customer psychology in purchase decisions

How Does Psychology Influence Purchase Decisions?

Discover the hidden psychological forces that influence customer behavior online. Optimize your website to increase sales and build trust, using the strategies in our upcoming book "Behind The Click."

Do you ever wonder why a customer who seems ready to buy suddenly abandons their cart at the last second?

It’s not always about the product or the price.

In today’s competitive online landscape, a seamless and compelling customer experience is crucial. While many companies focus on tactical changes, true optimization lies in understanding the ‘why’ behind customer behavior. At the core of successful digital experiences are the psychological principles that influence how customers interact with websites and apps.

The key to unlocking this mystery lies in the way our brains work. To make sense of the constant barrage of information, we rely on mental shortcuts known as heuristics. These shortcuts shape customer perceptions and influence their decisions. By understanding heuristics, you can design experiences that cater to those shortcuts, ultimately leading to more conversions and loyal customers.

These psychological principles and how to effectively apply them are the focus of my upcoming book, Behind The Click: How to Use the Hidden Psychological Forces that Shape Online Behavior to Craft Digital Journeys that Delight, Engage, and Convert.

Let’s go into a bit more detail on one of the core concepts that will help you optimize your customer experience: heuristics.

Heuristics: The Brain’s Shortcuts

Our brains are wired to take shortcuts and make quick decisions. These mental shortcuts, known as heuristics, play a crucial role in how customers navigate and perceive online experiences.

For customers, perception often holds more sway than objective reality. This is why companies play a crucial role in shaping how customers perceive them. Understanding how your customers’ mental models function is pivotal to their experience.

Mental Models: Mapping The Customer Journey

A mental model is like a map of your customer’s digital journey. It helps you understand and even predict their behaviors as they interact with your website or app. By ensuring that your customers’ mental models align with your target audience, you create a seamless, effective experience that leads to increased conversions and satisfaction.

While many marketing and sales departments grasp this concept in theory, the execution often misses the mark. Too often, the first step in revamping the customer journey focuses on superficial changes that aim to make the website ‘prettier,’ neglecting the more important aspects of functionality.

By understanding the mental shortcuts your customers rely on, you shift the focus squarely onto their experience. Actively removing barriers that interfere with those shortcuts builds a subconscious level of trust with your customers.

The Power Of Subconscious Trust

When you work within your customers’ mental models, catering to those shortcuts, you earn a certain level of trust. This sense of familiarity and ease is far more powerful than any catchy marketing slogan.

We unpack more of these elements in the upcoming Behind The Click, but fundamentally, a trustworthy digital experience should:

Feel Familiar

The internet has matured, and with it, so have user expectations. Customers have developed a strong sense of how websites and apps should function. From the classic navigation menu to the ever-present search bar at the top right, there’s a certain rhythm to digital experiences.

When a website adheres to these established norms, customers feel a sense of familiarity and control. This subconsciously reduces friction and makes them more receptive to your brand.  Deviate too drastically, however, and you risk creating confusion and eroding trust.

Do What It Says

Customers crave predictability and transparency in their digital experiences. When you make a promise – whether that’s about your pricing structure, refund policy,  or product features – honoring that promise is essential.

Unexpected fees, convoluted purchase processes, or hidden terms and conditions violate the customer’s trust. Be upfront about all costs and keep the interactions straightforward to build confidence and credibility with your customer base.

Function Intuitively

Especially for SaaS products, intuitive design is crucial. Users are already familiar with countless digital platforms in their lives. Don’t force them to relearn fundamental workflows for your product. Leverage common design patterns and visual cues. When your product functions in a way that feels natural, customers can focus on the value you provide rather than the mechanics of using the interface.

The Customer As The Advocate

Focusing on psychological principles means flipping the script. It’s a shift from “What do we want to tell customers?” to “What do customers need to know to move forward?”

Businesses that truly excel put themselves in the customers’ shoes. They champion the needs of the customer, even though the customer may not be physically present in company meetings.

The most successful digital experiences put the customer at the forefront. By understanding and catering to the psychological principles that drive their behavior, you move beyond surface-level changes and create meaningful interactions that resonate on a deeper level.

My book, Behind The Click: How to Use the Hidden Psychological Forces that Shape Online Behavior to Craft Digital Journeys that Delight, Engage, and Convert, provides actionable strategies and real-world examples to help you apply these principles.

It’s your guide to transforming your digital presence into a powerful tool for attracting, engaging, and converting customers.

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Jon MacDonald smiling at the camera for The Good

About the Author

Jon MacDonald

Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.