Perceived Ownership

Imagine this …

You’re at a local flea market when you spot a beautiful armchair in the distance.

You recently redecorated your living room and need a perfect chair to finish the look, so you hurry over to inspect it more closely. 

At first glance, you like it a lot. You run your fingers along the upholstery and it’s soft to the touch.

The vendor smiles and says, “Go ahead. Sit down and see how it fits,” so you do.

The chair is really comfortable. You can already picture yourself curled up by the fireplace reading a book. 

“How much?” you ask.

“$300,” the vendor replies.

That’s a little more than you’d planned to spend. You’re still sitting in the chair contemplating whether or not to buy when another shopper walks up to admire the chair.

“What a lovely armchair,” she says. “Are you taking it?”

“I’m not sure yet,” you say.

“Can I try it out?” she asks, motioning towards the chair.

How do you feel at that moment?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re exploring Perceived Ownership – why we’re more likely to buy a product after we’ve developed a sense of ownership over it.

Let’s get into it.

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The Psychology of Perceived Ownership 🧠

Studies show that when we own something we place a higher value on it than similar products that we don’t own. This is known as the Endowment Effect, which we’ll explore in a future newsletter.

But interestingly, even the perception of ownership has powerful psychological effects. Once we feel a sense of ownership over a product, we don’t want to lose it and are more likely to buy it.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind 🧐

If you want to see perceived ownership in action, go to a daycare and watch how children play with toys.

A little boy is playing with a train. He puts it down and grabs an action figure. But what happens when a girl comes along and picks up the train? The boy screams, “MINE!!” and rushes to take the toy back.

While most of us don’t want to admit it, we’re driven by irrational emotions—just like toddlers. Once we perceive something as our own and get a sense for what owning it might feel like, we don’t want to give it up. This can drive buyers to commit to purchasing a product that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Why do you think Apple encourages shoppers to play with all their products in the showroom? Because they know that playing with a product creates a sense of ownership. And perceived ownership drives sales.

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?

Encourage Touching

If possible, find ways to allow customers to touch and experience your products in real life. The mere act of touching an object drives increased sales. Encouraging touch is known as “haptic marketing” and it’s powerful. You could organize a pop-up shop, rent a booth at a conference, or design packaging that encourages touch.

Let People Try Before They Buy

Consider offering a free trial, giving samples, or offering hassle-free returns. It doesn’t matter if you sell software, make-up, or cars—finding creative ways to let people try your product before buying drives sales. For instance, some car dealerships now offer overnight test drives. They know that spending a few days driving a new car increases perceived ownership, making it harder for buyers to go back to their old car.

Help Them Visualize Owning It

If you can’t get your product in your buyer’s hands, you can still help them to visualize what it would be like to own it. The simplest way to do this is through great copywriting that really paints a picture of what ownership feels like. Or you could go high-tech like Warby Parker, the DTC eyeglasses giant, and use augmented reality to allow shoppers to “virtually try-on” your product.

The Short of It 💥

Encouraging buyers to feel a sense of ownership over your product will increase the chance of them buying it. There are lots of creative ways to action this in your marketing… so grab a coffee and a notebook and start brainstorming.




Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

There are a few ways I can help:

  1. Get explosive clarity about what works with buyers by learning how to conduct 1:1 Clarity Calls (2000+ happy students)
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  3. Book a 1:1 strategy call with Katelyn and get the answers you need to get unstuck and move forward with confidence

Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

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