Why You Shouldn’t Shop While Relaxed

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In general we try to avoid stress, but one study suggests that a little stress may just stop you from overspending.

Shoppers who feel relaxed tend to believe that items have a higher monetary value than shoppers who are less relaxed, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Marketing Research. The reason for this is relaxed consumers tend to have a different decision-making process.

A relaxed shopper is more likely to ask him or herself how a given product will help accomplish a particular goal or broaden one’s cultural horizons, questions that the researchers refer to as more abstract thinking. Less-relaxed shoppers, on the other hand, engage in more concrete thinking and focus on the price and specifications of a product. As a result, the consumer who focuses on the possibilities of a product is more likely view it as more valuable than the consumer who pays more attention to the product as it is, with all its limitations.

“Everything else being equal, consumers will be willing to pay higher prices if marketers are able to relax them first,” the researchers conclude in the paper. “This may partly explain why luxury products and services (luxury hotels, high-end boutiques, first-class lounges, etc.) are typically provided in relaxing environments.”

It’s important to note that the researchers did not test how much the consumer would actually purchase, but instead focused on the way people valued the product. To find this out, the researchers used music and movies to induce different levels of relaxation in nearly 700 individuals and asked each to weigh in on how much they thought different items were worth.

As the researchers point out, the results run counter to a long-held belief about the way consumers should make purchasing decisions.

“Whether one is buying a house, negotiating the price of a car, deciding which university to attend, or considering whether to invest in the stock market, common wisdom holds that people should be relaxed and at ease during the decision-making process,” the researchers write in the report. “It is indeed generally assumed that the calmer people are, the better their decisions will be.”

In some sense though, the findings only seem to support a belief that retailers have relied on for years: the store environment matters. A lot. Many stores deliberately try to create a pleasing mood, whether by adding nice scents or arranging the store in a way that is easy to navigate to minimize the stress that can come with shopping and encourage customers to stay longer and spend more.

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