Dec 1, 2023

How to leverage consumer psychology for online success

Gintare Forshaw
Gintare Forshaw
Gintare Forshaw Author Photo

Gintare Forshaw

How to leverage consumer psychology for online success

With the digital industry growing and eCommerce businesses seeing more revenue generated online, it is vital to understand online shoppers more than ever. According to Forbes, 79% of consumers shop online at least once a month. 

Consumer behavior is a complex and multi-faceted concept that is more mysterious than clear. However, understanding users in more detail can accelerate growth and revenue as well as build relationships between the brands and the customers on a whole new level.

From encouraging purchases to fostering brand loyalty, delving into the minds of consumers can empower businesses to make informed decisions and craft effective strategies. This article will explore how brands can leverage consumer psychology to achieve online success.


While consumer psychology is rooted in the 1950s, it has truly blossomed in the last few decades.

Robert Cialdini and his famous six principles of persuasion, as he penned those up in The Psychology of Persuasion back in 1984, allowed marketers to expand their outlook on the consumers and how influence works.

More recently, D. Kahneman established the concepts of systems I and II, intuitive and analytical thinking, in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow followed by many other notable authors and researchers who have spent decades analyzing consumers and their behavior. 

Gut feeling and human judgment 

By now, most marketers have heard about the famous systems I (intuitive) and II (analytical), conscious and unconscious, and a few other critical concepts established and used to understand the broader consumer audience better.

However, Gut Feeling is something that hasn’t been broadly discussed yet. 

According to Sadler‐Smith and Shefy (2004), it is “a composite phenomenon involving the interplay between knowing (intuition-as-expertise) and sensing (intuition-as-feeling).

Nevertheless, it was only in the last decade that researchers have investigated the concept and the complexities that lie within, especially in consumer psychology. 

In a study by Mikels et al. (2011), participants who have made decisions led by emotions rather than logic reported the choices made to be of poorer quality than those shown by logic. 

As marketers, we have to deal with two types of gut feelings: 

  • one we cannot explain and attempt to understand as possessed by the consumers

  • one of our own, which is usually biased and full of pre-conceptions 

It is essential to get it right and ensure we don’t allow our personal views about the brand or website to influence decision-making. Similarly, we don’t know if users will feel one way or another about the site's layout, the products, the social proof, etc.

Quote from Gintare: it is essentail to ensure that we don't allow our personal views about the brand or website to influence decision-making.

While there is no magic answer to how to position everything to ensure everyone would always choose your brand over anything else, you can still do something compelling - experimentation. Data should inform experimentation, but any hypothesis can be confirmed or denied using well-prioritized ideas. Here’s a great prioritization model to use. 

While gut feeling is invisible and probably affects multiple aspects of online shopping, it’s essential to account for all the options. This can be quickly done by employing experimentation in your marketing stack.   

Human judgment & Noise Flaw

Interestingly, Noise Flaw is another interesting concept that has become more discussed in the last few years; however, it is merely researched compared to other phenomena.

Funnily, it’s not the sound we are interested in but the background, subconscious noise in the brain that can influence decision-making. 

“Wherever there is judgment, there is noise—and more of it than you think.” this is a quote from Kahneman et al. (2021), “Noise” where the authors delved deep into the human judgment and errors that are inevitably made along the way.

While there is a lot of variability in the noise and the system itself, it’s vital to mention that biases and heuristics largely influence subconscious noise

Why is it important?

Again, this is something to be aware of for anyone working on their website marketing. It is for humans, people who make decisions based on their gut feeling, maybe influenced by the weather on the day or what they had for dinner.

Humans make decisions in mysterious ways, and there is a load of moving parts involved, meaning we can’t account for all of them. Nevertheless, awareness of such decision-making processes is valuable. If you are analyzing the data - make sure you question the validity of the source. 

How noise annd bias affect accuracy visual diagram

Five ways to turn theory into practice

Knowledge is power, but are you using it in the right way to fuel sales and a better online shopping experience? In other words, how can we practically apply the theoretical knowledge and benefit businesses and consumers? How do we integrate consumer psychology into the optimization strategy of an eCommerce website?

1. Regularly conduct user research 

Many businesses and teams still need to conduct user research regularly. While 20 years ago, user research might have meant the old-school way of a face-to-face survey with a pen and paper or a focus group; the modern world has given us much more choice and variety.

If you don’t have a team or cannot invest in a large research team, utilize the live chat, customer service requests, phone calls, and sales calls. Essentially, the data is already there, and you just need to build a process and structure to analyze and extract the most critical items that will help leverage the eCommerce business growth. 

2. Listen to your customers to generate ICP

This should be the next step once you have gathered data from user research. Here, you are looking to give a voice to your ideal customers.

Considering you are already aware of their key pain and friction points, key motivators, and drivers, this is ready to be completed.

The most important thing to note here is that this should be driven purely by consumer insight. Finally, use customers' words and language to make it more authentic. 

3. Competitor analysis 

While copy-pasting your competitors is not something you should ever do, you can utilize competitor analysis in many ways, such as benchmarking and ideation.

While your gut feeling might signal that it’s a good idea to copy something you liked, it’s best to use the competitors for benchmarking and brainstorming. 

4. Organize & prioritize 

Whether you regularly conduct user research or develop many ideas in a weekly meeting with the team, ensure those ideas and hypotheses are prioritized and organized.

There are multiple methodologies for prioritization, but one of the most efficient is RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort).  

5. Experimentation

Finally, the king of it all - experimentation. Remember that the best way to implement any new feature idea or try things out successfully is by utilizing an experimentation strategy. Most importantly, it doesn’t have to be only for the website; you can experiment on multiple areas and even with the processes for your team. 

Quote from Gintare: remember that the best way to implement any new feature idea is by utilizing an experimentation strategy.

Overall, decisions are made in a predominantly complex way - noise flaws, biases, and even gut feelings are involved, suggesting that marketers and consumers are affected by all of those every time we make decisions, whether it’s about buying a new pair of shoes or deciding which experiments to run on the website. 

About the author

This guest blog was written by Gintare Forshaw, psychologist, and co-founder at Convertex Digital - an integrated SEO and CRO consultancy, which she runs with her husband, SEO consultant Ben. Gintare loves reading and spending time with family.


  • Kahneman, D., Sibony, O., & Sunstein, C. R. (2021). Noise. HarperCollins UK.

  • Karmarkar, U. R., & Yoon, C. (2016). Consumer neuroscience: advances in understanding consumer psychology. Current Opinion in Psychology, 10, 160–165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.01.010

  • Mikels, J. A., Maglio, S. J., Reed, A. E., & Kaplowitz, L. J. (2011). Should I go with my gut? Investigating the benefits of emotion-focused decision making. Emotion, 11(4), 743–753. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023986

  • Sadeeq, U. (2023). Noise: a flaw in human judgment. Vikalpa, 48(2), 163–165. https://doi.org/10.1177/02560909231180073

  • Sadler‐Smith, E., & Shefy, E. (2004). The intuitive executive:Understanding and applying ‘gut feel’ in decision-making. Academy of Management Perspectives, 18(4), 76–91. https://doi.org/10.5465/ame.2004.15268692

  • https://www.productplan.com/glossary/rice-scoring-model/ 

  • https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/ecommerce-statistics/#sources_section 

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