Shopping in a brick-and-mortar store can be exhausting (especially during the holidays). For instance, I went to one of my favorite clothing stores last week (with all three kids in tow). I had the intention of getting a couple of shirts for work, but naturally the kids found a few items of their own. So then I had to tote the kids to the dressing room with me so I could decide on our purchases. Finally, I got our things gathered and went to wait in the enormous checkout line (with coupons in hand—of course). I slid my debit card and had to go through all of the questions the cashiers have to ask: Are you a rewards member? Would you like to become one? Are you interested in signing up for our credit card? I just wanted to go home. I finally got my bags and left the store with all three kids straggling behind me.


Thankfully, online shopping often saves us the hassle of this! It’s easy. I have my list of what I need, I add it to my cart, put in my promo codes, and more often than not my payment information is saved—voila, I’m done! But as someone who has their degree in business and marketing I know there are hordes of advertisement methods out there that are made to get us to spend more than we need to online. Since Cyber Monday is coming up, I thought it might be best to give you a crash course in how online retailers may try to “hook” you to spend more than your budget permits. Be sure to watch for these four tactics so you can steer clear and stay financially stable!

1. Color choice

Color psychology is the study of how color intersects with human emotion and behavior. Not surprisingly, retailers are keen to select specific colors for their logos, their displays, and their websites that will entice shoppers to spend more! In the corporate world, choosing the right colors helps savvy retailers in two ways:

  • Sensory-social: Buying the item reinforces desired social status, attitude, or approval for the customer.
  • Functional: Buying the item helps the customer solve a problem.

Here are some common color associations to watch out for:

  • Red = hunger, love.
  • Green = money, good taste.
  • Blue = calm, high quality.
  • Yellow = happiness.
  • Brown = masculinity, ruggedness.
  • Pink = femininity, sophisticated.
  • Black = high-quality, expensive.
  • White = purity, happiness.
  • Purple = royal, powerful.

Here are two examples of how these are used:

  • Example 1: Retailers who want to prove their mattress is the most comfortable might place it on a blue background (blue being the color of calm and high quality).
  • Example 2: Retailers who want to emphasize the mattress' low price might place it on a green background instead (green being the color of money and good taste).

2. Tiered price options

Here, the object of the retailer's game isn’t to get you to buy the most expensive item, but to make sure that you avoid buying the cheapest item they offer.

  • Example: The web page prompts you to choose one of three offers.
    • Item A = $300
    • Item B = $250
    • Item C = $200

Studies show that if online shoppers are given an option between Item B and Item C only, they will choose Item C ($200). But when a third option is added, Item A, shoppers more often select Item B ($250). The retailer just made an extra $50—just by adding a third option to the menu!

3. Item position

Another common tactic is to position several same-category options side by side on the web page. The result of this strategy is called "order effect.”

  • Example: Let's say there are four coolers displayed side by side on the page. They look different in their pictures (colors, sizes, styles, features, etc.) but it is hard to read the descriptive print (or it is offered only in a "click here" link).
    • Cooler A = $125
    • Cooler B = $110
    • Cooler C = $75
    • Cooler D = $95

Researchers have found that Cooler A will be chosen 2.5 times more than the other three coolers—for no reason other than that it is first! No wonder retailers often put the pricier item, or the item they most need to move, first in line.

4. Text placement

Whether the product's descriptive text appears to the left or the right of an item shouldn't really matter, right? Well, according to researchers, it matters a lot! The truth is, text to the right of an item will influence you more than text to the left. So be sure to read the fine print—all of it—before you make your final selection!

4 Tricks Online Retailers Use to Hook You