Have you ever wondered why we shop? Apart from necessities, we go out of our way to buy things we may not necessarily need. Well, let me tell you a few reasons why we love shopping so much.
To feel good
Retail therapy is a real thing! It makes us feel good. When we shop, our bodies release dopamine, the ‘feel-good hormone’. Apart from this, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan Scott Rick, found that if people are feeling sad, shopping will make them happier because it restores some control in their lives. So the more we shop, the better we feel.
Another way shopping makes us feel good is through comparison. We notice what other people around us and in the society are buying, wearing, and their standards of living. We compare our lives to people around us and end up buying stuff we don’t need just because people in our friendship circles have done the same. This type of purchases are driven by wanting to have as good, if not better standard of living, and have a sense of belonging to the society we are living in.
When we buy things, we expect these purchases to have a transformative effect on our lives. This comes from advertisements that we are exposed to every day. They claim that when we purchase the item that is advertised, this will have a transformative effect on our lives, our life will change for the better. Some studies indicate we see 5,000 advertisements every day. So, we are exposed to this message so many times daily in so many different ways, on our TV, phones, on the street when we go outside, on the radio and the list goes on… We see them so often that we start believing it and ending up making that purchase.
This is where the power of social media and influencers also come in. Influencers appear to have a lifestyle that many social media users aspire to. Through purchasing the products these influencers advertise, we believe we may achieve a life like theirs. This is why brands spend millions on working with influencers and social media.
Some products are expressly purchased for transformative powers such as cosmetics, hair restoration remedies and weight loss products. These products promise a transformation of the physical self. Other types of products such as breath mints and attractive clothing may enhance consumers’ self-confidence or other feelings about self. Some products, such as a new computer, a GPS device for the car) can make our life a lot easier, and others (books, music or recreational equipment) can greatly add to the pleasure experienced in daily life.
Ironically, surveys of customers have clearly shown that they were happier before the purchases than after. This is because their expectations when making the purchase produced excitement and euphoria, but the purchase of the stuff failed to live up to the promise.
A 2014 survey found that 75% of Americans had made an impulse buy, with 10% of people spending more than $1,000 on a single item.
According to Ryan Howell, an associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University in California, it is our survival instinct that leads us to buy impulsively. It is like hunting, we see something we like or want, we go and grab it, even if we do not need it, we would grab it in case we wouldn’t come across that item again. If the products are running in short supply, this will activate our survival instinct even more, this is why when we shop online the companies are telling us when something is low in stock, to put pressure on us to make that purchase!
Interestingly, research shows that when we touch an object, this increases our feelings of ownership, and we don’t like to lose things that we own, so we become more likely to buy the item. In 2003, in the US, Illinois’ state attorney general’s office issued a statement around the Christmas holidays warning consumers to be careful about holding an object as it might encourage them to buy it. As soon as we touch the item, the loss aversion kicks in (the theory that people can’t bear to lose money or goods), and it becomes difficult for us to let go of that item, even if we do not need or may not afford the item.
According to researchers some people are more into shopping and fashion than others. This could be due to working in the field of fashion, having a strong interest in appearance and clothing, their sense of identity. People may seek fashion as part of who they are and may want to be a ‘fashionista’ which may lead them to spend more time seeking out latest fashion trends and more money than others on fashion products.
Think about the last purchase you have made, which one of these reasons led to that purchase? Being aware of these factors might hopefully help us make better choices for future purchases!
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