Laughter is contagious. Going to see a comedian on your own in a room would not be as satisfying an experience as going to see it in a whole room full of people. It’s the reason lots of sitcoms have a laugh track – somehow it just makes it seem funnier – although not in the case of anything with Lee Mack in. Laughing together with other people creates a form of social cohesion. It also has a number of physiological benefits, including endorphin release and a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, leaving you relaxed.

In the endless quest to make the internet more social and replicate real life interactions people would have with friends or complete strangers at a concert or gig, things which make us laugh are not often leveraged by e-commerce websites. GSOH is often touted on dating websites as a personal trait, or a desired one. Laughter is an important quality in the most intimate relationships we can have with one another – so why shouldn’t we seek the same from those who we trust with our credit card details?

Viral Youtube videos such as the Skittles ‘touch the rainbow’ campaign hit the right spot, with the same quirky humour carried on through to their main website. But I wonder, would more people buy a computer monitor, or t-shirt if they had a little chuckle beforehand?

Of course you may argue this approach isn’t going to be right for all brands. For instance, companies like IBM – targeting the business set – are selling themselves on reliability and professionalism. But surely businessmen/women like to laugh too? Often cracking a small joke in a pitch or presentation can be the difference between winning or losing a client. It creates chemistry, and a shared social experience. I’m not suggesting they plaster LOLCats over their website by any means, but some subtle humour in messaging and communications on social media may create better engagement in driving customers to them.

Elliciting an emotional response is always the holy grail of any user experience, and one as pleasurable as laughter is sadly lacking from most e-commerce websites. If people have a positive emotional reaction whilst buying something from a company, they will associate that company with good feelings in the future, and that can only be beneficial for conversion.

The question is, how can we create and foster this social laughter? One way might be through the company blog. This gives brands a little bit more room to show their more personal side, and post content that may not be directly related to the brand itself. Innocent Smoothies does this very well and promotes the content through it’s social media channels. Silly caption competitions, video content or ‘pun of the day’ can be merchandised on the website and contributed to by users to bump up the guffaws.

Do you think online shopping should be funnier? What would you do? Tell us in the comments. Also – check out my white paper: Emotion mapping and customer journeys.

Image courtesy Gregory Gill


Chris Mears

Chris is co-founder of UXmentor.me. He has worked with clients such as the UK government, Just Eat & Which? with a focus on service design and transformation.