affiliate & partnership marketing

Consumer Psychology and Affiliate Marketing: Insights for Marketers

Kate Wareham

3 July 2024

Crack the consumer code! Learn how to leverage consumer psychology to boost your affiliate marketing campaigns with these powerful insights.

As Head of Client Services & Partnership at GrowthOps Performance, I work with clients to create optimal media campaigns by pushing out their best offers and ensuring these are visible to potential customers at the most relevant time. One of the many things I’ve learned in my role is that there is a key connection between consumer psychology and affiliate marketing, which happen to be two of my passions.

The importance of consumer psychology

As a potential customer myself, I understand that we are complex beings with differing needs, emotions, and distractions. However, do we ever really consider this in shaping our marketing briefs?

Do we really consider how a potential customer’s state of mind can affect their buying decision? Or how consumers go about selecting between competing brands, and what factors drive them to choose one brand over another? Or even how consumers are influenced by their culture and immediate environment? This list of considerations can go on and on.

There is a field of psychology dedicated to questions like these. Aptly called consumer psychology, it is defined as the study of human behavior, including buying patterns, customs, and preferences, in relation to consumer products, including reactions and preferences to advertising, packaging, and marketing of those products.

As affiliate marketers, we should all be more aware of this field. So, join me and explore this area and its importance further. Let’s dive right in!

Understanding the buyer persona: To purchase or not to purchase?

Psychological factors, such as motivation, drive consumer action. A person’s attitude to a brand can be described as a “link between the brand and a purchase motivation”. This motivation can be positive (e.g. to achieve a reward like sensory gratification) or, conversely, a negative motivation (e.g. to avoid pain).

In the 1940s, a US psychologist named Abraham Maslow developed a basic hierarchical model to describe five distinct levels of human needs that he identified based on importance. Based on his model, needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to higher ones.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is relevant to affiliate marketing and can provide insights into shaping a buyer’s personas, providing a focal point that makes sense of a customer's motivations. It can assist in aligning each quality identified with the ideal consumer with a specific need, making for a more realistic and, therefore, more effective buyer persona.

A closer look at the purchase decision-making process

A consumer’s motivation to search for information and engage in the purchase decision-making process is called “involvement.” A consumer’s level of involvement depends on factors such as product category, the product's social visibility, the perceived risk of negative consequences in the event of a poor decision, and the consumer’s prior experience.

“High involvement” occurs when psycho-social risks are perceived to be relatively high. Meanwhile, when purchase decisions are classified as “low involvement,” consumers suffer a small psycho-social loss if they make a poor decision.

Psychological tactics for more efficient media planning

In addition to considering consumer psychology when focusing on the customer, we can use psychological tactics to shape our media planning. As a good marketer, you will likely be practicing many of the following already; but let’s expand on these in the context of psychological responses:


Social proof can be a powerful motivator for people to act. Other people’s opinions influence our decisions, so let us use testimonials to lean into this fact.


We naturally feel obligated to give back if someone does something for us. Let’s consider the Reciprocal Principle: If readers see what other benefits they can get by interacting with your client’s brand content, they are more likely to purchase the products shared/promoted to them.


Establishing yourself as an authority in your niche can help build trust with your audience — a key positioning for your brand.


The placement of your client’s ads and the look and feel of the website can affect whether your potential customers will click your links.


Creating a sense of urgency can help drive conversions. We all know from our own experiences that people don’t want FOMO. If an exclusive voucher is only available for a short period of time, this can work to create this exact feeling of potentially missing out. So, let’s weave this into your client’s media plans.

The Paradox of Choice

The number of products on offer can easily overwhelm us. We can remove this “paradox of choice” by keeping the consumer journey as simple as possible.

The Authority Principle

This states that a given person will follow others in the same group. Influencers can help us tap into this principle.

In a nutshell, the consumer is a complicated being with numerous psychological factors shaping their purchase decision. We can, however, use consumer psychology to weave in tactics to improve our overall marketing strategy, creating more powerful media plans for our clients.

If I have got you thinking, please reach out to GrowthOps Performance to discuss how we could potentially work together!

Let’s talk about doing something amazing together.

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