Buyer’s remorse – What it is and how to stop it

What is buyer’s remorse?

For businesses that sell expensive or complicated products (or businesses that are new to a customer), the period immediately after purchase is most likely to be affected by cognitive dissonance (aka “buyer’s remorse”) than at any other time.

Post Purchase cognitive dissonance is the phrase we give to the state of unease which exists in the customer’s mind after buying a product or service.


In terms of your marketing, these new customers share more in common with prospects than established customers.

  • Prospect: The population you want to buy from you but haven’t done so yet. Convert by selling the benefits of your business/product.
  • [su_highlight background=”#c8e0fb”]New customer: Recent buyer, possible buyer’s remorse/cognitive dissonance. Reassure and retain selling the benefits of your business/product.[/su_highlight]
  • Customer: Established paying customer. Increase LTV upselling and cross-selling.

For most businesses, customer marketing is based upon the premise their customers are…

  1. Happy with a purchase.
  2. Instantly focusing on areas such as up-selling, cross-selling and engagement.

This is a mistake, and could lead to cancellations and churn.

In this post I will show you why proactive post-purchase validation is so important to combat buyer’s remorse, and share ideas you can implement quickly and easily.

Post-purchase validation

Customer research doesn’t always end once a product/service has been bought. This is especially true if they are buying from someone new, or making a considered purchase.

[su_highlight background=”#c8e0fb”]A considered purchase is one that requires research, and not done on a whim.[/su_highlight]

From my perspective, toothpaste is a non-considered purchase (a low cost, low risk product). Unless I experience a specific fault with the product, buyer’s remorse is incredibly unlikely.

A considered purchase would be a new PC or a car, because it would require a lot of research to ensure my personal perceived risk factors are all ticked off. In this instance, buyer’s remorse is highly likely.

A consumer’s level of uncertainty after a complex purchase decision typically sees them attempt to reduce their anxiety.

This is done by collecting more information post-purchase.

People want to be told they made the right choice

Post-purchase validation reassures us that we have not harmed ourselves in one of the ways described above.

After buying a product consumers are not looking for objective content; they want/need it to be positive.

They want to be reassured it was the right choice, and not be told they may have made a mistake.

Renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini highlights our deep-seated psychological desire to stay true to that commitment, because it directly relates to our self-image.

We therefore attempt to rationalise any product problems seen, justify the choice made and protect our self-image.

Perceived risk and an opportunity for your business

This gives you a great opportunity to control the message and reassure your customers.

Your challenge is to continue addressing your customer’s’ perceived risk factors, and present content that plays into their desire to be proven correct in choosing you.

Perceived risk is one of the cornerstones of consumer psychology. It deals with the psychological barriers that may prevent us from making a purchase:

  • Functional: Will the product work?
  • Psychological: Am I doing the right thing?
  • Social: Will my peers approve?
  • Financial: Can I afford this?
  • Time: Do I have the time to complete this purchase?
  • Physical: Will this product harm me?

If you are not controlling the message, it means you have no influence over where they go looking for this content, or whether your customers are seeing positive or negative post-purchase content.

Combatting cognitive dissonance in your marketing

Purchase confirmation page

Immediately after purchase is a great opportunity to celebrate their purchase, especially by addressing social risk. e.g.

Thank you for purchasing

You just joined a community of 100,000 successful professional content marketers

Click here to login

Welcome email

Quite possibly your most important customer marketing tool, your welcome email serves a lot of functions.

Continue to market to your new customers, and reassure them they made the right choice.

Some ideas include:

  • Stats about how many people have used your product (functional risk)
  • Testimonials from happy customers (social risk)
  • Remind them about your 30-day money back guarantee (financial risk)
  • Direct them to perform a successful action straight away (functional risk)

First time they log-in to your control panel

Support your customers’ first use of their control panel by wrapping up useful onboarding with social proofing.

For example, lead with a message or pop-up:

Getting started

Find out how 100,000 fellow content marketers successfully use our software

Click here for our quick start guide

You don’t need to keep selling yourself repeatedly, so I would limit this to the first time they log-in to their control panel.

Follow-up communication

Don’t assume that new customers are happily using your product/service, or that dissatisfied customers will let you know.

A typical business hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers


Send new customers an email 24 hours after purchase, asking them if they need any help and/or if they are satisfied with their purchase. Respond to any questions or dissatisfaction instantly.

Physical purchases

All these examples have dealt with digital products and communications, but the concept still applies to tangible products.

Include a note in your customer’s delivery orders about how other customers loved using your product.

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