When is Online Shopping an Addiction?

Since the dawn of online shopping with giants like eBay, we’ve loved the convenience of clicking a button in the comforts of our homes and receiving a package in the mail.  My own interest in online shopping came early.  Back then, eBay took about a month to ship my beloved international charging adapter that I nearly forgot I had ordered!  Now with giants like Amazon, AliExpress, and more, the online shopping scene has narrowed down its shipping to even a day—something that would have sounded absurd in the early 2000s.  With COVID, even more players have come into the scene with even more robust online shopping experiences than before.

For example, I recently purchased a pre-loved jumpsuit from Poshmark—a fashion, decor and beauty shopping platform that enables shopping from other individuals just like me.  Most items are pre-owned and those selling their item can post pictures of their item online for others to share, like, and purchase.  Think of it as your Kijiji but with built-in shipping (at a price) and fashion-focused items.  During the COVID pandemic, this site and many others have gained tremendous popularity with contactless shipping and satisfactory user experiences.

But the big question exists.  How easy it is to place a purchase online, enter your credit card details and receive an item in the mail the next day or week, and what does that do?  I think it’s simply too easy, and I always refer back to psychology when looking at the entire shopping process.  For example, the speed of the delivery matters because the behavior of purchasing an item online leads to the reward: obtaining the product in the mail.  The faster this behavior-reward loop completes, the more likely this behavior is repeated in the future.  Many of my peers also associate opening the boxes of new purchases to an immediate reward.  The satisfaction of novelty is insatiable.

My recent obsession with Shein and the shopping “hauls” that have taken over my closet.

Moreover, unlike stores, inventories are constantly changing online.  Marketing is constantly changing and becoming tailored to the individual (think of Facebook-sponsored ads for one).  Because of the rapid evolving novelty that is the internet, our brains are wired to find new deals.  I have to admit, shopping has become almost an entertainment for myself and many others.  For example, the International clothing giant, Shein, has had impressive growth during the pandemic due to its trendy styles and its versatility in transforming styles from the runway into affordable fashion pieces.

At the end of the day, it is incredibly easy to be lost in the endless online shopping platforms that exist today.  Without physically reaching for the wallet, the saved online credit cards makes shopping online almost reflexive.  Without taking the time to reflect on our behaviors, we could sink into crippling debt and financial uncertainty.  Some tips for the avid shopper is to take a moment to slow down.  Add items to your cart, but let it sit in your online cart for a day or two.  After giving your cart a second look, do the same items still interest you or are they part of an impulsive buy?  Only you have the answer.

Infographic about some of the traits of addictive shopping. Do any of these describe you?

[Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the company names associated and am speaking from my own experiences. ]

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