The decision to buy something or conversely not to buy something is not one that is ruled mostly by logical thought processes. Rather it is one that is ruled by a range of different outside influences and emotional impulses that we really have very little control over. This is something that savvy website owners and shopkeepers know well and can use to their advantage. Here we will look at some of the psychological phenomena at play which cause us to decide to buy something or not to, and how this can be taken advantage of by smart web design.

Time Pressure:

As a race humans like to mull things over and we don’t like making snap judgement. If you show someone something they might want, then they are going to likely decide to ‘sleep on it’ and see if they want it in the morning. The problem is though, that people often don’t want something in the morning because they’re thinking about something new. If you are trying to sell something from your site then, you want people to buy now, now, now so that they don’t change their mind. Adding a time pressure such as a limited-time-only deal is a great way to get people to act right away.


When someone has invested time and energy in something, then they will tend to want to actually go through with it. If you have ever gone into a Turkish market and been sold something they you’ll have felt this – after chatting for 20 minutes and drinking tea then you’re going to feel like you’ve wasted your time if you come away empty handed. This is also why lots of websites use those long narrow splash pages to sell e-books – because the further you scroll down to the read the more and more you are committing to buying and otherwise it’s a waste of time.


And that’s the other reason that those market owners give you free tea and most likely free jewellery – because when we get given something we are overcome by a compelling urge to give something back which means that we end up often over compensating and giving something that is of much higher value. If you give someone a free e-book then on your site, then you will be likely to encourage people to ‘give back’ by digging into their pockets. Give ‘till it hurts!


We want things that no one else has, and we want things that are in short supply – it makes us feel special. If you want to suddenly increase the value of your stock then, simply claim that there isn’t much of it less. This has a double impact because it also increases the time pressure yet again.

Social Pressure:

We are vastly influenced by those around us, and if we see people are buying something and enjoying it then we naturally want a slice of the pie. This is one reason why social media marketing is so useful because you can create the illusion that ‘everyone’s doing it’. And if you’re successful – well then they soon will be.

Barrier to Buy:

Something that prevents people from buying can be called a ‘barrier to buying’. This often comes down to plain effort – someone might be interested in buying your item, but they are less likely to if they have to spend a long time signing up. Amazon knows this well which is why they have their insidious one-click to buy button on every page which has likely cost most of us hundreds if not thousands. Employ something similar and make sure it is easy for people to buy. This is also why POS works (Point of Sale) – because it encourages people to buy when they already have their wallets out and their finger hovering over the checkout button making it really very easy for them to add other tempting offers.


Cyril is aspiring technical writer and expert in Social media optimization. In leisure time he blogs various tips realted to online marketing.