(NBC News) The holiday shopping frenzy is moving online, where retailers are getting better at pressuring buyers to spend more money.
“Marketers make it really easy for you to make the choices that they want you to make,” notes Suzane Kantra of Techlicious.
Sites often use wording or visual cues to make one option more appealing than the other or encourage impulse buys.
You may see a countdown clock, a “low stock warning,” or pop-up alerts saying other customers are making purchases. These messages may not be based on any actual sales data.
“It gives you a sense of urgency that might not really be there,” Kantra warns.
Sites may also use vague and unsourced testimonials to sway buyers, require an account sign up to access the page, or hide prices until the end.
A recent Princeton study analyzed 11,000 shopping websites and found more than 1,200 of them use dark marketing.
Experts say the best advice is to pause before you pay and carefully review your order before checking out.
Lawmakers are exploring the regulation of deceptive marketing that would make some practices illegal and give the Federal Trade Commission more authority to police the practice.