When we click this and not that during an online shopping spree, the reason could be persuasive design. More ominous though, a dark pattern could have nudged us.
Using behavioral economics devices, dark patterns deceive us.
In a recent study, researchers from Princeton and the University of Chicago wanted to see how 11,000 online shopping websites try to influence our purchases. They wound up finding 1,818 examples of deceptive nudges. Called dark patterns, they intentionally trick shoppers.
Sometimes websites select an option for us:
Or, they repeatedly tell us about a flash sale for a price that will soon ascend if we do not act now:
Another possibility is the low stock items that always are limited:
You can see that the examples have an ethical range. A pre-selected option could be called persuasion. However, when the flash sale is perpetual or the timer resets with each screen refresh, the device is deceptive. Similarly, researchers identified out-of-stock notices that never changed and items added to carts that the buyer never selected.
Our Bottom Line: Behavioral Economics
A second study took the next step through a survey of 1,963 adults. Using a control group that saw no dark patterns, they wanted to quantify the impact on those that did. The results? The group with mild dark patterns bought twice as much as the control group while those given more aggressive dark pattern prompts purchased four times as much.
A behavioral economist could tell you why dark patterns work.
She could point out the power of the defaults that make choosing easier. When sellers frame a decision or give us an anchor, they create a reference point that creates buying pressure. Through sunk costs, we think of all that time we sacrificed on the site. As a result, we accept an add-on (if we notice it) rather than beginning again.
So, when you do your online shopping during this coming Cyber Monday, imagine a behavioral economist giving you a nudge to counter those nudges you see on the screen.
Our featured image is from Pixabay.