We like to think that we always think rationally and make informed decisions. We analyze the data and identify the patterns of customer behavior. We diligently weigh all the pros and cons and try to be guided by logic, deciding to buy something.

That’s right?

In fact, there is no.

The truth is that our brain is incredibly complex, its work largely depends on the context and emotions. There are dozens of cognitive distortions that affect our decisions.

In today’s article, we will look at the most common cognitive distortions and methods of using them to increase sales in e-commerce.

But first, let’s define what is cognitive distortion.

What is a cognitive distortion

Cognitive distortion is a tendency to think in a certain way, even if it is not the most rational and logical. All people are subject to cognitive distortions.

Why are they so important?

The more you understand the principles of the work of the human brain, the more effectively you will be able to influence the decisions of customers.

There are several basic distortions that affect the formation of beliefs, decisions in business and human behavior.

1. Accessibility heuristics

“An intuitive process for evaluating the probability or frequency of an event by how easily similar events come to mind.”

In other words, if a person can remember something quickly, he considers it to be important or more important than what to remember is not so simple.

According to this distortion, a person uses the latest information and news as the basis for decision-making.

How to use in e-commerce : Use current events and news to sell more.

For example, after the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the elections and the March of Women in January, Cards Against Humanity released a version of the game “For Her”:


A separate landing page was completely devoted to ridiculing sexism. In fact, the brand offered to buy the same game, but in pink packaging and $ 5 more expensive.

2. A propensity to confirm his point of view

“The tendency to become even more convinced of one’s position when other people try to refute it using objective arguments.”

When a person is presented with irrefutable evidence of the inconsistency of his point of view, he often rejects them and only becomes more convinced of his rightness.

We also have a tendency to seek, interpret, prefer and remember information in a way that confirms our beliefs. People believe in what they believe. And it is extremely difficult to convince them.

How to use in ee-commerce: Study your customers to understand what they believe in and use emotions to convince them.

For example, there are more and more people who deny the problem of global warming. If they appeared in the WWF store, they were greeted with an appeal to save animals affected by climate change:


This is much more effective and convincing than, say, a list of facts confirming the existence of the problem of global warming.

3. The Barnum effect

“Observation, according to which people highly appreciate the accuracy of descriptions of their personality, which, in their opinion, are created individually for them, but which in fact are vague and generalized so that they can be applied to many other people” .

This distortion explains why people consider horoscopes, predictions of the future and personality tests accurate.

How to use in e-commerce: make visitors believe that you are talking to them personally, even if you are addressing thousands of customers right away. To do this, you need to study your audience.

4. The effect of Benjamin Franklin

“The psychological effect is that a person who has done something good for another person is more likely to help this person once more, rather than if he received help from him.”

Most often this is because people are doing a favor to those they like. This effect works in the opposite direction. We dislike those who have done something bad.

How to use in ecommerce : Ask visitors to make a small contribution, in cash or in another form, and later ask for more.

For example, Ghostly set the price of $ 0.99 for one song:


After visitors make a small purchase, they are more likely to buy from you more.

5. Lure effect

“Preference from options A and B gives option A when there is option C, which is much worse than option A and in something better in something worse than option B.”

When option C is available, people are more likely to choose option A than when choice is limited to two options.

For example, suppose that you are buying a new iPhone. Option A – $ 500 for 30GB and option B – $ 400 for 20GB. Someone will choose the first option, someone second. But if you offer the option C – $ 550 for 25GB. No one chooses C, but more customers prefer option A.

How to use in ecommerce : Add a third option as a bait to increase sales of the desired product.

For example, Virgin Mobile made the iPhone 7 with 128GB more attractive than the iPhone 6 Plus with 32GB, using bait (iPhone 7 Plus with 32GB):


6. The effect of posing the problem

“The same problem, being formulated differently, as a rule, is solved in different ways.”

According to this distortion, people react differently to different situations depending on their presentation. For example, the problem can be presented both in terms of benefits and in terms of costs.

How to use in ecommerce : Be attentive to the presentation of the value of your product. Most often, marketers only present it on the positive side, but a negative view can also be convincing.

For example, Leesa effectively uses a negative approach:


7. Hyperbolic discounting

“A propensity to give preference to instantaneous benefits, not long-term benefits.”

If we offer a choice between two awards, we will rather prefer the one we get faster. Even if it is less.

How to use in ecommerce : Always offer fast delivery, even if it will cost more. Also use time-limited offers.

For example, Bob & Lush offer free shipping the next day if you order before 16:00:


8. Rationalization after purchase

“The propensity to convince oneself of the value of buying, using rational arguments.”

We so want to make the right choice, that already after the purchase of the product we try not to notice its shortcomings and allocate advantages.

How to use in ecommerce : Many people regret buying. You must rid them of this feeling by using suitable content on the order confirmation pages and in electronic messages.

For example, Tait Ischia sends such a message when buying their books:


The text once again convinces the client that he made the right choice, and answers to frequently asked questions will help get rid of the last doubts.

9. The effect of rhyme

“The rhymed statements seem more truthful.”

People better remember rhymes, they are easier to process by the brain, so the poetic statements seem more reliable to us.

How to use in ecommerce : Use rhyme where appropriate (in product descriptions, headlines, in banners, etc.).

For example, BarkBox uses rhyme to strengthen confidence in the quality of products:


There are many distortions that affect our assessment of our own behavior and the behavior of others.

10. Halo effect

“The effect of the general impression of something (phenomenon, person, thing) on ​​the perception of its particular features.”

This distortion explains why customers prefer brand products that already had a positive shopping experience. For the same reason, we regard the seemingly attractive people as smart and charming.

How to use in ecommerce : Evaluate your online store and highlight the strongest points. Line up around them a halo effect for their products.

For example, the Chubbies have a vivid identity that creates a halo effect for their shorts:


11. Favoritism

“Most often people will prefer their group and will trust its members than those who are outside it.”

Groups can be formed according to many different signs, both external (the presence of tattoos) and internal (political views).

How to use in ecommerce : Your store must match the group you are contacting.

For example, Death Wish Coffee speaks to its customers in their language:


Cognitive distortions can also affect our memories, the ability to recall something or the time it takes to do so.

12. The effect of humor

“Funny things are remembered much better.”

If you make someone smile, then remember him. People with great pleasure remember funny moments and often share them.

Humor has an element of surprise, it distracts from the thought that you are trying to sell something. That’s why 20% of all advertising is based on humor.

How to use in ecommerce : If it’s relevant for your brand, use humor.

For example, Poo-Pourri cheers not only visitors to the site, but also the viewers of their legendary channel on YouTube:


13. The rule of climax and completion

“People are inclined to evaluate not all the experience as a whole, but its quality at the peak and at the end.”

Most often, customers who have been dissatisfied throughout the experience, but were satisfied at the end, appreciate it positively.

How to use in ecommerce : Successful delivery and the worthwhile product is the completion of experience for most online stores. That is why it is important to invest in the quality of products. The culmination will be the process of ordering, so it should be perfect.

An excellent example is the Tattly website:



The reasons why people buy or not buy are always complex and depend on the context. That is why it is important sometimes to look at the belief, going beyond the price and the product.

Understanding how basic cognitive distortions work, you will be able to stand out against the background of competitors. Use non-standard approaches to persuasion, this is the key to sales growth.

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