The Buyer’s Journey & Small-Business Lessons: Biases and the General Psychology of Purchasing Hunting and Fishing Gear

The Buyer’s Journey & Small-Business Lessons: Biases and the General Psychology of Purchasing Hunting and Fishing Gear

In today’s e-commerce is commerce world, when we as consumers can stand in a brick and mortar store and simultaneously compare prices of the same products online, the shift of power certainly favors the buyer over the seller. 

We’re all consumers, to lesser or greater degrees of financial freedom and frugality. How many of us stop to think about why we’re buying the items we’re buying though? 

When you land a nice fish, was it thanks to the lure? Or, was it the choice of hook, terminal tackle, leader, line, reel, rod, boat, water column, current, spot in the lake, body of water, time of day, time of year, luck, or some or all of the above?

When you successfully harvest a turkey or deer with archery equipment, was it thanks to the sights? Or, was it the choice of broadhead, arrow, fletching, arrow rest, tuning, bow, bow string, cams, quiver, stand, sticks, blind, land, habitat, location, time or day, time of year, luck, or some or all of the above?

The answer of course depends on who you ask, and what biases they rely on the most. Thinking of biases as tools we rely on may seem counterintuitive for many. The idea that biases should be avoided is the more common philosophy. And that is true for many types of biases: biases that involve the darker side of human nature; biases that include, involve, or lead to prejudice and bigotry, harassment, trolling, racism, sexism, womanizing, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, etc., should all, absolutely be understood and uprooted.

What’s also true is that all biases are mental short-cuts. And, some types of bias allow us to quickly make life and death decisions. Other biases help us to decide what products (or who’s services) to avoid, and which to favor. Biases allow us to avoid the hard work of thinking and deep contemplation with the additional benefit of avoiding paralysis by analysis (where overthinking leads to inactivity). That is to say, some biases are useful. Some biases can and, we argue should, be embraced. At minimum, for anyone in the fields of manufacturing, marketing, or selling hunting and fishing products, you would do well to understand the influence that biases have on our brethren, our patrons, and our prospects.

In this article we’ll cover a list of ten (10) important biases to be knowledgeable about in connection with merchandising hunting and fishing gear. Examples will include both commerce (what we’re calling brick and mortar placement, as well as trade show sales), and e-commerce (items sold online). Our short list of important biases include: The Endowment effect, The Availability Heuristic, The Affect Heuristic, The Anchoring effect, The IKEA effect, The Scarcity effect, Social Proof, Dunning-Kruger effect, The Sunk Cost Fallacy, and The Halo effect. These are among our short list of need to know biases.


  • The Endowment effect Bias
    • The Endowment effect bias observes that people feel what they own is more valuable than what most people are willing to pay for it.
    • When it comes down to overvaluing what someone already owns, as compared to what others own or are selling, the Endowment effect can work against anyone in the business of selling hunting and fishing products just as well as it can work for them.
    • There’s an old joke in fishing communities that goes something like this. ‘When I die I hope my spouse doesn’t sell my stuff for what I told her I paid for it.’
    • The lesson here is knowing is half the battle. The effects of the endowment bias exist, and therefore, will need to be overcome by knowledge of other types of biases discussed here.


  • The Availability Heuristic Bias
    • The availability heuristic bias is the ease of which you can think of examples. Literally the existence and availability of something ‘being on a shelf.’
    • In terms of both commerce and e-commerce, fishing and hunting gear manufacturers know fullwell the power of availability…are your products on the shelf at Cabelas, are they on the digital shelves of online stores like Fish USA, can they be found on Apps like Fish Brain? Are these products found during Google searches, are they on page one (1)? What is the availability of your products?
    • The lesson: In terms of innovative, new and nuanced products, this would include ideas that help outdoorsy people better accomplish something they’re already doing. By leveraging social media, new sellers have never had more exposure to a wider audience. Which also means there’s a ton more competition. Work on your messaging, your brand, your why. Elicit help from professionals as you grow, find trustworthy sources, and tell your story frequently, often, and always.


  • The Affect Heuristic Bias
    • The Affect Heuristic bias is a short-cut we take by making Snap judgments based on gut feelings.
    • Appearance, appearance, appearance. In commerce and e-commerce this means how the product looks and feels, how the packaging looks, and what the product conveys. In terms of hunting and fishing products and e-commerce this also means ‘in-field’ pictures and videos.
    • With the Endowment and Availability effect start-ups are at a distinct disadvantage. This is true for several reasons. One, your products are as new as you are, they’re not in anyone’s possession (yet). Two, marketing and distributing products through large markets can be costly. You’re competing with multi-million dollar companies, they themselves are competing against other multi-million dollar companies, all for the same or similar audience.
    • The Lesson: Find your niche and exploit it. There’s an old expression that fishing lure manufacturers use, ‘We don’t sell lures to fish, we sell fishing lures to fishermen.’


  • The Anchoring Effect Bias
    • The Anchoring Effect bias is as simple as it is eloquent. Anchoring establishes a ‘Compare at’ pricing model.
    • Examples of anchoring are found nearly everywhere hunting and fishing products are sold. A product that normally sells for $20 (the anchor) is listed for $15 or two for $25, is a straightforward example. It’s more than a simple ‘on sale for $X.’ There needs to be a comparative price point that seems less appealing.
    • Look no further than the ‘Trade Show/Expo’ special. Anyone paying for parking and entry tickets, who also has money burning a hole in their pocket, knows full well the convincing power of the anchor.
    • The lesson: be careful not to confuse ‘deep discounts’ and ‘black Friday deals’ with compare at pricing. With the steep markdowns you run the risk of devaluing your products. With comparison anchoring you’re establishing a baseline above what you are selling your product for. These two strategies couldn’t be more dissimilar.


  • IKEA Effect Bias (a subcategory of the Endowment effect)
    • The IKEA Effect Bias, as it has been called, is the moment you assemble something and you become not just the owner of the thing, but also the creator.
    • The IKEA effect works off a tipping point. There is a point at which the assembler of parts feels like the creator of the object. It’s why Betty Crocker took the powdered egg out of their cake mixes…once people had to add a little more of their own ingredients other than just liquids, people felt like the baker and not just the oven operator.
    • The lesson: Custom products, and products that consumers are able to further customize is a trend that shows no sign of slowing. Now you know why.


Thus far we’ve covered half of our list of the ten (10) most important biases in commerce and e-commerce sales of hunting and fishing gear. Here seems like a great place to open up the discussion for a bonus bias. Our pick for this article’s bonus bias being…Hindsight Bias.


  • Hindsight Bias
    • Hindsight Bias is thinking something (a new product idea or manufacturing process for instance) was more obvious than it really was.
    • You’ll find hindsight biases everywhere you look. Now and throughout history. It’s as if hindsight bias is a human psychological imperative, required within our pedigree and necessary for the consumption of other people’s innovative ideas ;).
    • Brian Cox’s character on the TV series Succession, Logan Roy, puts it this way: “You make your own reality. And once you've done it, apparently, everyone's of the opinion it was all so f*cking obvious.”
    • The same is true for new product innovations and new product development. The field is ripe for Hindsight Bias picking.
    • The reason we list Hindsight bias as a standalone bonus category is because of how difficult it can be to leverage.
    • The lesson: About the best we’ve done is to push your new product innovation so far, that the average person is no longer able to rationalize to themselves that the idea was ‘obvious’ in the first place.
    • You’ll know you’ve accomplished this when you start hearing things like, ‘That’s a really good idea.’ instead of, ‘my Dad makes those in his garage.’ Or, ‘These designs are so incredible, you guys make these.’ Instead of ‘I have a tackle box full of lures, what makes this different?’ Or, my personal favorite, instead of the passerby with the cursory glance, people start walking straight to your tradeshow booth and comment, ‘This is so cool, what is it?’ 


Hindsight bias can be a great litmus test for how far you’ve pushed the research and design envelope. Pay attention, take note, and re-tool if need be. Know that there are lessons everywhere, and especially in consumer biases…and especially in the hunting and fishing gear space. Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion. Let’s finish off our last five, important to be familiar with and leverage biases.


  • The Scarcity Effect Bias
    • The Scarcity effect bias works on human psychology by giving the impression that a resource (i.e. a product or service) is in limited supply.
    • Look no further than porcelain paper during the early days of the pandemic. Bleached toilet rolls were thought to be scarce, and as a result, had never been in such high demand.
    • As a small business owner you’ll have many disadvantages to overcome. Scarcity of your products, services, or time, is but one of them.
    • The lesson: Embrace the facts. As a start-up whatever products your offering, those products can only be made so fast. This growing pain is compounded by realities such as cashflow, vendor agreements, staff, onboarding, training, turnover, etc. Embrace it, turn these facts on their proverbial ear.
    • Example: The tagline we’ve come up with for our new Glow-Mag Salmon spoons is this: ‘Small Batch, Big Difference.’ Now, we’re not distilling whiskey, but we are artisans driving the point home that our products are currently, pretty scarce. What does this mean, it means that when you purchase our lures, everyone and their brother won’t be fishing the same lures you are.


  • Social Proof Bias
    • Social Proof bias aka Herd mentality. Herd mentality is why toddlers all want to play with the same toy; it’s why youth soccer resembles a flock of barnyard chickens all chasing after the same June bug; it's why school children huddle around schoolyard scuffles. Herd mentality is a survival instinct, plain and simple. Along our expansive history, those who lived together survived together. Those who ate natural foods that other humans were already eating, were less likely to die. Instead they survived and produced offspring that in turn behaved similarly.
    • Imitation - as Albert Bandura and William James before him wrote - might just be one of our greatest human instincts.
    • Humans value other Humans’ opinions too. Where we eat, where we shop, and what we purchase, are all shaped and influenced by social opinion. Even counter-culture trends are in and of themselves, trends.
    • In terms of e-commerce, Social Proof bias is why the 5-star rating is so impactful. It’s also why Social media ‘Influencer’ has become a profession in its own right.
    • In terms of commerce: Again, this phenomenon is never more obvious than at tradeshows. Booths that are able to draw a crowd stay crowded. Oftentimes forming long lines with people waiting patiently to see what all the hype is about. The opposite is true as well, where empty booths see far less traffic and remain empty.
    • The lesson: Don’t just sit behind your booth. Don’t just say ‘how’s it going’ to passers-by. Instead, grab someone’s attention! Anyone will do. Call it out, ‘can I show you this;’ have you seen this;’ what interests you in _____.’ An audience member of one or two people can quickly turn into three, or four, or dozens more.


  • Dunning-Kruger Effect Bias
    • The Dunning-Kruger effect bias is one of our all-time favorites. As if you haven’t already noticed us nerding out over the psychology of biases up to this point, here we go.
    • The Dunning-Kruger effect goes like this. The reason why blowhards are so confident about their competence (knowledge, skills, and abilities) is precisely because they know so very little about the very topic they’re over-confident about.
      • Picture a graph where the up and down ‘y-axis’ is confidence, and where the left to right ‘x-axis’ is competence. Now picture the shape of that graph…it’s a hog trough.
      • The center of our trough is where the average person sits. They have an average amount of knowledge/skill/ability/experience (i.e., competence) about any particular topic and they also have an average amount of confidence about their knowledge/skill/ability/experiences.
      • On the other hand, someone with years, possibly decades, of knowledge/skill/ability/experience (call it the 10,000 hr threshold) on any particular topic can be found on the far side of the trough where the trough slopes upwards and where both competence and confidence peaks.
      • Lastly, we have the near side of the trough where there is very little competence, but astonishingly even with very little knowledge/skill/ability/experiences there is also a peak in confidence (or as Dunning-Kruger shows because of the lack of any real and discernible knowledge/skill/ability/experiences).
      • When someone reads one article (or ten) and thinks they’re an expert. When someone thinks their opinion matters and incredulously trolls online. When you think that everyone else’s job looks easy, when you think it is easy. That’s Dunning-Kruger hard at work.
    • It’s purely fascinating to know. The confidence that comes from either very little knowledge or a ton of knowledge is identical.
    • The lesson: When you’re faced with, and to be certain you will be, would-be, so-called, self-described, self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed, know-it-all ‘experts’ who have an opinion on your business, brand, product/s, or approach…let them be wrong. Spend your time instead, teaching the average, and learning from the 10,000hr experts ;).


  • The Sunk Cost Fallacy Bias
    • The sunk cost fallacy bias is the tendency to continue the use of a product or service simply because the initial investment has already been made
    • This remains true even where the current costs, losses, or opportunity costs missed, outweigh the benefits of making a switch.
    • In the Consumer world Consumers have the tendency to 'stick with what's familiar and not broken' instead of fixing the unbroken and chancing the improvement of their current condition.
    • The Lesson: Put forth the effort early on in your business start-up initiatives by focusing on research, development, and design. You'll need to produce something truly spectacular if you want to win people over and get them past their innate sunk cost biases.
    • Also, protect your intellectual property rights. These include patent protections, trademark protections, and copyright protections. It may cost, it may slow your pace, but in the end these protections are worth every dime. Who knows, they may end up turning into alternative sources of revenue when you're approached with the prospect of leasing agreements.


  • The Halo Effect Bias
    • The Halo Effect bias is a phenomenon where one good characteristic is equated to having many great characteristics 
    • In business this is where people subconsciously assume that where a company has produced one great product, all subsequent products will automatically be great as well.
    • Over 100 years ago a psychologist by the name of E. Thorndike noticed that officers in the military were much more likely to rate their direct reports as highly effective in areas like soldering skill, and leadership, if those same soldiers first scored high on an intelligence score. Leadership and skill are learned traits, where IQ isn’t, but it mattered not. The Halo effect was in full swing.
    • The lesson: As your business and your brand mature look to leverage and build upon your past success. Remind people of the products you've produced and the projects your team has worked on.


Stay tuned for more small-business psychology applications,


Mike (The Pied Piper) Hiller

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