Drive donations by leveraging the peanuts effect

United United purchase


United Airlines leverages the peanuts effect by asking customers to make a small $3.50 contribution to their sustainable flight account in the context of a much larger plane ticket purchase, making the additional cost feel insignificant.
a screenshot of the purchase flow explaining how to Drive donations by leveraging the peanuts effect

Business Outcome

Contributions to Sustainability Initiatives

Increase the amount donated to United's sustainability initiative.

Behavioral Outcome

Make the Donation Feel Pain Free

By framing the $3.50 contribution as a small amount in comparison to the overall ticket price, customers are more likely to perceive it as an insignificant expense and be more willing to make the donation. This leverages the peanuts effect to encourage more customers to contribute to the sustainable flight account.

The Behavioral Science

Peanuts Effect

The peanuts effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when a small expense or cost seems insignificant when compared to a larger expense or purchase. In this context, the relatively small $3.50 contribution to the sustainable flight account may be perceived as trivial by customers who are already spending hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket. This perception can make them more likely to agree to the additional donation without much consideration.

How It Works

United presents the option to contribute $3.50 to their sustainability initiatives during the checkout process. The slider ranging from $1.00 to $7.00 anchors the customer's perception of an appropriate contribution amount.

The relatively small contribution, when compared to the total cost of the plane ticket ($525.60), feels insignificant and less painful for the customer to add to their purchase. Furthermore, the act of supporting a good cause can provide a positive emotional boost, reducing the pain of paying even further.

How It Might Backfire

Perceived Pressure or Guilt

Some customers may feel pressured or guilted into making a contribution, especially if the option is presented prominently or repeatedly during the checkout process. This could lead to negative feelings towards the brand and potentially impact future purchasing decisions.

How To Test

A/B Test

Run an A/B test with two groups of customers: one group sees the contribution option during checkout, while the other group does not. Compare the conversion rates, average order values, and total contributions generated between the two groups to determine the impact of presenting the sustainability contribution option.

Surveys & Feedback

Consider surveying customers post-purchase to gather feedback on their perception of the contribution request and its impact on their overall experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

To enhance a product-led growth (PLG) model using United's purchase tactic, leverage the peanuts effect by offering small, low-cost add-ons or upgrades during the user's journey through your product.

For example, you could present users with the option to unlock premium features or additional storage for a nominal fee, framing it as a small expense compared to the overall value they're receiving. This approach can increase user engagement and monetization without creating significant friction in the user experience. Ensure that these small purchases provide immediate value to the user, reinforcing the benefits of your product and encouraging further exploration and adoption.

To improve conversion rates using United's purchase tactic, implement the peanuts effect in your pricing strategy and checkout process.

Present small, additional purchases or upgrades alongside your main product or service, framing them as insignificant expenses compared to the primary purchase. For instance, offer a low-cost warranty extension or a small donation to a related cause during checkout. This can increase average order value without significantly impacting the customer's perception of the total cost. A/B test different price points and presentation methods to find the optimal balance between conversion rate and additional revenue generated.

To optimize your website using United's purchase tactic, incorporate the peanuts effect throughout the user journey to encourage small, incremental purchases or actions.

Implement strategically placed upsell opportunities that feel insignificant compared to the user's primary goal or purchase. For example, offer low-cost digital downloads, small donations to related causes, or minor upgrades to subscriptions. Use visual cues and copy that emphasize the minimal impact of these additions. Additionally, consider applying this tactic to non-monetary actions, such as encouraging users to complete profile information or share content by framing it as a small, easy task compared to their overall interaction with your site.

To A/B test United's purchase tactic, create two versions of your checkout or upgrade process: one with the peanuts effect implemented (version A) and one without (version B).

In version A, present a small additional purchase or donation option, framing it as insignificant compared to the main purchase. In version B, maintain your standard checkout process without this option. Randomly assign users to each version and measure key metrics such as conversion rate, average order value, and the percentage of users who opt for the additional purchase. Also, track user behavior and gather feedback through post-purchase surveys to understand the impact on user experience and perception of value. Analyze the results to determine if the peanuts effect tactic leads to better outcomes for your specific product and user base.

United's purchase tactic improves the user experience by leveraging the peanuts effect to make additional contributions or purchases feel painless and even rewarding.

By framing a small donation or upgrade as insignificant compared to the larger purchase, users are more likely to perceive it as a minor addition that doesn't impact their overall spending. This can reduce decision fatigue and make users feel good about contributing to a cause or enhancing their purchase without significant financial stress. Additionally, this tactic can provide users with a sense of agency and the satisfaction of supporting sustainability initiatives or improving their product experience with minimal effort, potentially leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.