How To Use Psychology To Increase eCommerce Conversions

Marketing is an area that uses various techniques in order to promote products. Most of these rely on using the psychological quirks of the brain – even though most of us would name ourselves rational beings, there are certain processes that we have no control of.

These are used by professionals in order to solicit a response they want, be it a purchase, a sign-up, or simple awareness of their product.

This article will go through 6 emotions that are used in marketing, specifically e-commerce landing pages, in order to convince a given customer persona to purchase. Read on and find out whether you are governed by any of these emotions.

It’s not a hunch – it’s science

A professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, Antonio Damasio, found in his research that emotions are directly connected with the decision-making process. According to his studies people suffering from illnesses afflicting areas of brain responsible for emotions and feelings were unable to make decisions rapidly and efficiently.

Making choices is a process that requires emotion. This can be used in order to achieve desired results on your landing pages. Whenever people land on a page, they must make a decision on what to do next.

In e-commerce your goal is to lead people through the funnel in order to make a sale – that is why you optimize things like the CTA’s, the design, the navigation structure and more in order to make that journey as quick and seamless as possible. Whether you realize that or not, most tips and suggestions coming from professionals are based on research of human emotions.

‘All buying decisions stem from the interplay of (…) six emotions,’ claims Geoffrey James from These are:

Greed – ‘If I make a decision now, I will be rewarded.’
Fear – ‘If I don’t make a decision now, I am in trouble.’
Altruism – ‘If I make a decision now, I will help others.’
Envy – ‘If I do not make a decision now, my competition will win.’
Pride – ‘If I make a decision now, I will look smart.’
Shame – ‘If I do not make a decision now, I will look stupid.’

In order to figure out which emotion will work on your audience, use a User Experience research technique called ‘Customer Personas’. These are a representation of your potential client, based on analytics and demographic data gathered throughout market research.

You can gather more information by interviewing customers, scanning social media, or by analyzing feedback. With all that data you can come up with a persona reflecting your target audience, and that will let you apply the right emotion (or even more than one) to your marketing efforts.

Let’s discuss the list of the aforementioned 6 emotions that will help you increase your eCommerce conversion.


It’s a truism that people love to be rewarded. Whenever a potential client and customer sees your message, copy, or CTA, make sure to communicate what they will receive in return.

Discounts, free shipping, or free wares make people rave over products. However, you do not have to limit yourself only to physical rewards.

Also, when preparing your copy, be sure to use words that relate to personal gain: the most popular ones are Sale, Exclusive, Value, and Profit. There is a reason that the big “Sale” on a red background works in many instances – however, take it a step further.


It’s not about attacking your visitor with a screamer pop-up. What’s discussed here is the fear of loss. No one likes it when an opportunity goes right by their nose. Whenever we are in a situation where a product is limited, we more often than not deeply consider purchasing it: Afterall, what if it won’t be available ever again?

FOMO, an abbreviation standing for Fear of Missing Out, is a marketing technique that causes exactly that emotion. In e-commerce it’s often applied in flash sales, limited time offers, or limited supplies.

Many e-commerce stores display on their site when they are out of stock (or soon will be), even though their storage is still pretty full. This is done in order to make people crave an item even more.

From my experience, using that technique needs very precise prospecting methods and an effectively working message system – If a client indicates interest in the product, you can increase it with FOMO.

However, if you take it too far (e.g. a client has to wait for too long) or do not communicate that the item now has been made available, your clients will forget and go somewhere else. It’s a very strong emotion, but make sure you use as precise a system as possible.

Similarly to the previous example, you needn’t focus only on physical gain – losing time or clients is also rather unwelcome.


Altruism is one of the positive emotions – some people react very positively to benefits that others receive. One of the examples is AmazonSmile, which offers 0.5% of every purchase to charity. This appeals to people who gain pleasure from helping and donating – they will be motivated to purchase, as it benefits someone else other than the owner of the product.

One example you could try is if you are selling T-shirts with animal prints, try donating some of your profit’s to a local animal shelter or other animal charity.

Charity aside, there are other benefits to list – for example, you can communicate that a decision of one person will benefit a whole company. Make sure that the buying persona knows that their actions will benefit not only them, but others as well.


With physical products such as clothing etc. it is rather difficult to use that emotions. How would you word it, buy this dress to make Jessica green with envy? It’s not something that an e-commerce store should communicate to a client.

However, with software and other services, you can mention the competition of your persona. Our clients include: SoftWare, Pro-Duct, and PersonaCompetition.

Adding a personal statement of these clients, about how wonderful their experiences with your product are, will push the buttons of people, who are more likely to react upon envious feelings. You can also underline how a given persona can beat the competition through using your product. If you support your message with case studies and reports with results of your competition, others will be more likely to join in, as they do not want to be left behind.


According to CEB Blog article, customers value not only company and performance value, but they also value identity. They want to feel better by identifying with your product. Apple is the perfect example of such identity. Because of great UX, Apple products are easily accessible by many. They also became a thing of ‘the elite’, with higher prices and sublime advertising. Respectable companies are also often associated with reliability, which is valued by clients.

If you work on your brand, copy, and design, and make your customers feel like their part of an exclusive club of owners, you can expect them to feel proud of their decision. If your persona fits the type, make sure to utilize that emotion.

Also, highlight the achievements of your other clients. Future customers will be more eager to purchase, as they will believe that they also will reach the podium.


It is a difficult emotion to operate with, because you can easily offend your client. It is mostly used in order to enhance other emotions. For example, you can match together altruism and shame.

You can also mix pride with shame by showing consequences of ignoring your offer, and highlighting how heroic the customer will be by using your service, thus avoiding the grim future. This strong negative emotion should be used only to amplify the other ones.

Psychology applied

You can adapt other psychological tricks in addition to the aforementioned. The common belief is that people mimic emotions and reactions, especially when they identify with the other person. However, the study mentioned narrows the assumption to a statement that people are likely to mimic when they have to achieve the same goal.

According to VWO, where Paras Chopra looked through research and conducted his own, people react positively to images of human faces – they are more likely to convert when they are exposed to them.

Utilize that fact to your advantage by showing pictures and hero images of people, who are also similar to the persona you target. Similar not only in looks, but also in occupation and in their motivation.

Finding out the best combination

If you are unsure whether you utilized a given emotion properly and attributed it to the correct persona, I recommend a following study on your visitors that will help you verify that. A psychologist Robert Plutchik established a diagram of eight primary emotions that guide us.

eCommerce psychology


You can conduct a Click Testing study by exposing people to your landing page that is supposed to induce a certain emotion, and then ask participants to choose two to three areas that correspond to their feelings after. Perhaps your persona might react completely different to your designs than you anticipated – this data can be utilized in further optimization.

About The Author


Sezgin Hergul is the Head of Marketing at UsabilityTools, a tool for increasing conversions and user experience. He specializes in content marketing and website growth. Besides his love for marketing, he enjoys good design and music.

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