Creating Positive Moments: Peak-End Rule in Online Shops

Positive Moments in Online Shopping
Author: Haydar Yuece // 6min

Online retailers who want to win existing customers should adopt the insights from psychology. The peak-end rule, which comes from psychology, also provides answers to how online shops retain customers. Quite simply – with positive moments in the shopping experience. In this article, we want to look at the opportunities and risks that arise for e-commerce from the findings of the peak-end rule.

Things We Remember

What do you remember when you think about your last holiday? That the holiday itself was good or bad? Or of certain moments, i.e. the most fun, the most romantic or the worst? The peak-end rule provides a scientifically proven answer to this question. According to this rule, our memories of events are primarily shaped by two moments: The high and low points of the event and the end of the event.

positive moment ecommerce peak end

The Homo Emotionalis

The psychologists Barbara Fredrickson and Daniel Kahneman prove with the peak-end rule that the memories of an event do not arise from a rational but from a highly emotional process. In other words, no matter how positively or negatively the event was experienced overall, the memory is shaped by emotional highs and lows as well as by the end of the event. As proof of their theory, the psychologists conducted an experiment whose results were surprising.


The Experiment

The selected subjects were asked twice to place their hands in cold water. In the first run, the subjects placed their hands in 14°C (or cold) water for 60 seconds. Then they placed their hands in water for 90 seconds, with the water temperature being 14°C for 60 seconds and 15°C for 30 seconds. It must be mentioned that one degree of water temperature makes a big difference in our perception.


The Result

When asked afterwards which pass they would prefer to repeat, 70% of the subjects chose the 90-second option. The result is surprising in that it proves that a rather unpleasant experience (60 seconds in 14°C cold water) is cancelled out by a more pleasant ending (30 seconds in 15°C warm water). Although the subjects kept their hands in the water for 30 seconds longer, they associated the experience with more positive memories because of the higher water temperature towards the end. With this experiment, the researchers were able to prove that the duration of the event has no influence on the memory as long as there are positive high and low points.

The Meaning of Peak-End Rule for E-Commerce

  • First of all, the peak-end rule results in a law that applies to every event: If you want to create positive memories, negative moments should be reduced and positive moments increased. Negative moments in e-commerce can be missing products, faulty pages, too long loading times and many more. Positive moments in e-commerce are successfully completed orders, product satisfaction, discount promotions and many more.
  • Negative moments cannot be completely excluded. However, through the targeted use of positive high points and especially end points, these can be virtually faded out, as Kahneman et al. proved with their experiment. An emotionally positive ending in the form of a successfully completed order and ultimately product satisfaction makes the customer quickly forget the negative experiences.
  • Positive high points and endings lead to a higher purchase probability and to more existing customers, as they associate the online shop with positive memories.
  • A shopping cart abandonment is generally a negative ending, as the shop visitor does not refrain from leaving the shopping cart without a reason. As a result, shop operators make use of the effect of the peak-end rule to win back abandoned customers.
  • If they want to make use of the peak-end rule, online shops must resort to suitable tools to create positive moments in order to benefit from the effect.

Learn how to noticeably reduce shopping cart abandonments in the shopping cart abandonment guide.

Creating Positive Moments

In e-commerce, there are numerous tools that help create positive moments for customers. The customer’s shop experience should – to put it abstractly – be made as pleasant as possible. UX and checkout optimisations are part of the standard repertoire here. This reduces negative moments and increases positive moments.

The recovery of shopping cart abandonment takes on a special role with regard to the peak-end rule. There will always be shopping cart abandonments, because no online shop can please 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 abandons their purchase, there is a problem. If you leave the visitor alone with his problems, he will leave the online shop and, according to the peak-end rule, keep the brand in negative memory. So how can this be prevented? A suitable tool is an intelligent algorithm that identifies the reason for abandonment and offers automatic assistance or purchase incentives with the help of email retargeting and exit intent pop-ups.



  • A personalised message – used correctly – is perceived as a feel-good factor because it contributes to a personal mood.
  • The abandoned shopper may be given a discount code in the message so that they complete their purchase after all.
  • The visitor perceives the notification as customer service and feels valued.



  • Ideally, the abandoner becomes a buyer and completes their order. The customer is satisfied because they received personality, appreciation and possibly a discount.
  • Even if the purchase abandoner decides to abandon their purchase for the time being, you at least create a climax and influence the memories. The likelihood that the abandoner will return to the shop is immensely higher.

The peak-end rule shows: Great things can be achieved with simple solutions. Targeted highlights and above all a positive end to the shop visit pay off – in the short and long term. Once the brand is well remembered, the customer is very likely to return. Tools such as checkout optimisations and the recovery of purchase dropouts are available to shop operators for this purpose.

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