The dawn of digital marketing and our obsessive connectivity to devices means we’re in a new era of advertising. Our social media feeds, browsing the news, watching tv, consuming content – nowhere is safe from ads anymore. Not only are we exposed to more advertising than ever, the ads are personalised to us through advanced algorithms and activity tracing online. Kinda creepy, I know.

Why? Because advertising theory claims that a human needs to see something a minimum of seven times before it penetrates their consciousness. So, in the simple old days, that would mean you’d have to go into a store or pass by a window or see a billboard seven times before any messaging would get through to your desire to purchase. But in 2020, technology means we can speed up the process. Advertisers know where you’re at because of your online activity, so they’ll reach you at every touch point possible to show you that product and give it a little nudge into your consciousness. 

By being aware of these neat little tricks from advertisers, you can take control of your ad-clad brain and make mindful decisions based on what you really want – not what companies tell you to want.

1. Remarketing

You know when you’re looking at a sweet sweet top online, and suddenly it pops up everywhere you go? It’s advertised between Instagram stories, in your Facebook feed, even in the side bar of your favourite news sites or blogs. Wow, it must be fate. “This top is everywhere I go,” you say to yourself. Sadly no, it’s not fate, or a sign from the universe. It’s remarketing. All your online activity leaves a digital footprint that advertising targeting technology can use to match ads to things it knows you’re interested in. Watch out for this sneaky trick before you buy something based on what you thought was a coincidence. 

2. Repayment Breakdown

When something is eligible to be purchased with a buy-now-pay-later system (Afterpay, Klarna, LattitudePay, ZipPay OpenPay, etc) often you’ll see a little breakdown next to the price, of what the instalments would be over the repayment period. This is designed to offset any concerns you have on price, by showing you a smaller number. Even if you don’t use BNPL, these numbers will still manipulate you into thinking the product is more affordable than it really is.

Picture this. You see something for $89.99. You think, “wow, that’s a lot, that’s several hours of work, I could buy a week or more of groceries with that.” Then you see “or four payments of $22.49.” Seems more affordable, doesn’t it? You’re now working with the concept of just $22.49 as an initial payment. Suddenly that’s not as many hours of work. Equivalent to less groceries. Just one less cocktail on Saturday night. And boom. Suddenly you’re sold.

3. Free Shipping Thresholds

It’s the oldest trick in the book, but you might not have thought deeply about the thresholds on your favourite sites. Ever bought something extra to get free shipping? That’s the point. Brands will set their threshold strategically, at just over the average price of their most popular products so you can’t get free shipping unless you buy multiple items. They’ll also usually avoid having many low ticket items that you might grab to nudge yourself over the threshold. Their sweet spot is you having to spend way above the threshold because ‘you may as well’ to get free shipping.

A prime example of this is Go-To Skincare. Their free shipping threshold is $59, yet the majority of their single items are around $41-$45. Shipping on orders under $59 is $9, so when you buy your $45 cleanser with $9 shipping, you’re conveniently close to the free shipping threshold, prompting you to buy something else and bump up their average order value. Neat, right? For them.

Watch out for these tactics and try to buy strategically and time your orders so you’re never getting things you don’t need. Or, team up with a friend or colleague and split the order between you, so you get free shipping, but don’t fall for the trap. 

4. Abandoned Cart Emails

Your late night ‘harmless’ browse that sees you adding all your dreamy items to your cart that you later abandon could be subjecting you to sneaky marketing emails. Abandoned cart emails have been known to recover more than one in ten cart abandonments by catching customers off guard and presenting them with products they’ve clicked on directly in their inbox. Often a special offer is included to lure you back to the site. Watch out for these, and only buy if you already intended to.

5. Offering Apple Pay/Google Pay

You might think how great it is that your favourite stores offer Apple Pay or Google Pay. Super convenient, right? Well yes, but that’s the point. By offering these one-touch checkout options, they’re streamlining the purchase process and removing barriers to conversion (aka you completing a purchase). If you don’t have to get up off the couch, that’s one less excuse not to give them your money.

Paying with Apple Pay or Google Pay is fine, but be careful with those chilled evenings on the sofa between the ad breaks of The Bachelor. A quick scroll and an “oh yay they have Apple Pay” can leave you broke at the hands of sneaky ecommerce play. 

How to avoid falling for marketing tactics

Here’s where it gets tricky. Marketing tactics exist because they work. That said, a lot of it relies on your subconscious brain absorbing all these messages and convincing you that you want to buy something. A good way to override this with your logical brain (aside from burning your smartphone and never watching an IG story again *gasps*) is to implement a multi-step consideration process that works for you. Whether that’s waiting 48 hours before you buy something, or writing a pro/con list or journaling about why you want it or coming up with 5 ways to wear it or 5 compelling reasons why it’ll improve your life. Whatever it is, set a process that you can easily replicate every time you consider buying something.

Read next: 6 Tips to Stop Impulse Spending


How Marketing Tricks You Into Spending More