Designing for an Enjoyable Customer Buying Experience

Designing for an Enjoyable Customer Buying Experience

Design an online buying experience which makes your customers feel less loss aversion, and ensures the joys are remembered from their purchase.

5 minute read · · Post by Chris Watterston

Design for this... you’re burnt out and in desperate need of a holiday. Sounds great, right?

You crave a week in the sun, away from everyday life. Bottomless refreshing drinks and a worry not in sight. Your booking options?

  1. Open Airbnb and filter by Beachfront.

  2. Search for an all-inclusive package holiday.

The Airbnb could allow for more privacy and a bigger space. But you'd need to do food shopping, find good places to eat out, and role play your own bartender.

On the other hand, an all-inclusive would be effortless 🙌. Simply pay the cost, and then relax for a week of pampering.

It's decided! You make your choice and book the holiday... which option did you take?

Let's briefly touch on something that sparks everyone’s interest. Why spending money is painful, and how businesses can use design to heighten a buyer’s experience?

The science behind the pain

Every time we spend our hard-earned money, we feel a small stab of pain. Why? Because even if we're 100% sure about our intentions, a part of our brain wired for loss aversion starts launches fireworks.

What is Loss Aversion?

Loss aversion is that feeling when losing something hurts more than gaining something good feels.

But, what's interesting, is that this feeling gets increased when we spend directly, such as cash or debit card vs. using a credit card.

MIT studied 64 students placing bids on baseball cards. The results showed that students paying with a credit card would bid more than double ($61) vs. students using cash ($29).

So, when we book an all-inclusive holiday, we're dipping into our hard-earned money once. Likely weeks or months in advance of departing, meaning we only go through the pain of paying once.

Every visit to the bar for a refreshing drink, or food at the buffet, we get to feel the excitement of the experience without the emotional pain of paying.

Instead of getting loss pains the entire trip, we feel like royalty! And this is exactly the experience we want to create for our buyers, right?

Inside a customer’s mind

Research shows that people judge an experience on what behavioural scientists call the Peak-End Theory.

What is Peak-End Theory?

Peak-End Theory says we remember experiences mostly by how they were at the most intense moment and how they ended, not the whole thing.

Even if the whole experience was fantastic. For example, enjoying a meal at a Micheline Star restaurant, but then having to pay a huge bill at the end, will leave a bitter aftertaste.

When we pay for a product, as excited as we are, the loss aversion part of our brain starts launching fireworks when it's time to pay.

To launch less fireworks, we need to design a buying journey that makes customers feel less pain each time they buy our product.

How can businesses apply this?

There are a few ways we can apply this to a business, and they will seem obvious when we share them. You will have probably come across them before. Let's start...

Bitesize payments

Products with big price tag can come with less pain when split into multiple payments. This will reduce a buyers loss aversion, reducing the size of the fireworks.

Airbnb, Apple, and Cazoo offer financing options to make purchasing less painful and numb the loss aversion impact.

A collage showing online enjoyable customer buying purchasing user experience from different websites. Top left: Airbnb's payment options highlighting a 'Pay part now, pay part later' feature. Top right: TUI's checkout page with a price summary and a highlighted 'Book now with no deposit' option. Bottom left: A car listing on Cazoo with finance options highlighted, prompting to 'View finance options'. Bottom right: Apple's website showing an iPhone purchase option with a 'Monthly payments' feature circled. All images showcase different finance and payment structures available for customers on each respective platform.

Free gift or incentive

If a business offers subscriptions, and a customer cancels, it doesn’t mean they no longer love the product. They likely just had other priorities that month for their hard-earned money.

Offering past customers an incentive or free gift if they resubscribe can win them back. Oh, and because their credit card will already be on file, we can optimise the whole checkout process, reducing the pay pain.

Or, what about creating a free course or eBook which provides value to a customer. Giving this out to both current and past subscribers, is a great way to earn trust and build demand for a product.

Image showcasing promotional offers on two different e-commerce websites. On the left, Pact Coffee offers a free V60 brew kit with the purchase of any filter selection box, highlighted in a pop-up on their website. On the right, the Drink AG1 website highlights a welcome kit that includes a free shaker and storage canister with the purchase of their AG1 pouch, with the perks circled in the checkout summary.

Gamified payment

When we have fun, our bodies release a cocktail of neurotransmitters and hormones. These contribute to the feeling of happiness and well-being.

So, when a business understands and prioritises customer fun, like a casinos or Disneyland, this feeling can play a part in blocking out pay pain. They achieve this by encourage guests to pay with chips or a pre-paid MagicBand.

Yes, losing poker chips still hurts, but it’s less painful than losing physical cash. Also, there is something about using a bracelet that doesn’t feel like paying, therefore reducing loss aversion. This allows visitors to stay in a magical moment, rather than stressing about every purchase.

Pay in advance!

Many service businesses charge customers after the work has been complete, which ends an experience with a pay pain.

Alternatively, ask for payment in advance. This moves the pay pain to the beginning of their experience, giving the opportunity to end a service on a high. This plays in favour of the Peak-End theory.

The breakdown

So, we now know that loss aversion is a buyer’s reality, and the Peak-End theory is something businesses should remember... pun intended!

But even exciting purchases can be slightly diminished when it’s time to pay. Be purposeful when designing a buying experience. Make your customers feel less loss aversion and ensure the joys are remembered from their purchase.