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How to Reduce Post-Purchase Dissonance

Angus Knights

Published on: Nov 21, 2023

How to reduce post-purchase dissonance featured image

Pause for a moment and put yourself in your customer’s shoes: You’ve just clicked “buy” on that new pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing for weeks.

You’re excited to receive and wear them, but then you start questioning your purchase decision: Did you make the right choice? What if there’s a better product out there?

If you can relate to these thoughts, then you know the feeling of buyer’s remorse, aka post-purchase dissonance.

Post-purchase dissonance is a common feeling of anxiety or doubt that consumers experience after making a purchase.

While perfectly normal, post-purchase dissonance creates headaches for ecommerce merchants. After all, you’ve put in all the hard work to get a customer to the checkout page, only to have them experience buyer’s remorse after the sale.

In this article, we’ll explore what post-purchase dissonance is, why it happens, and how you can prevent it.

What is post-purchase dissonance?

Post-purchase dissonance is a feeling of regret or anxiety that consumers might experience after making a purchase. It’s a fancy term for describing buyer’s remorse, and it can be caused by various factors—such as customers second-guessing their decision or comparing their purchase to others. (More on these reasons below.)

Post-purchase dissonance triggers: the reasons and psychology behind buyer’s remorse

Cause of post-purchase dissonanceDescription
Mismatched expectationsWhen customers receive a product that doesn’t match their expectations.
The availability of other optionsWhen shoppers compare their purchase to other options and realize that they could have made a better choice.
High price pointsCustomers may worry that they overspent or could have gotten a better deal elsewhere.
Conflicting valuesThis usually occurs when customers buy something to impress others or when they purchase a product out of sheer impulse.
Opinions of othersWhen others express skepticism or disapproval about a recent purchase, it can introduce uncertainty.

So, what exactly causes buyer’s remorse? As it turns out, several factors can trigger post-purchase dissonance. Here are the top ones.

Mismatched expectations

The popular meme around “expectation vs reality” is a great way to illustrate buyer’s remorse. Shoppers sometimes have a vision of what a product will look or feel like, and when the item doesn’t meet their expectations, post-purchase dissonance can occur. In these situations, shoppers feel disappointed and dissatisfied with their purchase.

The availability of other options

The good news about living in today’s modern environment is that we often have many options—i.e., brands and products—to choose from. The bad news? If you’re a retailer, this means you’re facing stiff competition.

Buyer’s remorse happens when shoppers compare their purchase to other options and realize they could have made a better choice. For example, a shopper might buy a new TV from one retailer but then see a similar TV at another retailer for a lower price. This can lead to feelings of regret and dissatisfaction with the original purchase.

High price points

If you’re a luxury brand, pay close attention to this one. High-end products can trigger buyer’s remorse because shoppers have a higher investment to lose. The higher the price, the more likely shoppers are to second-guess their purchase decision. They may worry that they overspent or could have gotten a better deal elsewhere.

Conflicting values

Sometimes, customers purchase products that don’t align with their values or identity. Maybe they just bought something to impress others. Or they purchase a product out of sheer impulse.
These situations lead to post-purchase dissonance because they feel out of sync with who they are. When you buy something that doesn’t vibe with your true self, feelings of guilt or shame can arise, triggering buyer’s remorse.

Opinions of others

People may voice their opinions about your customer’s purchase, and this can cause post-purchase dissonance if those options are negative. Remember, human beings inherently value social validation. When others express skepticism or disapproval about a recent purchase, it can introduce uncertainty.

5 effective strategies to minimize post-purchase dissonance

Now that you understand the fundamentals of post-purchase dissonance, it’s time to explore how to prevent it. Minimizing buyer’s remorse enables you to keep your customers happy, reduce your ecommerce return rate, and ultimately have a healthier and more profitable business.

Ensure your advertising and marketing initiatives accurately reflect your products

Ensure that your advertising and marketing campaigns provide an accurate representation of your products. Misleading or exaggerated claims can lead to customer disappointment and undermine trust in your brand. Not to mention, it can land you in hot water with the FTC.

Case in point: in 2014, L’Oréal was sued for false advertising for its Lancôme Génifique and L’Oréal Paris Youth Code skincare products. The company claimed that these products were “clinically proven” to “boost genes” and make skin look “visibly younger” in just a week.

However, the company could not provide any evidence to support these claims. L’Oréal eventually settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay millions to consumers who had purchased the products.

L’Oréal ‘s case is, of course, an extreme example. But any brand should learn from it and ensure their advertising is honest and backed by evidence.

Manage customer expectations

Remember what we said earlier about how mismatched expectations can lead to post-purchase dissonance? You can prevent this by managing customer expectations about your products. Strive to convey an accurate representation of the product’s look and feel.

This can be a little tricky to do online, but there are ways to bridge the gap between expectation and reality. Consider the following:

Create sizing guides. Ideal for apparel retailers, detailed and easy-to-understand sizing guides enable shoppers to select the right products for their body type or needs. These sizing tools help them make more informed decisions, reducing the chances of dissatisfaction due to unfitting items.

Use accurate photos and videos of your products. You know what they say: a photo speaks a thousand words—and videos convey volumes. As such, ensure your visual assets showcase products from multiple angles and in different lighting conditions. This gives customers a comprehensive view, ensuring they know exactly what they’re purchasing.

Consider using AR to help customers visualize what an item looks like in their environment. Augmented Reality (AR) tools allow users to virtually “place” a product in their space, providing a more immersive and accurate preview before purchase.

IKEA is one example of a retailer that does all of these things. In addition to providing detailed sizing information on its product pages, the brand offers tools like IKEA Kreativ, which lets customers scan a room to see what the furniture looks like in their own space.

Ikea example

Implement the right post-purchase communication strategy

Post-purchase dissonance is often rooted in doubt and uncertainty. One of the best ways to prevent these feelings is to reassure your customers about their purchase.

Your post-purchase communication strategy plays an important role here. Here’s how to promote trust and reduce buyer’s remorse after the sale.

Immediately send a confirmation email. Sending branded confirmation emails can reassure customers that they’ve made a good decision and reduce immediate doubts they might have.

Provide tracking information for the shipment. That way, your customers can track the status of their purchase and know when to expect it to arrive.

For best results, use a branded order tracking page that’s hosted on your website. Branded tracking not only elevates the customer’s experience, it also reinforces brand identity and encourages repeat visits to your website.

Consider the example of FARFETCH, which uses parcelLab to power its post-purchase communications and branded order tracking page. Using parcelLab’s solution allows FARFETCH to streamline its post-purchase efforts and provide excellent customer experiences.

Farfetch order notification

“One of the challenges of FARFETCH’s pioneering business model, combined with an intricate fulfillment chain, is being able to communicate this complexity to our customers. Therefore it’s important to have the FARFETCH brand in front of our customers, which parcelLab enables us to do,” explains Stuart Hill, SVP of Logistics at FARFETCH.

Enhance customer satisfaction after the sale

Your customer’s retail journey doesn’t end at the point of sale. The post-purchase stage is crucial to maintaining and improving customer satisfaction. To that end, make sure you’re offering attentive support, addressing concerns, and ensuring that the product meets expectations.

Make sure your customer support is on point. Be responsive to customer inquiries and concerns, and be willing to go the extra mile to ensure customers are happy with their purchase.

It’s also important to streamline customer support so shoppers get the help they need as quickly as possible. This could mean providing self-service tools, using chatbots to answer basic questions, and leveraging technology to route queries to the right teams efficiently.

Provide product resources post-sale. From product care tips and how-to guides to FAQs and video demonstrations, product resources can educate customers about your products and help them maximize the value they get from their purchases.

As such, they’re less likely to experience post-purchase dissonance because you’ve done the work to reassure them and inspire confidence.

Reward your customers for their purchases. Perks and rewards ensure that your customers feel valued, and so they’re more likely to come back. And from a post-purchase dissonance perspective, rewards and promotions can divert your customers’ attention from any potential remorse.

Create a sense of community. We’ve said it earlier, but it’s worth repeating: human beings care about what other people think.

That’s why it’s a good idea to foster an engaged community around your brand through forums, social media groups, or loyalty programs. This helps prevent buyer’s remorse by allowing customers to connect, share experiences, and validate their purchasing decisions with like-minded individuals.

Nespresso post-purchase email example

Gather customer feedback to prevent post-purchase dissonance in the future

Post-purchase dissonance is quite common, and you can’t prevent all instances of buyer’s remorse. What you can do is minimize the likelihood of post-purchase dissonance.

One way to do this is to gather feedback from customers who’ve initiated refunds and returns. In doing so, you gain valuable insights into the specific reasons behind their dissatisfaction. From there, you and your team can refine your products, develop better marketing campaigns, or target customers that are a better fit for your brand.

Final words

No retailer wants their customers to experience buyer’s remorse, and the good news is that there are steps you can take to mitigate post-purchase dissonance. By setting realistic expectations and enhancing the post-purchase customer journey, you can minimize any second thoughts from your customers and encourage them to not only keep their purchases but buy from you in the future.

parcelLab helps you do all of that and more. Our post-purchase experience platform enables you to stay on top customer comms, notifications, and returns so you can ensure that shoppers have the best brand experience possible.

Book a demo and see why brands like Bose, H&M, and IKEA trust parcelLab to power their post-purchase initiatives.


What is post-purchase dissonance?

Post-purchase dissonance is a psychological state of anxiety or doubt that consumers experience after making a purchase. It occurs when a consumer is unsure whether they made the right decision or when they become aware of the negative aspects of the product or service they purchased.

Which type of purchase decision is the most likely to result in post-purchase dissonance?

High-value and infrequently made purchase decisions are the most likely to result in post-purchase dissonance. These include items such as cars, designer items, or expensive electronics.

What is a reason for high post-purchase dissonance?

A common reason for high post-purchase dissonance is cognitive dissonance, where there’s a clash between the expected and actual performance or satisfaction derived from a product or service.

Other reasons include receiving negative feedback from the customer’s peers, the availability of alternatives, and a clash in values.

How can you reduce post-purchase dissonance?

The best way to reduce post-purchase dissonance is to manage customer expectations. Be realistic about the benefits and limitations of your products and services, and avoid making unrealistic claims. 

You should also provide sizing tools and resources to help people make informed buying decisions.

Finally, make sure that the post-purchase experience is on point. Communicate order and shipping notifications to shoppers, offer superb product support, and reassure customers that they’ve made the right decision.

Written by

Angus Knights