What is the Post Purchase Cognitive Dissonance?

What is the Post Purchase Cognitive Dissonance?

Published on: June 15, 2020

Post-purchase cognitive dissonance refers to the state of mind that a customer may experience that is related to a prior purchase. It is a widespread occurrence where a customer makes a purchase and begins to regret it thereafter. A simple example is where someone has decided to purchase a clothing item but then begins to think that the price was too high after the purchase is completed.

The reasons for this feeling can vary, as both internal and external influences play a part. However, the defining factor is the sense of dissatisfaction or unease surrounding the purchase.

eCommerce and Customer Satisfaction

eCommerce and DTC brands are more conducive to post-purchase cognitive dissonance than other brands.

Though the product plays a big part, the entire online shopping experience can evoke feelings of regret in a customer. When it comes to online shopping, the customer’s perceptions are based on the look, feel, and usability of the website. There are no friendly staff members to create a lasting memory for the customer. It’s all about the brand experience.

Therefore, what a consumer goes through is mainly a purchase, as opposed to an entire positive customer experience. Sadly, this means that most customers have a rough time after they have decided to commit to a purchase.The waiting period is one of the biggest culprits here. In most cases, there is radio silence from the vendor during this time. Additionally, dealing with late packages or those that get lost in transition can be a nightmare. This wouldn’t be so bad if online brands had superb customer service. Instead, there are bots used, customer service disparities, and less than efficient contingency systems that serve to increase frustration levels.

What Causes the Post Purchase Cognitive Dissonance

As stated before, both external and internal factors have a part to play in a customer’s having post-purchase cognitive dissonance. Here are some of the reasons that it happens:

  • Low quality – This is one of the most common reasons. What is being spoken to here is both the quality of the core product or service and any other associated service factors. For example, if a pair of shoes were purchased online, the quality refers to all combined parameters: the UX of the eCommerce itself, the delivery service experience, vendor communication, and return/exchange procedures.

  • Expectations – Sometimes, a product doesn’t meet the expectations of the customer. While there are cases in which the buyers have unrealistic expectations, there are usually identifiable reasons for what a customer may imagine before receiving a product. Some of these include third party descriptions, advertisements, past experiences, etc.

  • Impulses – This is yet another one of the most common reasons for the post-purchase dissonance. Such an occurrence is almost always guaranteed when misinformed purchases made on the fly. You may find that the purchase is made because something seems temporarily appealing, or there was not enough research put into the process on the customer’s end.

Post Purchase Cognitive Dissonance Reduction

Thankfully, all is not lost when a customer begins to experience these feelings. In fact, eCommerce and DTC brands can put several changes in place to ensure that a customer feels satisfied or even overjoyed after the purchase and receipt processes are over. A product or a service provider should always consider what can be done in this regard as it creates customer advocates and improves the brand image. Here is a brief look at some of the options that a brand can use.

  • Varied delivery options combined with improved punctuality

  • Designing online storefronts with user-friendliness in mind

  • Giving customers an outlet to voice their concerns and feedback

  • Implement a service recovery process


Post-purchase cognitive dissonance is a reality that can profoundly affect customers, which leads them to return and to exchange items because of purchase regrets. eCommerce brands are more susceptible to this, based on their dissociated nature of business. While there are many reasons that a customer can experience these feelings, a business can take the initiative to improve the customer experience by making some changes.

A comprehensive look at some of the actions that can be taken to reduce the dissonance in customers is available here.

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