How to Combat Impulse Shopping

Posted on May 2, 2017

Sometimes, even when you are just popping into a grocery store to get some cheese, you walk out with bags of groceries and a far lighter wallet than you intended to have. Even when we have shopping lists that should keep us on track, we end up loitering in the aisles and succumbing to various temptations. Yes, this is impulse shopping for you.

In fact, stores are purposefully designed to lure you towards making impulse buys; necessities and typical groceries such as milk are often located near the back of the store, so that you will have no choice but to walk past many aisles to get to what you want, which might inadvertently cause you to pick up something you do not need. Most of the candy and small tit-bits are located near the cashiers, deliberately placed there to lure you to take one (or more) as you are queueing in line to pay for your goods. We are also no stranger to colourful advertisements and billboards that practically yell the discounts at us from ten metres away. Put nicely, we could say that these are friendly reminders telling us to pick up something we forgot, but that is hardly the case.

As mentioned, we may try to protect ourselves using lists, but that often does not work. Our grocery bills still inflate. Here’s an unexpectedly helpful strategy: use your phone while shopping.

We are often warned against using our phone as a distraction while doing, well, practically anything, but this is an exception to the oft-repeated rule. It is still important and highly necessary to put your phone away while driving, for example.

It is not uncommon to see people browsing through grocery stores at a snail’s pace, because their eyes are not glued to the goods on the aisles but on their text messages, videos or social media feeds. Perhaps you have even been in this position before. This may sound unbelievable, but research has shown that these (possibly chronic) mobile phone users are less likely to buy things on impulse. In fact, this is due to the same reason why we warn people not to use their phones when crossing the road; their attention will not be focused on the task at hand, but on their devices. However, such distraction is helpful when it comes to avoiding impulse buys, because this phenomenon, known as inattentional blindness, allows shoppers to be less susceptible to temptations, tantalisingly arranged products and flashy advertisements. Instead of putting them at risk of injuring themselves, they are less aware of the carefully constructed supermarket displays.

In a recent study, Silvia Bellini and Simone Aiolfi interviewed shoppers who were leaving a grocery store. Around 3 in 10 of them had picked up their phones while shopping, and usually for purposes unrelated to the shopping they were doing. It was then found that these phone users could not remember the displays they saw in the grocery store as well as the shoppers who did not use their phones. This failure to notice and recall supermarket displays means that they were inattentionally blind, and less aware of the temptations around them. These phone-using shoppers also made less than fifty percent of the number of impulse purchases as those who did not use their phones.

Ironically, using your phone while shopping saves you money, and could even help you eat less. In most cases, it is good to be vigilant, to be aware of risks and to prevent accidents from happening. However, shopping is a different matter. Perhaps being distracted is now beneficial.


Category(s):Control Issues, Other

Source material from Psychology Today


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