How You’re Getting Tricked Into Overspending Online

Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Did you know that the smell of apple and cucumber will make you perceive a room as bigger? Or that an orange scent has shown to make people spend 20% more on purchases? 


Yeah, we don’t get it either. But hey, you can imagine why companies would care, right? It’s the same reason McDonald’s uses the color red, which has been shown to make people hungry, in it’s branding. 


Online retailers can’t (yet…) spray orange scent in your face from a website or Instagram profile, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing everything they can to get you to buy more too. 


The Opportunity to Buy Online is EVERYWHERE

 It’s harder than ever to know the difference between real content and advertisements. Whether it’s a YouTube video with a link to buy in the description, Instagram posts casually highlighting a favorite product, or one of those sneaky biased reviews online, it often feels like someone is always trying to sell you something. 


And if that wasn’t enough…


It Is Also Easier Than Ever to Make Purchases Online

While we all want every part of life to have an easy button, shopping may be one area where making things easier doesn’t help. For some HENRYs™ (High Earners, Not Rich Yet) easier online shopping means more mindless spending.

Research from Clicktale suggests that 40% of shoppers use retail therapy as a way to calm down and 74% said they have “stress-shopped”

Not convinced that easy online purchases can be a bad thing? Let’s break it down.


The Magic of the One-Click Purchase

How many times are you buying something (maybe with just one-click) that you don’t need? Maybe don’t even reallllly want?


Research from Clicktale suggests that 40% of shoppers use retail therapy as a way to calm down and 74% said they have “stress-shopped”. Clicktale also found that 67% of men and 77% of women reported adding extra items (beyond their identified need) to their carts when shopping online. 


And, those extra items are extra easy to order with just one-click.


Did you know that Amazon patented the one-click purchase?


The one-click purchase may feel like it’s designed to make your life easier (typing 16-digits can be a pain), but it also reduces the likelihood that you’ll walk away from your purchase. Not having to enter your address or credit card means a lot less time to change your mind. 


And we do change our minds.




The average “cart abandonment” rate is 79%; that’s how often people decide that they don’t actually need something while on the checkout page. When given a minute or two to think about what we are about to buy, and more often than not, we won’t buy it. 


Being able to buy in just one-click reduces the chance that you might reconsider what you’re about to buy. No wonder Amazon wanted the patent all to themselves. 

With generous return policies, HENRYs™ are more likely to buy something, even if they’ll never use it. 

Combine stress-shopping with one-click purchasing and before you know it you have three waffle irons on the way to your doorstep. 


Insta Ain’t Innocent Either

One-click purchasing is just one of the many ways that online retailers are making it easier to buy. Have you noticed that you don’t even have to leave the Instagram app if you want to purchase something you see in a post? What was once a social network is slowly becoming a digital mall


Are Generous Return Policies, Generous?

 Yes, it’s amazing that you can return that beard oil you never use. It’s also pretty great that you can return a half-used bottle of tanning lotion to Sephora (oh, you too?). No harm, no foul. 


But maybe there is some harm…

Just because you know you can return it, doesn’t mean you will return it. The world of behavioral economics has taught us you’re actually going to feel something is more valuable once you own it (aka the endowment effect). 


Return policies aren’t just generous, they also make you more likely to buy and keep things you otherwise wouldn’t. Imagine a world where online returns do not exist. You buy it, you keep it. You’d probably be a lot more picky with your purchases, right?


With generous return policies, HENRYs™ are more likely to buy something, even if they’ll never use it. 


The same goes for free shipping if you spend a certain amount – this too is an easy way to get you to spend more and hesitate less when making a purchase.

When Unsubscribing Saves Money

Have you ever noticed how LIMITED ONE TIME ONLY 20% OFF sale emails seem to drop into your inbox once a week? “One time only” has a strange definition these days.


Often online retailers offer you a discount when you first get to their site. All you have to do is enter your email to trigger a discount on your first purchase! 


But guess what also just happened? 


You gave them your email. 


Don’t let discount emails convince you to buy something you wouldn’t otherwise. Tools like are great for cleaning up your inbox if you want to unsubscribe or even combine all your subscriptions into one email. 


Discounts can be delightful and convenience is a beautiful thing, but the next time you’re enjoying how easy online shopping is, ask yourself, who is “easy” really benefiting?

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