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Peak-end rule in online shops: Creating positive moments
15.07.19, Haydar Yüce

What do you remember when you think about your last vacation? About the fact that the holiday itself was good or bad? Or at certain moments, so the funniest, most romantic or even the worst moments? The peak-end rule gives a scientifically proven answer to this question. Accordingly, our memories of events are mainly characterized by two moments:


  1. Highs and lows of the event
  2. End of the event

In this article, we want to discuss the opportunities and risks that arise from the findings of psychology's peak-end rule for e-commerce. First, the psychological background and the emergence of the theory will be illuminated to clarify the relevance of the topic.


The Homo Emotionalis

The psychologists Barbara Fredrickson and Daniel Kahneman prove with the peak-end rule that the memories of an event do not spring from a rational, but a highly emotional process. In other words, no matter how positive or negative the event was experienced as a whole, the memory is marked by emotional ups and downs as well as by the end of the event. As proof of their theory, the psychologists carried out an experiment, the result surprised.


The experiment

The selected subjects were twice asked to put their hands in cold water. On the first pass, the subjects placed their hands in 14 ° C (or just cold) water for 60 seconds. They then placed their hands in the water for 90 seconds, the water temperature being 14 ° C for 60 seconds and 15 ° C for 30 seconds. It must be mentioned that a degree of water temperature makes a big difference in our perception.


The result

When asked afterwards which passage they would rather repeat, 70% of the subjects chose the 90-second option. The result is astonishing in that it proves that a rather unpleasant experience (60 seconds in 14 ° C cold water) is masked by a more comfortable end (30 seconds in 15 ° C warm water). Although the subjects held their hands in the water for 30 seconds longer, they combined the experience with more positive memories because of the higher water temperature towards the end. The researchers were able to prove with this experiment that the duration of the event has no influence on the memory, as long as there are positive peaks and highs.


What does the peak-end rule for e-commerce mean?

  1. First of all, the peak-end rule yields a regularity valid for each event: to create positive memories, reduce negative moments, and increase positive moments. Negative moments in e-commerce can be missing products, bad pages, too long loading times and many more. Positive moments in e-commerce are successfully completed orders, product satisfaction, discount promotions and many more.
  2. Negative moments can not be completely excluded. By deliberately used positive height and in particular endpoints, however, these can be virtually hidden, as Kahneman et al. proved with their experiment. An emotionally positive ending in the form of a successfully completed order and ultimately product satisfaction lets the customer quickly forget the negative experiences.
  3. Positive highs and highs lead to a higher purchase probability and to more existing customers, as they connect the online shop with positive memories.
  4. A purchase cancellation is generally a negative end, because the shop visitor not without reason refrained from leaving the cart. As a result, shop owners are taking advantage of the Peak End Rule by recovering outlaws.
  5. If they want to take advantage of the peak-end rule, online stores need to use appropriate tools to create positive moments to take advantage of the effect.


Create positive moments

In e-commerce, there are many tools that help create positive moments for customers. The shop experience of the customer should - in the abstract formulated - be made as pleasant as possible. UX and checkout optimizations are part of the standard repertoire here. This reduces negative moments and increases positive moments.

The recovery of outliers plays a special role in view of the peak-end rule. Shopping cart cancellations will always be there, because no online shop can make it all shop visitors at the same time. But it is important to pick up the visitor where there are problems. And one thing is certain: If someone breaks off their purchase, there is a problem. Leaving the visitor alone with his problems, he will leave the online store and keep the brand in negative memory according to the peak-end rule. How can this be prevented? A suitable tool is an intelligent algorithm that identifies the reason for the demolition and offers automatic assistance or incentives to buy using e-mail retargeting and exit intent pop-ups.


  • A personalized message is - properly used - perceived as a feel-good factor, because it contributes to a personal mood.
  • The buyer may be given a discount code in the message to complete his purchase.
  • The visitor perceives the notification as customer service and feels valued.


  • Ideally, the buyer will become the buyer and complete his order. The customer is satisfied because he received personality, appreciation and possibly a discount.
  • Even if the dropout should decide to cancel his purchase for the time being, you will at least reach a peak and thus influence the memories. The likelihood of the shopper returning to the store is so much higher.

The peak-end rule shows that simple solutions can accomplish great things. Purposefully achieved highlights and above all a positive end of the shop visit pay off - short and long term. Once the brand is well-remembered, the customer is likely to return. Tools such as checkout optimizations and the recovery of buyouts are available to shop operators.

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