Loss-Aversion in E-Commerce

The fear of “Missing out” on something is part of our human nature. A lot of studies even say that loss is twice as powerful as gain. So how can we make use of this and increase the amount of people doing the thing we want them to do? This article will describe a few techniques used already with real world examples.

Missing out

You wouldn’t want to miss out on a great deal right? So why would any of your customers? Let us have a look at a simple example: a newsletter. Your company sends out a weekly newsletter and off course you want everyone to sign up for it. The more subscribers, the better… But how do you get people to subscribe? 

You have multiple options:

  • A pop up:  The most intrusive way of trying to get users to subscribe
  • A banner: Can be put almost anywhere on the website
  • Registration: When creating an account also have a check box available to subscribe to the newsletter
For our example we are going to take a banner on top of the subscribe page of Litmus. A simple banner with one reason why you should subscribe to the newsletter:

Litmus - Feeling of gain

Stay in touch and get the latest content sent by marketing pros.”

This is a classic example of gain, when you subscribe you gain content. But what can we do with this banner to make it seem like you lose something without actually changing anything to the meaning of that sentence? Quite simple:

Litmus - Feeling of loss
Now we have a sentence saying that you are missing out on something, you don’t want to miss out on the latest content right? This adds more impact and will cause more people to subscribe, playing on the fear of loss.
A good example is the newsletter page of Zalando:
Zalando - Loss and gain
The “What you receive” list plays on both the feelings of gain and the feeling of loss. You get exclusive offers, but you definitely don’t want to miss out on the promotions! The main part off course with Zalando is that you also get a 10£ coupon which is a massive gain feeling.


Another way of creating a feeling of loss with your visitors is to create scarcity of the item you are presenting. Some examples could be a limited stock remaining for a product, or that the deal is only valid for a few more hours.
Daily deals
Next to creating a feeling of loss, you also give the visitor less time to think about it and change his or her mind. If there are only 2 items left in stock, you wouldn’t want to miss out on it right?

The daily deals are a prime example of creating the feeling of loss by scarcity by limiting the amount of time a deal is valid.

In these cases you only have one day to decide whether you want to buy the product, or never get that same deal again.

The second way mentioned was limiting the amount of available stock for a specific product, this way you do not give a set time frame in which the visitor has to buy the product in order to have it. The visitor will create a time frame for themselves! When you are on a website looking at a product you are interested in and see the following text “Only 3 more available” you start to think and determine for yourself how much time you have left.

This limits the amount of time significantly for you to decide whether or not to buy it, the sooner the better! Because you don’t know how many people are thinking the same thing as you at that time. That is the feeling you want to create so more people will buy your product. A good example for this are travel agencies. On the site of JetBlue you can find the following:

JetBlue - Scarcity

Showing how many rooms are left will create the feeling of scarcity and subsequently the feeling of loss.

In conclusion we now know that the feeling of loss is something that can definitely be used in E-Commerce in various ways and can fit many different needs.

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