eCommerce Insiders

Buyer’s Remorse: Why This Happens, and How to Prevent It

Buyer’s remorse.

It’s something that everyone has experienced at one time or another. And if you’re an e-retailer, then your brand is about to be hit with a blizzard of returned products due to buyer’s remorse!

If you’re like most brands, then you’ll gladly either exchange the shopper’s product, or you’ll return it for a full refund.

But wouldn’t it be better for your company if your team could figure out why consumers are so eager to return the products they purchased in sound mind?

Shanelle Mullin did a great job of describing various reasons for buyer’s remorse in her article for Conversion XL. Below, I’ve quoted her and expanded on her ideas as they pertain to why your online shoppers are reversing their buying decisions:

We often make emotional decisions and rationalize them later. We don’t like to think we make emotional decisions, so we give it rational justification

Being led by our emotions is stigmatizing. It comes across as emotionally immature at the very least, and at the worst, it can come across to others as being emotionally unstable.

The dichotomy of being led by our emotions is that we’re essentially emotional creatures. Think about it: We place all sorts of societal mores designed to control our emotionally-led behaviors.

So it’s obvious why people (and particularly, consumers) are conditioned to experience shame regarding emotionally-led decisions. And the shame is what leads consumers to idealizing their emotional decisions with rationalization, and logic.

We don’t like to admit we’re wrong or that we made an irrational decision (i.e. we hate cognitive dissonance).

Cognitive dissonance essentially means that people struggle with two opposing thoughts, or behaviors.

Plainly, it refers to behaving in a manner that’s in direct opposition to a firmly-held belief.

Although this type of behavior is very commonly played out during the course of a person’s life (especially when they’re making a buying decision), it’s not a course of behavior that most are proud of.

After all, no one wants to be perceived as flaky!

When it comes to irrational buying decisions, it’s painful for a consumer to face their own uncomfortable truths. Perhaps they made a purchase that defied:

  • Their mental boundaries
  • Their financial boundaries
  • Their consumption boundaries

This happens a lot around the holidays, where sentimentality and emotions are running high.

And now, faced with their own personal shame and anger, they’re stuck with the decision they’ve made.

And, since no one enjoys living with shame, they’ll do anything to eliminate their shame, such as coming up with a host of reasons why they need to reverse their buying decision.

We Place a Higher Value on Things We Already Have

This implements the use of financial and consumption boundaries that consumers attempt to place upon themselves.

For example, consumers tell themselves that they don’t need to make anymore purchases, because that would stretch or deplete their finances, or break their budget. They also tell themselves that they’ve purchased enough household products, clothing, electronics, or anything else they’re thinking about buying.

They try to convince themselves that they should be satisfied with what they already own, especially if the new purchase can’t fit inside of their home’s current space allotment.

This is why a consumer will use devaluation as a protection tactic. It’s easier for them to devalue their new product than to admit that they’ve violated their pre-set consumption boundaries.

Post-Purchase Rationalization Happens More Often as We Age.

This point comes down to logic and life experience.

For example, young consumers don’t have the life experience to look back at their poor financial (and emotional) decisions. They’re very much prone to living in the moment.

And since they have so many years ahead of them to recover financially, and since they have far less responsibilities than a mature adult, young consumers are far more prone to make impulse purchases, often with little to no regrets.

On the other hand, a mature consumer has survived financial high and lows. They’ve often had to recover after periods of financial ruin, more than once. They’ve experienced all sorts of life lessons that have taught them to proceed with financial caution.

Therefore, as a consumer matures, they’ll need to come up with far more rationalizations for their purchases, especially if they feel that their purchase was unnecessary or too extravagant for their financial budget.

Our Brain is Our Biggest Fan; It Stores Memories in a Choice-Supportive Way

And if a consumer can’t handle their emotional unrest, then their brains will gladly pick up the slack!

Everyone’s heard of the term “selective memory,” and that’s what happens when a consumer tries to rationalize why they’ve made a purchase. In the attempt to shake off shame and guilt, their minds will store all of the memories and choices that makes the consumer feel affirmed (if not good) about their financial decision.

If if the consumer feels that they need to reverse their decision, then their brain will flood their conscious with a host of reasons as to why they shouldn’t feel silly, flaky, or…irrational!

What Can You Do To Prevent Post-Purchase Rationalization?

There will always be consumers to make returns regardless of how rational their purchase decision was at the time of purchase. However, you can do a few things to ensure that a great majority of your company’s shoppers aren’t suddenly overwhelmed with buyer’s remorse.

Offer Consumers The Best Value For Their Money

Needless to say, consumers want to feel that they’ve paid a fair price for their purchase. No one wants to feel that they’ve spent money on a financial splurge that wasn’t justified with a value proposition.

Even if the consumer could afford the purchase, they want to know that they’re getting everything out of their financial investment they’ve hoped for. Anything less will generate a product return, and a disenchanted consumer who will tell their social circle to avoid your products (or services)!

Keep Consumers Invested in Your Brand

What are you doing to maintain a relationship with your consumers? Are you making sure that your social media team is engaging with consumers above and beyond announcing promotions? Are you making use of email marketing in a way that goes beyond sending a receipt of purchase?

Consumers want to feel as if they matter to the success of your brand, so it’s in your best interest to make them feel as if they matter.

Demand Top-Notch Customer Service From Your Team

This is self-explanatory. In fact, one of the top reasons why consumers return products and abandon brands is due to poor customer service. So don’t except anything less than professional, caring, prompt customer service from your team.

Buyer’s remorse isn’t something that you’ll be able to completely prevent, but you can take steps to insulate your balance by first understanding why your shoppers experience remorse – and then by providing your shoppers with as much emotional security about their purchase as possible.

So what about you – what’s the strangest reason you’ve ever heard for a customer returning one of your products? Let me know in the comments!

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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