Buy it NOW

By BenAmbridge


  • Almost 50% of people who intend to make a purchase from a website don’t, that’s a lot of lost revenue.
  • Find out the key triggers that will help consumers complete their purchase now.

You really should get to the gym more often, right?

In fact, when you signed up for that expensive membership, you planned to go pretty much every day, didn’t you? But somehow, although – at the start of the week – you fully intend to put in at least three decent sessions, by the time Friday rolls around, it often turns out that you haven’t been at all.

If this scenario sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In fact, it’s so common that psychologists have a name for it: the ‘intention-behaviour’ gap. A recent analysis of this phenomenon1 put the intention-behaviour gap at almost 50%: Half of people who fully intend to perform a behaviour – in this case, taking physical exercise – for whatever reason do not. And it’s not just exercise; the intention-behaviour gap applies to practising a musical instrument, cleaning and tidying, donating to charity, and just about anything that we do (or – just as often – ‘don’t’ do).

The intention-behaviour gap presents an all-too-real problem for conversion optimisation: Roughly half of the people who visit your site fully intending to make a purchase (or to sign up for your newsletter, or whatever else you would like them to do) leave without doing so.

But don’t worry; help is on hand in the form of Stanford Professor BJ Fogg’s ‘Fogg Behaviour Model’ (FBM)2. According to the FBM, three things are required for a particular behaviour to occur: ‘motivation’, ‘ability’, and a ‘trigger’. If any of these things are missing, the behaviour won’t occur. Let’s talk through each of these for the example of a customer intending to make a purchase from your site.



Of course, the customer has to ‘want’ to buy from you. But Fogg points out that motivation can come in many different forms. The most straightforward is ‘pleasure’; the customer thinks he or she will enjoy whatever you’re selling. In many cases, however, customers may be more motivated by ‘hope’> (e.g., when joining a dating site) or ‘fear’ (e.g., when buying insurance). ‘Social acceptance’ (or its flip side, ‘fear of rejection’) can also be a powerful motivator: As examples such as Facebook and Twitter show, if everyone else is signed up, people fear missing out if they don’t.  Do you know which of these motivators are key for your potential customers?


Motivation on its own is not enough; the customer also needs to be ‘able’ to buy from you. Fogg discusses three aspects of ability that are particularly relevant for us: ‘money, time<‘ and ‘physical effort’. The relative importance of these depends not only on your business, but also on your typical customer. If she or she is typically money-rich time-poor, then discounts won’t have any effect on ability to buy; you would be better off highlighting the time-saving aspects of your product. But if he or she tends to be time-rich money-poor, then discounts could be key (even if they require jumping through a few hoops, such as clicking through a series of paid adverts). It should go without saying that ‘physical effort’ is frequently a barrier to conversions. However, may sites still require a lengthy sign-up process (sometimes even requiring email verification) just to make a purchase. But Fogg emphasises that motivation and ability are a trade-off. If you make it in any way difficult to buy from you, then all but the most highly motivated will give up.


Fogg’s key insight is that motivation and ability alone are not enough. After all, you wanted to go to the gym, and you easily ‘could’ have; so why didn’t you? Generally, what is missing in these cases is a trigger; something (or someone) saying “go to the gym ‘right’ ‘now’”. Fogg discusses three types of trigger. ‘Sparks’ highlight whatever motivational factor is most relevant for your business. To return to the example of a dating site, where the key motivator is hope, a suitable spark might be a pop-up highlighting the number of members who found a partner within a month, and inviting visitors to “join them now”. On the other hand, if you have identified your key motivator as fear of missing out on a bargain, a popup warning “only X left at this price” is likely to be more effective. ‘Facilitators’ make the target behaviour easy to do; Amazon’s “Buy now with 1-Click®” button being perhaps the most famous example. Finally, ‘signals’ work best when customers are already high on both motivation and ability, but simply haven’t got around to completing their purchase. This could be as simple as a popup “Finished shopping? Check out now” button or an abandoned-cart email.

Do you know the key ‘motivators’, barriers to ‘ability’ and ‘triggers’ for your site? If not, we at Endless Gain can help you find out. So consider this your trigger to get in touch ‘right now’.

1 How big is the physical activity intention-behaviour gap?

2 Fogg Behavior Model

Hi, I’m Ben. I’m a Reader in Psychology at the University of Liverpool and I lead consumer psychology at Endless Gain. I’m interested in how research findings from academic psychology can be applied in our everyday lives as consumers. And, importantly how psychology plays an influential role in ecommerce. I write a weekly psychology column for The Observer, and my book Psy-Q: You Know Your IQ - Now Test Your Psychological Intelligence has been translated into 15 languages. Check out my TED talk, "Ten Myths about Psychology, Debunked".

Our Clients