the store uses psychology to push the items right out the door.

Shop Online? How Online Retailers who Refuse to Use Customer Psychology Lose Customers

Another way the grocery store uses psychology in the battle for the dollar is to put name brand items at eye level. This means that off brands or even less expensive store brands must be placed either very high or uncomfortably low in order for the customer to reach them. These eye level shelves encourage tired shoppers to grab whatever is the most convenient, which is often the most expensive.

Human psychology is used in online retail as well. These online stores are competing for customer dollars just as grocery stores are. With internet based shopping, however, the psychology must change.  Here are some ways an effective online retailer may benefit from the quirks of psychology.


Have you ever visited a website that you have used in the past only to find your own name located in the top right hand corner? Strangely enough, this is the same spot we were all taught to write our names in Kindergarten. The fact that your own name is in just the right spot tells your brain that this website does, indeed, belong to you. This simple placement means that more shoppers are willing to stay, shop, and eventually purchase from “their” website.


Customers are always drawn in with a bargain. Effective online retailers have found that some discounts work better than others. One of these is the “free” promotion. When customers are thinking about purchasing on a website, but have not yet put anything into their virtual shopping cart, an offer of an item free with purchase sometimes is just the right thing. Because the customer can suddenly see a tangible benefit toward purchasing, they often begin to load their cart in hopes of qualifying for the free gift.


Almost nothing bothers online shoppers as much as a complete website overhaul. It does not matter to them if a marketing specialist has come up with a magic website format that is sure to enhance existing sales. Individuals who have visited a website frequently are often completely turned off when they come upon an unfamiliar page. Changes to websites should be done slowly and with great care so they do not scare away those who have, in essence, bonded with the previous site.

Understanding human psychology is key to ensuring that retail locations, both brick and mortar, and online remain competitive. Refusing to acknowledge normal human behaviors may just mean a refusal to invite new customers and retain a current customer base.

Author’s Note: Please feel free to contact Ella Gray at ella.l.gray@gmail.com with any questions that you may have.

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