Reciprocity Decay

Today’s newsletter is sponsored by Hotjar

Imagine this…

You’ve decided to upgrade your bedroom furniture. You want to go with a new modern style.

After pursuing the interwebs, you find the perfect bedframe to match your new aesthetic.

It takes one week to get delivered. The company offers a free white glove service to put it together for you.

In less than an hour, your bedframe is assembled.

You walk into your bedroom to check it out and find the delivery team left a small bouquet of flowers on the bed.

There’s a note that says, “We’re grateful to have you as a customer. Enjoy your new bed!”

You’re absolutely delighted.

Three months later, you get a ping in your inbox. It’s from the furniture company. They’re asking you to leave a review for the bedframe.

“Of course,” you think, “I just don’t have time right now.”

A few days go by. Then a few weeks. You still haven’t left your review.

Why, after such a positive experience, aren’t you in a hurry to leave your review?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re taking a look at Reciprocity Decay—why we feel less obligated to return a favor after considerable time has passed since we received it.

Let’s get into it…

🔍 Get to the ‘why’ behind your customers ‘really’ buy 🔎


In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, understanding your customers throughout their entire journey is more crucial than ever.​

Hotjar helps you bridge the gap between what your customers do and why, empowering you to create digital experiences that truly resonate with them.

Remember, your customers are more than just a dot on a chart!

The Psychology of Reciprocity Decay 🧠

How long do we feel obligated to return a favor?

In 2018, researchers wanted to see if Reciprocity has an expiration date.

They tracked the number of donations patients made to the hospital they received care at.

Researchers found that the sooner the hospital asked for a donation after a patient’s visit, the more likely they were to get it.

A 30-day delay between the medical care and the donation request decreased the likelihood of the patient donating by 30%.

That means that if you do something nice for someone today… hoping that you’ll reap the rewards in several months when you actually need their help…

You may be disappointed. Our urge to reciprocate decays over time.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind🧐

The most impactful time to ask buyers for something is while they’re feeling the heightened emotion associated with the experience.

You already know that you shouldn’t ask for a review 6 months after they’ve gotten your product.

In 6 months, your buyers have come down from their initial high, and the purchase doesn’t seem as significant.

You need to time your ask when they’re feeling peak gratitude. ⏰

How To Apply This 🤑

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

Sequence your ask strategically to tap into the buyer’s bias for action

Your buyers prefer to do something over nothing.

Their Action Bias is the perfect way to time your request.

While they’re feeling the high of taking a previous action (opting in, following you, purchasing something), ask them to take another action.

Demand Curve sends free marketing strategies to its newsletter subscribers. (Like Why We Buy) their newsletter is a product they’re always wanting to improve.

They need reader feedback to know if they’re on track or off track.

Demand Curve times their ask for newsletter feedback at the very end of each issue—immediately after they’ve delivered value.

Why at the end? Because their readers are in the productive mode of reading Demand Curve’s newsletter.

They’re more likely to take Demand Curve up on their ask because the action of rating supports their current bias towards action.

Time your asks to follow-up action for the highest chance of getting your favor returned.

Remind buyers how you helped them

Don’t assume your buyers remember the emotion they had when they started using your products or had a positive experience with your brand.

Before you ask them to sign up for your newsletter, buy your products, or leave a review, remind them what it felt like when they received the value of your product.

Reverse engineer the trigger event that brought them to your website or made them resonate with your tweet.

Remind them of the emotions associated with that trigger event and the solution you provided.

Then, hit them with your ask.

Make your requests smaller the further out they are from the initial favor

The time for your “big ask” is right after you’ve done a BIG favor for your buyers or audience.

The furniture company should have timed their ask for a review right after they left your house.

You would have been in Reciprocity mode and couldn’t have imagined not leaving a positive review.

Think of a smaller ask if you’ve waited too long to ask for your favor in return.

Instead of leaving a review, the furniture company could have asked you to just click on a premade rating (similar to Demand Curve’s above).

Make your request to return the favor smaller and easier the more time that passes between your request and the favor.

The Short of It 💥

Your buyers will feel less obligated to return a favor as time goes on.

That amazing piece of content that helped them get out of a rut?

They’ll forget about it after the next viral tweet hits their newsfeed.

Plan asks for the highest chance of your audience and buyers returning the favor.

Until next time, happy selling. 




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 (3200+ happy students)
  2. Learn how to mine online reviews from real buyers to generate ideas and copy that converts (500+ happy students)
  3. Book a 1:1 strategy call with Katelyn and get the answers you need to get unstuck and move forward with confidence
  4. Apply to sponsor an upcoming issue of Why We Buy (next opening in July)

Thank you to our featured sponsor

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.

Related Posts

Pratfall Effect

Pratfall Effect

Let’s explore the Pratfall Effect—why imperfections can actually make people like you (or your brand) more.



Let’s explore Gong—the company that harnessed customer interactions to become the undisputed leader in revenue intelligence.

Generation Effect

Generation Effect

Let’s explore the Generation Effect—why we remember something more if we put effort into generating it.



Let’s explore Mascots—why we love and buy from brands that use mascots.

Nostalgia Effect

Nostalgia Effect

Let’s explore the Nostalgia Effect—why we spend more when we remember our past.

Squatty Potty

Squatty Potty

Let’s explore Squatty Potty—the company that became #1 at helping people go #2.

Mental Accounting

Mental Accounting

Let’s explore mental accounting—why we treat money differently based on how we label it.

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat

Let’s explore Beyond Meat—a brainy business that flipped the entire meat industry on its head…





Wanna get inside your buyer’s head? Join our newsletter and get one customer psychology tip delivered straight to your inbox each week. It’s like a 2-min workout for your brain.

You're in. Giddy up! 🤠

Become the go-to customer EXPERT

If you can figure out what makes people tick, click and buy, you can make bank

We’re often asked if we offer a certification program teaching our in-depth research methods. The answer is… not yet. But we’re working on it.

Want first dibs when we launch our new certification program? Jump on the waitlist.

You're in. Giddy up 🤠


Wanna get inside your buyer’s head? Join our newsletter and get one buyer psychology tip delivered to your inbox each week. It’s like a 2-min workout for your brain.

You're in!


If you can figure out what makes people tick, click and buy, you can make big $$$. We're working on a new research certification program. Want first dibs when we launch it? Hop on the waitlist.

You're in!


Wanna get the buyer insights you need from key stakeholders (and look like a boss)? Our new Stakeholder Mining Kick-off Session training is coming soon. Join the waitlist to get first dibs.

You're on the waitlist! We'll reach out soon!


Wanna get the buyer insights you need from key stakeholders (and look like a boss)? Our new Stakeholder Mining Kick-off Session training is coming soon. Join the waitlist to get first dibs.

You're in!