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Shopping online is fast, easy, and convenient – and that’s exactly what retailers want us to think.
It takes a lot less effort to shop online: We can shop when we’re tired, we can shop when we’re emotional, and we can shop instantly. But just like how retailers use tricks to make us spend more at brick-and-mortar stores, there are also tricks they use to make us spend more on their websites.
“The internet is the wild west in terms of pricing,” Mark Ellwood, retail expert and author of “Bargain Fever,” told Business Insider. “It’s policed far less aggressively than brick and mortar stores.”
Online retailers are competing with hundreds of other sites who might be able to offer the same thing for a lower price, so they have to come up with more ways to get us to seal the deal on their site.
In fact, according to The Robin Report, a site that provides insights on retail and consumer industries, the retail space is expanding faster and greater than the human population, which “creates an era of oversupply and underdemand.”
Here are 12 tricks online retailers might use to get you to spend more:
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They make you feel like you’re part of an exclusive club
Becoming a member of a retailer’s loyalty or rewards program has its perks, but it’s another way retailers get you to spend more.
In fact, according to the 2016 Global Retail Report from PriceWaterhouse Coopers, 91% of the consumers surveyed were part of a loyalty or rewards program.
Special promotions, exclusive member discounts, personalized marketing offers, and other benefits might make you feel like you’re part of an exclusive club, and more inclined to take advantage of the “perks” of membership.
They remind you of items you might have ‘forgotten’
Having an account on a retailer’s website makes shopping easier for you, but it also makes it easier for them to lure you back in.
For example, online retailers might offer discounts to “help” you finish the purchase when they see you’ve abandoned your cart, Ellwood says. He calls it “cart abandonment” – when you’re logged in to an online retailer’s site with things in your shopping cart, but you closed the browser before finishing your purchase.
“If you play your cards right, you should receive a follow-up email with a coupon to entice back to the cart and close the deal,” Ellwood said.
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They push products strategically
According to Ellwood, the first few products you see on an online retailer’s website aren’t necessarily the most popular.
Instead, the featured item is usually the product the company has the strongest need to get rid of, since online retailers know people buy what is on the top of the list.
“It’s true with consumer shopping: People are busy, people are bored, people trust the recommendations,” Ellwood told Business Insider. “They are the pulls to selling and are the items that are there are looking to cross the finish line first. “
They offer free shipping … after a certain amount
Ever seen “free shipping on $50 or more?” Online retailers know free shipping is something many shoppers look for, so they use it to encourage shoppers to spend more to get the complimentary delivery.
According to money-saving expert Andrea Woroch, most online retailers set these thresholds above their average online order to increase sales.
“Most people would rather spend more money buying things they don’t need than pay for shipping costs,” Woroch told Business Insider in an email.
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They make the checkout process as easy as possible
Having an account on a retailer’s website can make shopping easier for you, since you won’t need to enter billing, shipping, or credit card information.
Not only does an account facilitate a faster checkout process, but you’ll also be able to reorder the products you need without having to search very far.
This works in the retailer’s favor as much as it does for you. The faster you buy, the less time you’ll have to reconsider your purchase and pull the plug.
They offer spending-based discounts
Oftentimes, you’ll see retailers offering discounts pegged to a spending threshold: Spend $50 to get $10 off or $100 to get $25. This trick works just like free shipping – the more you spend, the bigger discount you get.
However, the retailer’s bottom line works in dollars and cents. Even with a 20% off discount, the more dollars you spend, the better for them.
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They constantly change prices
According to Woroch, online retailers use a tactic called “dynamic pricing” where they adjust prices based on consumer and market behavior to capture more customers.
“That means the price you saw on a microwave when you left for work in the morning could be completely different by the time you get home at night,” she tells Business Insider.
Another way retailers can manipulate prices is by setting an “anchor price” on items to color a shopper’s impression of every other price.
“Stores will make sure there’s something crazy expensive in the inventory to offset the expense of other prices,” Ellwood tells Business Insider. “So everything else in comparison looks much cheaper.”
The anchoring effect isn’t limited to pricing. It’s acognitive biasalso used inprofessional negotiations, where the first person to throw out a number has the advantage, because they provided the figure that will affect any others to follow.
They make you buy in bundles or offer items as add-ons only
Just like free shipping, some products might only be available for the low price when you buy it with another product or spend a certain amount.
For instance, Amazon offers certain items that are “add-on only” and usually require a minimum purchase of $25 because they would otherwise be “cost-prohibitive to ship on their own,” reports INSIDER’s Jacob Shamsian.
You might end up paying more just to get the item you need for “cheaper.”
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They create ads that ‘stalk’ you
“The internet has made it easier for retailers to target ads that know exactly what you’re looking for,” Woroch told Business Insider.
This tactic one that goes “unnoticed” because that’s virtually what’s happening: Websites track your browsing history with cookies and retailers can fill ads with the very products you’ve already viewed online. How many times are you willing to turn down the opportunity to buy something you like?
They have lenient return policies
Retailers who aren’t strict with their return policies know what they’re doing.
They are hoping that you take the policies into consideration when you make your purchase knowing that you’ll probably forget about the item or get attached to it and not return it after all.
“I think it is important for us to be reminded that these return policies are established to help, primarily, the store make money,” Joshua Becker, author of “The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own” wrote on his website, “Becoming Minimalist.”
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They have a virtual checkout aisle
Just like goodies are placed in checkout aisles to entice shoppers into last-minute impulse buys, retailers to do it online as well.
Just before you finish your checkout process, you might see some suggested add-on items.
“These may also be items that other shoppers have bought with the product, which influences your buying decision as you may think you need it, too,” Woroch told Business Insider.
They stay in close touch
Signing up or subscribing to a retailer’s newsletter might be a good way to save on your initial order, but any message after that might be a trap.
“The bombarding promotional emails are designed to get you to shop, ” Woroch told Business Insider in an email.
Look out for e-newsletters that have headlines that promise “one-day only” or “limited-time sale,” since they might make you visit the site even when you don’t need to hoping to score a deal.