What is the Decoy Effect? 

Decoy Effect or Decoy Effect in English, is a term often applied in life and business to create a psychological impact on customers. This term often appears when sellers intentionally include many different options to shape customers' decisions.

In the business sector, many employees are trained to use the decoy effect to optimize marketing and sales performance.

Through this psychological method, they introduce a "bait product" to conveniently guide customers to approach and promote the consumption of other products in the same segment, usually higher priced products.


To better understand this psychological effect, let's explore with StringeeX an experiment about the Decoy Effect that psychology professor Dan Ariely from MIT University conducted in 2010.

In this experiment, 100 students were asked to choose one of three newspaper product packages from the Economist magazine, including:

  • Package 1: Internet newspaper for 1,416,000 VND/year.
  • Package 2: Newspaper for 3,000,000 VND/year.
  • Package 3: General newspaper (both internet and paper), preferential price at 3,000,000 VND/year.

The results of the test are:

  • Package 1 was chosen by 16 students, package 3 attracted the highest number of buyers with 84 students, while no one chose package 2.
  • Next, package 2 was discarded and the experiment was continued with another 100 people. The final result was that 32 students chose package 3 and 68 students chose package 1.
  • This experiment once again demonstrated the effectiveness of packet 2 as a bait. The Economist magazine's revenue increased significantly compared to only offering packages 1 and 3.

The impact of the decoy effect on customers and businesses

For customers

  • Frustration and reduced trust: Decoy strategies can lead to customer disappointment and reduced trust in the business. They may feel like they've been lied to or not received real value from the business, causing distrust and dissatisfaction.
  • Time and effort lost: The customer has put in the time and effort to initially learn about and become interested in the product or offer. When faced with change or failure to meet expectations, they will feel like they have wasted their time and efforts.

For businesses

  • Short-term impact: The decoy effect can create a short-term surge in customers or sales, creating a sense of success and business potential for the business.
  • Long-term impact: However, the decoy effect can damage the image and reputation of the business in the minds of customers. Feelings of being deceived may arise, leading to a loss of trust and the possibility of losing customers. It also creates difficulty in building loyalty and establishing long-term relationships with customers.

Strategic application of the decoy effect in Marketing

Allow customers to freely choose

The strategy of allowing customers to choose freely is a popular model that many businesses use. Instead of imposing a fixed price, businesses often provide many options with different products, helping customers freely choose according to their preferences.

Creating the mentality of "bought a lot at a cheap price and good quality" is a strategy that can bring a business to success. Many fast food brands have applied the decoy model effectively in sales. Instead of offering stand-alone items, they create attractive combos at discounted prices, making it easy to increase their sales.

Fooling the choice 

Through a small survey below, we will have a clearer view of how this strategy can impact customer decisions:

  • Package 1: Yoga + Gym X service for 5,000,000 VND/year
  • Package 2: Fitness service costs 10,000,000 VND/year
  • Package 3: Both fitness and yoga services + Gym X for 10,000,000 VND/year

Customers will choose package 3 because they can own both types of services at the same price. This marketing strategy not only generates significant revenue for the business but also ensures that decoy products will not be overlooked. Customers will direct their attention to profitable products. Diverse benefits at relative prices.

Rule 100

The rule of 100 is a clever variation of the decoy strategy, which is a price reduction promotion tactic. This is a popular marketing method applied in many business markets to increase product competitiveness.

This effect has a strong influence on consumer psychology. Therefore, big promotional announcements are often easy to remember and attractive, stimulating customers to refer to products at the store.

Today, many small and medium-sized companies have applied the 100 rule method, with two main characteristics:

  • For products worth millions or more, the discount strategy is set based on the discount amount unit.
  • For products worth hundreds of thousands of VND, the discount strategy is applied in the form of a percentage.

The number effect on the left

In the process of choosing between a product priced at 99,000 VND and a product priced at 100,000 VND, it is clear that customers will often prioritize choosing the item priced at 99,000 VND.

In 1979, Mr. Monroe performed a scientific experiment and discovered an interesting phenomenon called "the number on the left". This is a manifestation of the decoy effect, a strategy frequently applied in the sales field.

However, it seems that the buyer will only gain a small profit of 1,000 VND and the seller will have to accept a small loss. However, in reality, this is an effective way to help businesses increase sales by creating a cheaper feeling for buyers.


Applying the decoy effect effectively can bring good results to a business's business results. Besides, in parallel with Marketing strategies, customer service activities also play an important role in increasing customer satisfaction and reducing customer churn rate.

StringeeX software was born to help businesses optimize customer care activities thanks to the ability to connect communication channels such as Facebook Messenger, Zalo OA, Email, and Hotline, all managed through one channel. This helps save time and make the customer care process more convenient.

In addition, StringeeX software also has an open API, helping to quickly integrate with other CRM/ERP software such as AMIS CRM, and HubSpot... to serve the care and management of customer data in the following stages.