No.10 Choice-Supportive Bias & Shopping Sustainably

No.10 Choice-Supportive Bias & Shopping Sustainably

The ways to utilise choice-supportive bias to encourage customers to implement sustainable choice into their purchasing decisions.

Choice-supportive bias or post-purchase rationalization is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected and/or to demote the forgone options.

For example, if a person chooses option A instead of option B, they are likely to ignore or downplay the faults of option A while amplifying or subscribing new negative faults to option B.

This built-in mechanism aims to make us feel better about any poor decisions we make. It’s especially the case when we buy something expensive.

Given our emotional investment when preparing to buy something: Any research done, our pre-existing brand loyalty and any influential advertising seen, many shoppers will refuse to admit, in light of any shortcomings experienced with the product, that their decision was made in poor judgement.

Retailers and brands should embrace this bias, celebrating a shopper’s ‘good’ choice post-purchase. This could be done by making all your sustainability credentials appear as positive attributes. Popping a note in their delivery order telling customers how much others also loved this more sustainable brand (and why) in also effective. My own research identified significant brand growth from simply positively reaffirming to environmentally minded shoppers that they’d made a ‘good choice’.

So how can you utilise choice-supportive bias?

  • Reassure and praise - In-store and online, develop ways of ‘reassuring and congratulating shoppers on the greener decisions they are making.
  • Remind shoppers of their successes - Communicate to shoppers all the good, sustainability related reasons for buying your brand.
  • Minimise risk of purchase – Take a look at your brand and category and identify and reduce or remove what would deter shoppers from buying the more sustainable option, what could turn into something that leads to buyers remorse?

Shoppers all want to think and believe they’ve made an excellent choice buying your sustainable brand. So tell them so. And perhaps even have shoppers question whether buying another brand would be a less environmentally friendly decision. One thing is for certain, choice-supportive bias is a powerful tool for encouraging more sustainable shopping if utilised correctly.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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