6 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance in Shopper Marketing

6 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance in Shopper Marketing

90% of shoppers have wanted to return at least one item, but kept it anyway – this is a prime example of cognitive dissonance.  

The concept of cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon where a person feels their behavior, in this case the purchase, does not align with their beliefs, values, or standards.  

Post-purchase cognitive dissonance not only has an effect on return rates, but can also damage the brand’s overall relationship with the consumer.  

Reducing dissonance in the post purchase cognitive journey is essential in improving customer satisfaction and retention which ultimately drives revenue generation.  

Understanding Cognitive Dissonance in Shopper Marketing 

As a brand, you never want your customer to contemplate if they made the right choice when purchasing your product. The unsettling feeling of cognitive dissonance can plague a consumer’s mind even immediately after the purchase has been completed.  

When it comes to shopper marketing, one of the main focuses is on influencing in-moment decisions, which is reducing dissonance becomes most critical in shopper marketing.  

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During the customer purchase journey, there is a range of not very involved to highly involved customers when it comes to purchase intent. Those who are not very involved, do little research and are more than likely making impulse purchases. Those who are highly involved, are comparing products and making planned decisions, which causes them to experience more cognitive dissonance when they feel they have made the wrong decision. 

In the digital shopping world, it is more difficult to gauge purchase intent as brands do not have the luxury of physically seeing a shopper’s body language or being able to approach them with questions.  

The ability to accurately assess buyer intent and strategically act on it, can increase a brand’s in-store conversions by up to 15% and online sales by up to 10%.  To reduce post purchase cognitive dissonance – brands are leveraging AI to measure and acquire valuable insights into their target audience’s level of purchase intent. Brands using AI are enhancing visibility into purchase intent with accuracy of more than 80% 

Going beyond buyer intent, there are numerous ways AI can be utilized to decrease cognitive dissonance. Other ways AI can be used is to: 

  • Track consumer behavior 
  • Evaluate post-purchase patterns 
  • Analyze customer feedback to evaluate commonalities 

 By using AI, brands can strategize ways to reduce cognitive dissonance and determine whether it is the product itself or if it was due to another factor in the buyer’s journey.  

The Impact of Cognitive Dissonance on Customer Behavior 

The aftermath of cognitive dissonance not only has immediate effects on the post purchase cognitive journey, but can have lasting, long-term effects that hurts a brand even further in the future.  

Let's dive into the importance of understanding cognitive dissonance and how it can negatively impact customer behavior and your organization.  

#1. Decrease in Sales and Loss in Revenue 

One of the most direct ways to measure the impact of cognitive dissonance is through returns. As discussed earlier, returns reduce revenue, but on the bright side it gives brands the opportunity for redemption by providing a seamless return experience for their customers. For CPG brands that work with third party retailers, that might not always be the case as they may have little to no control over the return process for that specific vendor.  

#2. Customer Satisfaction and Brand Reputation  

When a customer is unsatisfied with their purchase, there may be continued consequences. The short-term impact is the return, loss in sales, and potential risk of a bad customer review. In the long-game, a bad review can deter other consumers from future purchases, along with the possibility that the consumer that shared the negative review, will not purchase from the brand again and may also verbally encourage others to do the same.  

#3. Customer Loyalty and Retention 

There is no surprise that customer satisfaction ultimately impacts loyalty and retention. To minimize dissonance and the chances of losing loyal customers, brands should be transparent and provide accurate information to level set expectations. Outside of setting realistic expectations and not over embellishing your customer marketing, ensuring a flawless customer purchase journey from pre-purchase to check out to delivery is essential for building customer loyalty and retaining patrons.                             

6 Actionable Ways to Reduce Dissonance 

Now, after understanding the impact of cognitive dissonance and how it affects consumer behavior is weighing heavily on your mind, let’s move on to actionable ways you can reduce dissonance throughout the customer journey.  

Strategy #1. Developing Personalized Marketing Campaigns  

By performing market research and truly understanding your ideal customer persona you can create customized marketing campaigns that reach and engage your target audience. Segmenting and creating personalized campaigns will help reduce the chance of reaching the wrong persona that may experience post-purchase cognitive dissonance because they were not the intended audience. 

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Strategy #2. Craft Clear, Consistent Brand and Product Messaging 

Setting realistic expectations for consumers is crucial for reducing cognitive dissonance. Whether it is your product description, packaging, or marketing materials - the way you present your product and brand to the world is influential. While exaggerating the value or benefits of your product may boost sales temporarily, not being transparent can result in a loss of sales and customers, ultimately damaging your relationship with your audience and brand reputation.  

Strategy #3. Implement Customer Feedback 

Although you may have done everything you could, you must remember the saying “the customer is always right”. By conducting surveys, analyzing reviews, and gathering customer feedback you can discover key areas for improvement. If the same product is getting returned, you can ask the customer “why are you returning this product” in your return process to learn whether it was misleading marketing or an issue with the product and address those concerns head on to minimize dissonance in the future.  

Strategy #4. Incorporate Technology with Predictive Analytics  

Technology can help automate and improve the analysis on consumer behavior throughout the customer journey – providing actionable, real-time strategies that decrease dissonance from pre to post purchase. Advanced technology uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to retain knowledge from previous results to provide more accurate forecasting of future outcomes, along with data-driven recommendations. 

Strategy #5. Post Purchase Support and Excellent Customer Service 

If a customer is experiencing buyer’s remorse is unhappy with their purchase, brands that do not allow for exchanges or returns can amplify the dissatisfaction that customer is feeling. By having flexibility in your return policy with an easy, simple return process, and excellent customer support, you can recover and rebuild customer satisfaction.  

Strategy #6. Product Consistency 

This strategy is especially significant for repeat customers, who at one point may have loved a product and even recommended it to a friend, but then ordered that same product and what they received was not up to par with the expectations that were set from their first experience. Ensuring that the product maintains the same standards from manufacturing to delivery is vitally important. If the product is to change, it is essential to communicate that with your audience to set clear expectations to reduce the risk of dissonance.  

How to Effectively Implement Strategies 

To successfully implement the strategies mentioned, you must determine the main cause of dissonance during your customer’s purchase journey and prioritize your focus to implement one of these strategies at a time for maximum results.  

Depending on your priorities, here are a few ways you can effectively implement the strategies to reduce cognitive dissonance:  

  • Do your market research to define your audience  
  • Audit your current brand and product messaging for consistency and refine to set clear expectations  
  • Conduct surveys and examine reviews to analyze customer feedback and incorporate it when applicable 
  • Find gaps or limitations in your data visibility and evaluate solutions that will improve data-driven insights 
  • Explore ways to improve your return policy, process, and customer service 

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While each of the strategies mentioned can be actioned almost immediately, each of the strategies can be enhanced with the use of AI. It is important to continuously monitor and adapt each of these strategies to meet the unique demands of your audience.  

AI can help save time spent observing and measuring purchase intent, consumer behavior, and the various actions throughout the customer journey to track patterns and provide recommendations. There are infinite ways AI can be used to improve the customer experience to reduce dissonance, whether it is as a chatbot that improves customer service or utilized to send automated customer feedback surveys. 


Customers that experience dissonance are 5 times more likely to switch brands. Dissonance can lead to returns, a decrease in sales, and damage your brand perception with your audience. Not only may you lose unsatisfied customers, those individuals can negatively impact your brand’s reputation and discourage other consumers from purchasing your product in the future.  

Reducing cognitive dissonance throughout the customer journey is crucial for increasing engagement, loyalty, and retention. Brands that have strong emotional connections with their audience see improved loyalty rates of as much as 17%. Businesses have up to a 70% chance of selling to an existing customer, while that number drops significantly to 5 to 20% for new customers. On average, repeat customers spend 67% more than a new customer, so by reducing dissonance you are most likely going to increase revenue.  

Decreasing dissonance is essential for the growth and success of your brand - implement these strategies to reduce cognitive dissonance and begin to see an uptick in your revenue, customer relationships, and retention. 

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