• The default setting of a product may create a better or worse habit for your users.
  • Nudging people with a message may increase their spendings.
  • Or sometimes, creating an ambient environment may influence what you buy in a store.

There are several principles that we interact with on a daily basis, which might help us design better products. Or not.

Here are a few principles that influence our buying behavior.

Limit the number to increase the amount bought

When there are a limited or scarce resource and high demand, people are more willing to pay excessive amounts for the product or service. And the perceived fear of missing out on something is particularly motivating as we are loss-averse too. What this means is that we find losses roughly twice as painful as gains are pleasurable.

The suggestion that something is in scarce supply makes us want it more.


Context may influence your behavior

Sensory Priming is about how our behavior can be influenced by each of our 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). An experiment in the UK tested playing music from different countries in a wine shop. The research found that French wine easily outsold German wine when French music was playing and vice-versa. Only 2% of customers interviewed afterward even mentioned the music.

Remove the symbol to reduce the “pain”

Only thinking about spending money can make you experience a kind of physical pain.

Studies have shown that by removing the currency symbol ($) or the currency word (dollars) from menus, average spending can increase by 12%. This is because people who see only the numerical value, are less concerned about the price of what they are ordering.


The pain of loss is twice as strong as a pleasure of gain

Loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equal gains. “It is better to not lose $5 than to find $5.”

We are by nature loss averse. We hate losing stuff — no matter if it is money or simple points.

An interesting experiment of gamification was applied and implemented in Italy for drivers.

As a car driver, you receive a certain amount of points (20). And every time you violate a traffic rule, for example ignoring the traffic light, you lose points (in this case 6). This psychological trick decreases the chances that you will do it again. And due to its effectiveness, many countries applied this demerit point system (more info).

Some countries do it vice-versa. They give you points for violating a traffic rule. And giving instead of taking will skyrocket terrible behavior. There’s evidence that drivers were boasting between themselves on who had the most points for breaking the law. Giving points for bad behavior means encouraging it.

Increasing commitment with friends

With workouts, the problem is not in the training program, reps, or how often, but whether we are socially committed to something. Whenever you train with a fitness trainer or with a friend, the chances that you will go to the gym and finish a training program increases by 90%. Think about that when you try to create a movement or community around your product. And the answer may be in the fact that we should do it with a friend.


The power of a default option

As humans, we don’t like to choose. That’s why we like to go with the flow of a default setting. Whether you buy a new phone and don’t change the basic settings or shop in a supermarket. Thinking is an effort, so when we’re recommended an option, we’ll often take the path of least resistance for our brain.

When the default size of the various types of stuff we use change, so do our actions and behavior. For example, when supermarkets double the size of trolleys, people buy 40% more. The default portion sizes in cooking books since the 1930s have increased every decade, and so have the proportions of many people.


We tend to choose the middle option

When given a range of options from high to low people tend to go for the middle option. This is known as The Goldilocks Effect. In a study at a McDonald’s outlet, people were asked to choose between a range of different drink size options. Regardless of the size options offered, 80% of them always chose the medium size option. This happens because we assume the middle option is the typical option. We will always go with the option that requires least effort to think about. And which is most often bought or chosen (social proof).


There’s a reason why many SaaS businesses offer three plans to choose from. Or why they highlight the middle one as the most popular.

There are many more principles influencing the buying behavior. Knowing them should help you make better decisions when buying and make your own offer more attractive.

7 Principles That Influence Our Behaviour

PS. While you’re here… I’ll use the larger cart principle. You’ve already read this article, why not one more? One of the most popular ever is 7 Practical Tips for Cheating at Design. When you know which principles work, you need to present them graphically. This article helps you do it effectively.