Site search
January 4, 2023

How to Use Consumer Psychology to Enhance Your E-commerce Search Tools

Author imaage
Ahvayita pillai
Associate Growth Manager
consumer psychology to enhance your search tools

Consumer psychology is the study of how people think, feel, and behave when making purchasing decisions. It explores the psychological factors that influence what people buy, how much they buy, when they buy, and why they buy. Additionally, consumer psychologists research how emotions, attitudes and perceptions influence consumers’ buying decisions. Thus, consumer psychology will have something interesting to say about advertising and sales, product design and packaging, and even how you should display products on your ecommerce site. 

This is why having a fundamental understanding of consumer psychology principles can add tremendous value to your overall business and marketing strategy.

Consumer psychology

Consumer psychology in ecommerce

The modern consumer is bombarded with marketing messages from the moment they wake up to the time they go to bed. With so much noise, it can be difficult for businesses to break through and capture their consumers’ attention. This is especially true in the ecommerce space, where consumers are bombarded with even more marketing messages and endless choices.

There are a number of factors that influence why people buy things online. For instance, people are more likely to purchase items that are highly visible or easily accessible. They are also influenced by social factors such as peer pressure and recommendations from friends. Additionally, people are often drawn to items that are on sale or discounted in some way. What’s more - your website design, product descriptions, and even the color choices have an emotional signaling effect on your users. 

Psychology principles to boost your online business' performance 

It's no secret that crafting an effective ecommerce search experience is essential to driving conversions and ensuring customer satisfaction. At its core, good ecommerce search needs to be both relevant and fast in order to provide users with the most relevant results in the shortest amount of time. However, there are a number of other psychological principles that can be leveraged to further refine your site search and boost your online business' performance.

1. Reciprocity

People feel obligated to return favors, even when the original act was small or unsolicited. This principle is known as reciprocity, and it’s a powerful tool that you can use to boost your online business’ performance. For example, you could offer users a discount or coupon code if they sign up for your email list. Or, you could include a “recent searches” widget on your results page so that users can easily see what other people have been looking for. By finding ways to help users before they even start using your site search engine, you’ll be more likely to convert them into customers.

2. Scarcity or Urgency

Consumers are bombarded with choices and information, which can overwhelm them. When presenting choices to consumers, one way to combat this is by using the principle of scarcity. Scarcity occurs when there is a limited supply of something. By creating a sense of urgency (also FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out) and highlighting that there are only a few items remaining, you can encourage consumers to take action before it's too late.

3. The framing effect

It is a cognitive bias that affects how people make decisions and  occurs when the way an issue is presented or framed influences the decision that is made. The frame can be either positive or negative, and it can be presented in a number of ways, such as visuals, language, and juxtaposition. For example, if you frame a choice as a loss (e.g., "You will lose 10% off your purchase if you don't use this coupon code"), people might be more likely to go ahead with a purchase than if you frame it as a gain (e.g., "You will save 10% off your purchase if you use this coupon code")

4. Nudge

Nudges are small changes that can have a big impact on consumer behavior. For example, imagine you own an online store that sells clothes. You might use a nudge to encourage customers to add items to their cart by displaying a message like "You may also like these items" next to each product. Or, you might use a nudge to persuade customers to buy now by offering a discount for a limited time only. Adding social proof in the form of customer videos, testimonials, and reviews to your product page is another powerful application of the nudge principle.

5. The role of emotions in purchase decisions

Emotions can influence the type of product a consumer purchases, as well as how much they are willing to spend. Emotions can also affect our perceptions of products. For instance, happy people tend to rate products as being higher in quality than they actually are. Whereas, people who are feeling down may rate products as being lower in quality than they really are.

Best practices to improve your ecommerce site search using Consumer Psychology

Let’s take a look at the below mentioned seven practical applications of Consumer psychology principles to refine your site search functionality.

1. Understand context to improve search relevance

It's important to understand the context in which your customers are searching for products on your ecommerce site. Are they looking for specific products, or are they just browsing? What kinds of things are they searching for? People use search engines for a variety of reasons, and understanding this can help you refine your site's search functionality to better meet the needs of your users.

Using AI and deep learning algorithms can be instrumental in refining your search results to meet the exact needs and intent of the user. 

2. Use natural language

This means that you design your search engine to understand the way people speak and write. Natural language search can be used in many different ways. One common approach is to use synonyms. This means that if a user searches for “shoes”, your search engine will also return results for “sneakers”, “footwear”, etc. 

NLP can also help you understand misspellings and other typos. For example, if a consumer searches for “womens red shoes size 7” but types “women’s read shous ze 7”, the search engine will understand and accommodate for typos and return relevant results.

3. Don't make users search twice

Users should never have to search for the same thing twice on an ecommerce site. If they do, it's a sign that the site's search functionality is not up to the mark. This can be frustrating for users and lead them to abandon the site entirely. Make sure your search engine understands the context of the search query and offers high relevancy and search accuracy. AI-powered search is a powerful way to implement this. 

4. Offer auto-complete or predictive search

If your ecommerce site offers a search function, it's important to make sure that it's as user-friendly as possible. One way to do this is to offer auto-complete or predictive search.

Auto-complete is when the search engine suggests possible queries as the user is typing. Predictive search is when the search engine predicts what the user is looking for and provides results before the user even finishes typing their query. Either way, these features can be extremely helpful for shoppers who are unsure of what they're looking for or who don't know how to articulate their query.

5. Offer personalized recommendations

People want to feel like they’re getting a tailored experience, and when you offer them product recommendations that are based on their past behavior, it reinforces the idea that you really know them. This sense of intimacy can be powerful in influencing someone’s decision to buy from you.

6. Use High-Quality Images

Humans are highly visual beings, and product images are as close as you can get to offering them the best view of your product. This is why using quality images on your product pages or when they are searching for options is an effective way to deliver a superior shopping experience.

7. Offer filters and sorting options

The modern shopper wants to be able to exercise greater control by applying filters to and sorting search results. In addition, consider using faceted search, which allows consumers to select multiple criteria at once, making it easy to find the right products quickly and easily.


Consumer Psychology offers rich insights into consumer behavior and motivations while shopping online. Using these principles will help you build an unmatched site search experience for your prospects and returning customers. In today's ecommerce ecosystem, with over 2.14 billion online shoppers, how you craft your site search can make all the difference.

AI search platforms like Zevi can be incredible to design and implement advanced search functionalities for your ecommerce site. A site-search & ranking engine, Zevi takes your site search and product discovery to the next level irrespective of the kind of description users input in the search bar. Zevi even supports foreign languages or mixed languages to accurately decode search intent and improve the relevancy of the results. 

Interested in learning more? Book a demo with us today!

We value your privacy

We use cookies on our website to see how you interact with them. By accepting, you agree to our use of such cookies.      
Privacy Policy