Every online retailer aims to convert online baskets into sales and this is not an easy task, in fact according to Baymard Institute, a web research company, two out of three (67.45%) of online shopping carts are abandoned. So beyond discount codes and flash sales what exactly can performance marketers do to help retailers push customers over the line and convert these baskets?

Anyone who works in marketing is often aware that 95% of our decisions are steered by our subconscious and it is important to recognise this when it comes to targeting customers effectively. This is why applying simple changes to a website which play on basic psychological conventions, such as adding additional pricing packages or adding details on product popularity, you could find significant uplifts driving customers to commit to buying a product or service online. Here are seven simple principles based on neuroscience advertisers can apply to a website to boost conversion and performance. 

Predictive notifications

In online retail, subtle notifications that manage to promote a sense of urgency, without being disruptive to a customer’s shopping experience, can really drive them to click that ‘add to basket’ button. 

By using a website’s real time data you can create a predictive notification which attracts the users’ attention and persuades them to take action. For instance, if a customer clicks on a particular product more than once you can tell they have an interest. By applying a notification which says ‘less than ten available’ the notification is playing on the current interests and behaviour of the customer, creating a sense of urgency to purchase a service or product. 

Need for certainty 

Ambiguity at the checkout stage of a sale puts customers off quickly. By providing clear information on what will happen when a customer clicks on a link or avoiding vague information around offers you can prevent this. 

By simply running a user testing, you can pinpoint any areas where there may be confusion and fix them straight away. You could try offering a free trial of your service or display reviews clearly, so wary customers have more reassurance when committing to a purchase. 

Decoy effect

A common issue for customers when picking between packages on a site is hesitation or confusion between two options. Presenting a third option or ‘an ugly brother’ can strongly influence choice by providing a decoy. 

Consider providing an option significantly less attractive than the one you would like to sell. By offering a service which is far more expensive and only marginally more lucrative, customers are more likely to feel they are getting a better deal by picking the mid-range option you want them to purchase, bypassing the cheapest option. 

Hyperbolic discount 

Hyperbolic discounting is based on a desire for an immediate reward, rather than a higher valued, delayed one. Put simply, people would rather receive £5 right now rather than £10 in a month’s time.

To play on this principle you can use tactics such as providing instant small discounts and rewards with a time limit or a value like ‘free delivery on all orders over £50’ or ‘10% off today only.’ This can subtly incentivise your customer to make a quick decision rather than holding out for a larger discount. 

Paradox of choice 

An abundance of choices can lead to consumer anxiety, if there are too many links or pictures to click on one page, or if there are many desirable options to choose from, it can cause users to become overwhelmed and leave the page. 

By drastically simplifying your options you can prevent this. Displaying your best selling or ‘new in’ options first, means you are showcasing your best products, as well subtly guiding your customer’s eyes to the item or service you would like them to purchase without causing stress by offering too much choice.  

Curse of knowledge 

If you’re selling a product, you probably know everything there is to know about it. However, this can be detrimental when writing descriptions, as you can sometimes assume consumers know as much as you do. When a new customer reads a description that is over complicated or doesn’t have enough information, they can be put off very quickly. 

To avoid the ‘curse of knowledge’ make sure you’re fully aware of the gap between your knowledge of your product or service and your customers. Try to put yourself in their shoes and remember to always think ‘clear and effective’ as well as boldly highlighting USP’s and keywords. 

Information bias 

The more information we receive, the more confident we feel when making a purchase. It makes us believe we are making a well-informed decision based on a more rational basis, even if said information isn’t that relevant. 

By using the information bias, you make your customers feel secure by providing plenty of detail. Apply this rule when displaying all products and offers, and treat your product images with a similar mindset, if you can provide several angles, or even a video, customers will feel more secure. 


With analysts at HSBC claiming that online shopping has surpassed the high street in popularity, it is more vital than ever that buying on the web is a smooth experience for customers. The role of neuroscience in consumer experiences has often been overlooked. These simple psychological techniques can easily be implemented by marketers to optimise online sites and to boost conversion of sales, resulting in fewer abandoned baskets.