Tips | March 17, 2014

Four dos and don’ts for online shopping

An email arrives with the latest products from your favourite store. Perhaps you’re checking out new cameras, which seasonal products have arrived or perhaps what’s in a new clothing range.


Online shopping is popular – with leading internet analytics company comScore reporting e-commerce spending from desktop computers during the 2013 holiday season in the United States up 10% year-on-year to $46.5 billion. But the dynamic of online shopping is different in many ways to more traditional, in-store shopping experience.

1. Don’t bank on instant gratification
Buying can be followed by a post-purchase, emotional “high” for some shoppers, particularly if they feel they got a good deal. Hence the term “retail therapy”. But the online environment may operate in a different way. A 2013 study co-authored by Columbia Business School’s Leonard Lee finds that discounts and sales tend to increase enjoyment when there is no delay between paying for something and using it. When you order online and wait for delivery that buzz may fade.

2. Do watch for price “drips”
Imagine you’ve decided to buy that camera from that website, but then during the purchase process fees are added for paying with credit card, getting it delivered and more. This so-called drip pricing makes it difficult to accurately compare prices – and was “the worst culprit” of pricing techniques tested here.

3. Don’t get sucked in by the “middle shelf”
For many years, we have known that there is a tendency to buy products placed on the middle shelf in a grocery store – a position that is at attention-grabbing, eye height and is easy to reach. In a modern twist, an experiment suggests a similar dynamic may exist online, as participants shown five pictures of identical items had a preference for the picture in the middle. It suggests that online sellers may be able to exploit the middle shelf sales tactic used in traditional brick and mortar stores.

4. Do remember the “pain of paying”
When we shop in a store and handover physical cash, research into the pain of paying finds the act prompts more awareness about spending, and parting with cash may even “hurt” a bit more than swiping a bank card. Extrapolate out into the online shopping environment and there is a possibility that the pain could be diminished further, potentially leading us to spend more than we should.

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eZonomics team
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