Expats talk about spontaneous shopping and how to avoid it
I t is hard to control oneself from purchasing goods on impulse when living in cities like Beijing and Shanghai with so many superfluous products. Almost everyone can find almost everything here, including clothes, gadgets and household items that we don’t actually need or use. Decades ago, marketers and retailers figured out clever, strategic ways to exploit these impulses to boost their sales, such as displaying candy, gum and snacks at checkout aisles.
In today’s China, online shopping has become even more popular than strolling through a mall, which makes it even easier to succumb to impulse purchases.
Merchandise is profiled in perfectly lit photos and modeled by perfectly good looking people. Frequent promotional activities and new slick advertising methods encourage modern customers to show off their trophies on social media, driving even more people to buy and spend unnecessarily.
A 2018 PayPal Commerce Index Trends Report found that two-thirds (67 percent) of Aussie smartphone owners browse shopping sites just for fun on their mobile without any plans to make a purchase; 77 percent of them make impulse buys when they do, B&T Magazine reported in May 2018.
The Global Times recently asked several Shanghai expats about their experiences with impulse shopping and whether they have any suggestions on how to avoid such behavior.
In the past, customers went to a store or a shopping mall to buy something or just for window-shopping. They could touch and feel the products and closely examine their quality. But today’s technology has turned window shopping into “digital gadget screen shopping” on their screens. This has revolutionized the way we think and shop.
All of our interviewees told the Global Times that they have had at least one impulse purchase experience. Eve from Germany said she has purchased goods on impulse because she wanted it or because it was a good deal. Michael from France said once he purchased on impulse but now he’s trying not to do it anymore. “I did that mainly because of the packaging. It’s the first thing you see.”
Greg from the US said he impulse shops sometimes, but mostly just ice cream. Ronda from the US admitted that impulse purchases happen to her from time to time. Gonzalo from Spain said he would occasionally buy things on impulse based on its packaging.
“For women I think it’s easier to do impulsive buying when it comes to clothes, so it’s really about the product. It’s not as much about the packaging,” said Marta from Portugal.
Dead seed apple
Like the old saying goes, impulse is the devil. More often than not, impulse buying results in unnecessary or even poorquality products, from clothing to food, home decorations and even cars. Eve said she has purchased products that looked good in the store but turned out to be disappointing or useless. “For example, a bag that you can’t put
a lot of stuff inside.” Michael feels that phone cases are definitely on the list of impulsive purchases. “You buy it just because it looks good. You use it, but then the trend changes, and you end up never using it again. Earphones are another example.” Greg said he does not usually buy stuff based on the packaging. “Impulse buys happen when it comes to cars. You buy it thinking it’s going to be better than it really is. That’s probably the biggest disappointment I’ve had,” he said. Ronda told the Global Times that she purchased some cosmetics on impulse two weeks ago. “They looked great when they were demonstrated on me [at the mall]. When I got home they were so bad that I will never use them again.” Gonzalo said he’s a practical person and does not usually judge how good a product is from its look alone. “For example, I saw a pair of pants at Zara and bought them. But when I tried them later at home they didn’t really look that nice,” Marta said. “But that’s the great thing about a return policy. You can return almost everything.”
Even though everyone has experienced buyer’s remorse at some point, it never seems to stop us from making the same mistake later, as impulse purchasing brings us immediate happiness.
According to an article in the Journal of Business and Retail Management Research in October 2010, research results support this hypothesis and indicate that happiness and impulse buying are positively and significantly linked.
Our interviewees told the Global Times that shoppers should think twice before spending their money. “You should ask yourself whether you really need it and whether it’s practical or not,” Eve said. Both Michael and Ronda agree. “You need to investigate what you want first. Make sure it’s good quality. Read about it and do research,” Ronda said.
“You should try to look it up on the internet first before actually purchasing it,” said Gonzolo. “Try to compare it with other similar products to see which one is better.”
But Marta said there’s no better way to avoid impulse shopping than to simply not go inside stores.
Eva Gonzalo Greg