Sad shoppers flock to the internet

Retail therapy is often “prescribed” for people who are in a bit of a fix. Someone who is worried or anxious often finds solace in shopping. Now new research shows us why and it has important implications for online retailers.

It seems that people who are “self focused” are prepared to spend more than people who are not in such a state. The focus on the self is predominant in people who suffer anxiety or depression. Huge credit card debt is associated with depression, but it may be the depressive state is actually leading to the debt, rather than the credit card spending spree and the resulting bill causing the sadness.

So what has all this to do with Internet retailers? Well, the past few months have seen a huge increase in online spending. Online retail is largely a solitary activity. Traditional shopping is social. When we are in ordinary shops we are likely to be less self focused than when we are alone in our spare bedroom in the half dark. Because the research shows the self-focused effect occurs even on a temporary basis, the increase in online shopping may well have nothing to do with what the Internet marketers are doing, but may simply be the way we use the Internet generally. As more, self focused people shop online, so the spending will rise.

However, Internet marketers and online retailers have been busy congratulating themselves for achieving significant increases in online spend. But it may well be that the increase will have happened anyway, because of the “sadness” and “self-focused” effect of the way we shop online – alone.

This research is a warning to web site owners not to make assumptions about why they are getting the results they are achieving.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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