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Social selling with serotonin

Serotonin and customer satisfaction

Welcome back to our series on brain-related topics to give you, as a marketer, more insight into the brain. Last time we talked about dopamine. We hope this excited you because we will continue with these interesting things called neurotransmitters. This week, we will discuss serotonin, a neurotransmitter that shows both similarities and differences with dopamine. We will show you its social function and how you can use this for example in marketing and eCommerce.

Another happiness chemical

Both dopamine and serotonin are happiness chemicals and can make us feel good. Dopamine makes us motivated and excited. Serotonin makes us more relaxed, satisfied and suppresses pain. It is amongst other things involved in a few basic activities we (probably) all like to do: sleeping, eating and socializing. Furthermore, serotonin is also involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory. Simply said, without serotonin, our brain would not be able to function.

Fun fact: we are not the only one carrying this chemical. Biologists found serotonin in other animals and even insects and plants. They argue that it plays an evolutionary role and for some species has a similar role as for us. As far as we know, insects are not happy or sad. But, as an example, for honeybees serotonin seems to play a role in learning and their swarm behavior.

There are many ways to increase your brain serotonin levels: by embracing past achievements, eat healthily or go for a run. Do you experience a little winter depression during the dark months? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. During these months a lack of sunshine lowers our serotonin levels. When we go to summer, exposure to the sun will increase our serotonin levels back again. No wonder we like to go on holiday to sunny destinations. A healthy balance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain results in positive mental health. Whereas an imbalance can lead to insomnia, anxiety and depression. So, if you want to feel good, make sure to keep them balanced!

Sunlight increases serotonin levels
Catch some sun to increase your serotonin and feel good

Selfish versus selfless

You might have heard of Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and marketing guru. In his inspiring video (watch it, it will “change your life” as Sinek says), he discusses modern leadership with a hint of neuroscience. Sinek believes that evolution has shaped us to seek out qualities in leaders. This is important to protect ourselves from danger. Our neurotransmitters tell us what those characteristics of leaders are. Sinek calls dopamine the goal achievement and selfish chemical.

Why is it selfish? Because it motivates us to do things for ourselves. Serotonin, on the other hand, is the leadership and selfless chemical. It is selfless because it strengthens our social bonds with others. But why does Sinek see serotonin as the leadership and social chemical?

Sinek explains that serotonin is released whenever we feel respected and admired. These feelings boost our confidence and make us feel great. Think about a moment where you were admired by others: it sure didn’t make you feel bad! Serotonin is a leadership chemical because it increases whenever others respect us as a leader. In return, their serotonin will also get a boost because they trust you. It strengthens our social bonds.

Trump and serotonin
How high or low do you think, are Trump’s serotonin levels?

Leaders high on serotonin

Remember that we talked about balance? Yin and yang? Just like with most stuff, too much or not enough of something will result in negative outcomes. Sinek explains that leaders who have too much serotonin in their brain—but don’t take their responsibilities—eventually will lose the trust of their group. Once this trust is gone, their serotonin drops, together with their confidence. Leaders that take care of their people will have a healthy balance of serotonin in their brain and are more confident in taking on challenges.

Increase social bonds and trust

Neurotransmitters can influence the behavior of your customer, too. Remember how sunlight makes you feel happier? This mood change can also impact consumer behavior. For example, researchers found that when temperatures are low, sunlight can increase sales.

We will now focus on how to strengthen social bonds with your customers to get better results. High levels of serotonin will increase feelings of empathy, it connects people and increases trust. There is a lot of research showing that trust can influence your internet business. Two well-known ways to make yourself look trustworthy are to appear authoritative or to use the principle of social proof. Do you look like an expert? People will trust you that your product is the best! Have your friends or many others bought a product as well? Most likely, you’ll buy this item too.

If you want to make your product more appealing (and your customer happy), make sure your customers trust you. But, just like with the leaders, you need to kéép their trust. High levels of trust and low levels of perceived risk make the magic happen. Here are some examples of how to do this:


Add testimonials from satisfied customers; you might have already done this, but did you also include a picture and their name? Make sure to make the testimonials as personal as possible. In this way, your customer will identify more with the testimonial and as a result empathize more with your product. If you add a picture, try to use positive, bright pictures. Trust in combination with positive priming is a success formula.

Testimonials are the perfect example of social proof. You’ll show that others approve your product, which makes you look very trustworthy. Besides testimonials, there are other ways to use the principle of social proof in your online marketing.

Testimonial example
Make your testimonial personal by adding pictures


Add trust badges to reduce perceived risk; would you buy something from a website that might look a bit dodgy? The internet is still a place where people take advantage of others. Examples of effective trust badges are the ones that show a safe payment method or money back guarantee. With the badges, you create more trust and increase conversion rates. This study found that even 71% of the customers look for a trust badge before doing an online purchase!

Trust badges
Add trust badges to increase conversion rates

Payment gateways

Use payment gateways; again, the internet is a playground for criminals. Credit Card fraud might be your worst nightmare and there’s still a chance this happens if you shop online. If you give your customers the option to pay with a safe and well-known payment service, this increases the chances they will buy something. Paypal or Afterpay are examples of these services. If you choose to use a payment gateway, always add a corresponding trust badge too to show this.

A chatbot can help your customers
A chatbot can help your customers


Make it simple to get help.  Funnel optimisation is crucial for webshop growth. A customer can—with one click—easily leave the funnel. One factor determining the optimisation is how effortless doubts of the customer can get clarified. All relevant info should be easily accessible. Can they send the product back? If so, do they get a refund? Also add contact details like your phone number, email and address in case they want to reach you. It might be most effective to add a chatbot so their questions and doubts can be easily solved.

If you want to learn more about behavioral insights, read our blog or watch 100+ videos on our YouTube channel!

About Neurofied

Neurofied is a behavioral science company specialized in training, consulting, and change management. We help organizations drive evidence-based and human-centric change with insights and interventions from behavioral psychology and neuroscience. Consider us your behavioral business partner who helps you build behavioral change capabilities internally.

Since 2018, we have trained thousands of professionals and worked with over 100 management, HR, growth, and innovation teams of organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, Deloitte, Novo Nordisk, ABN AMRO, and the Dutch government. We are also frequent speakers at universities and conferences.

Our mission is to democratize the value of behavioral science for teams and organizations. If you see any opportunities to collaborate, please contact us here.


Milou Odekerken

A passion for writing combined with fascination for the brain to give you the best neuromarketing content!