Sex and Shopping: 5 insights for online shop owners

by Mélissa Rouet, 20.12.17

Let’s start off by pointing out that the title of this article has 3 words in it: Sex AND Shopping. Although it is tempting to skip it, the “and” is quite an important word for what we are going to talk about today. This article aims at honoring one of our favorite speakers, Graham Jones, who made a mind-blowing presentation at the Commerce Summit in Hamburg. Graham is a psychologist who specializes in Internet use and behavior. Here he explains how shopping and sex are related and how to take advantage of this perspective to succeed online.

What we need to know about sex to understand shopping

Everything that will be said in this article will be based on this affirmation: All human beings want to have sex.

A part of the human brain makes all of us want to have sex, and that’s how we exist. The chemicals that makes us want to have sex are produced in response to messages, at a speed that we are not even aware of. In this sense, we are very close to the animal world:

Sex and shopping - customer psychology

When the female baboon is ready for reproduction, once a year, her face becomes red. The male’s brain reacts to this message by producing the desire chemical. In some ways, humans also send this type of messages.

Yet, the “desire chemicals” that stimulate us to have sex are the same chemicals that are produced in the brain when somebody want to buy something.

In Graham Jones’ words:

“I’ve got news for you, if you run a shop, if you are a retailer: those chemicals are the same chemicals that are produced when somebody wants to buy a product from you!”

Studies show that it takes 0.56 seconds for your customer to make a buying decision in a shop. This happens so quickly that it doesn’t reach our consciousness before 0,7 seconds. It means that people make buying decisions before even knowing what they are looking at. The brain is programmed to first see exactly what it wants to see.

If you are a retailer, an online merchant, and you want to sell more, you need to show people what they want to see, and you want them to be producing this “desire chemical”.

Now that the catchy title of this article has been explained, let’s go through the 5 practical steps you can implement in your online shop.

5 steps to CLICK with your customers


Psychological convenience is when customers land on your online shop, and they can immediately see what they want to see and do what they want to do. It is about making it so easy for people, that they won’t need to think.

In brick and mortar shops, you can create an emotional experience for the customer, you can control the environment, the temperature, the lighting, the floor etc. On the other hand, in an online shop, this is much more difficult. In fact, 1/3 of all internet shopping is done while customers are sitting on the toilet! That’s not really an environment you can control.

Therefore, the best thing that we have left to do is to deliver precisely what customers want.

Let’s take an example: If you are used to drive your car, you can also drive your neighbor’s car or a rental car, no matter the brand or the model. Now, would you know how to drive a digger, with many buttons and no wheel?

The example of the car illustrates psychological convenience because all cars work the same, so everyone can drive them. The problem with many online shops is that they are not psychologically convenient. If your online shop works like most online shops, people can easily navigate through it. If not, they feel as embarrassed as if they were asked to drive digger instead of a car.

To be convenient, every online shop should follow common standards. Considering that Amazon is the leader for online shopping today, like it or not, Amazon is setting standards.

For example, on Amazon, customers use the search bar to find the product they want, and they are used to see the basket on the top right of the page. If you want to make it easy for people to use your shop, you must stick with their habits.

Sex and shopping - customer psychology

Example from the ePages shop Royal Decorations


Likeability is about how to make customers like your shop. Once again, the world of sex can provide meaningful comparisons. For example, when people are dating, they are trying to attract each other with these “desire chemicals” that we mentioned earlier. Let’s observe what happens if the man starts talking about himself for hours: sooner or later, he will lose the attention of his date. Instead, if the man starts to show interest in this person, asking about her, showing that he cares, she will probably start producing these chemicals.

Back to the online shopping context, you want to show your customers that you love them in a fraction of a second. By showing that you are interested in them, you will make your shop more likeable. Talking about your business and your great products is not the most effective way to generate sales… Your customers care about what they have come to get!

To put this into practice, pictures are very useful when it comes to show your target customers that you like them. On this example from, we can see the two types of people that the brand is interested in. People who identify with the characters on the picture will know in less than a second that this shop is selling products that are made for them, and this is a trigger for the “desire chemicals” to be produced.

Sex and shopping - customer psychology

Example from


In many situations in life, one part of the brain desires something, while the other one is focusing on the risk that it may induce.

While shopping, the temptation to get a product can be very strong, and some elements in the shop can either increase the perception of risk or reduce it and lead to a purchase.

Detailed information can be used to reduce risk. All details concerning a product, its characteristics and features, might not always be read entirely, but their presence helps bringing confidence to the customer.

Part of our brain is also programmed to think that fresh information is safer. Having your online shop up to date and regularly creating new content is also an important aspect to keep attracting clients. Sex and shopping - customer psychology


Customization is already all over the internet and it keeps growing as a major trend. People’s social accounts, Facebook, LinkedIn, are all fully customized. Customers now expect these personal experiences on online platforms.

Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, and CEO of Amazon based its services according to this vision:

“If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store; we should have 4.5 million stores. “

Today, when you enter your Amazon account, you can see all the product suggestions that are made just for you. Every client account on Amazon is unique. And when something is about us, when it looks like it has been made just for us, something happens to the chemicals in our brain: it makes us want it even more.

You can give your customers a similar feeling by making your target group very obvious. For example, if your online shop sells Skateboards, make sure to customize all details in your shop to appeal specifically to skateboarders.


The last key to an attractive online shop is your expert image. The more knowledge you have in your field, in your products and services, the more you will get trusted. Of course, you are an expert in your business, but how much do you demonstrate and display your knowledge?

The best practice for online businesses to attract customers thanks to their authority in the industry is called content strategy. High quality materials that add knowledge value to your business will make your sales go up.

Asos is a great example of a fashion shop that became a fashion expert. When Asos launched a blog, they saw their sales going up, as they were reducing the perception or risk with quality information. Next, when they launched the Asos magazine, their sales went up even further. Today, Asos employs more fashion journalists than the biggest fashion magazine house in the world. They publish over a hundred articles per day. People trust them massively, and that’s why they are a billion and a half company.

Sex and shopping - customer psychology

Graham Jones’ presentation at the Commerce Summit : Asos’ sales results according to their content strategy.

In the end, it all CLICKS

If your online shop is convenient, if you show that you love your customers and that you care about them, if you provide them with plenty of information, customize their experience and share valuable knowledge with them, there will be nothing stopping them from producing the precious chemicals that create desire. By following these 5 steps, you click with your customers who, in turn, will fall in love with you.

All credits go to Graham Jones who shared this fascinating presentation with us, ePages merchants ePages partners and the ePages team at the Commerce Summit in Hamburg.

Watch the full presentation here:

Graham Jones is a psychologist who specializes in Internet use and behavior. As a result, he helps to understand customers behavior, so companies can engage with them better and increase their revenues. He does this with consultancy, seminars, workshops, webinars, mastermind groups and masterclasses. He is also an award-winning writer having written 29 books since he started his own business back in 1984. You can find him at

About the author

was Junior Marketing Manager at the ePages office in Barcelona.

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