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The Rise Of ‘Shopper’s Anxiety

By David Saunders | UPDATED: 08:28, 16 January 2020

If you’ve ever found it hard to make a decision when researching things to buy online – perhaps because there’s so much choice that everything starts to blur into one, or because it’s difficult to judge the quality of something, Read on for expert tips on ways to reduce anxiety when shopping online from clinical psychologist, Dr Elizabeth Kilbey.

A new study into online shopping habits by Meraki Travel shows UK consumers are feeling increasingly anxious and stressed when shopping online due to the ‘overwhelming amount of choice’ that’s available.

One in three UK consumers (32%) say they now suffer with ‘shopper’s anxiety’, with well over a third (42%) finding it hard to know which products are good quality and almost half (47%) saying they’re unsure of which recommendations to trust because there’s so many out there.

Too much of a good thing

On average, shoppers in the UK now spend 16 hours a week scrolling through different options when researching things to buy online, which equates to a staggering 832 hours a year. Comparatively, respondents say they spend just five hours each week socialising with friends, six hours a week cooking, and 12 hours a week having quality time with their family.

Almost half of millennials (42%) admit they research stuff to buy online every day. A third of Brits (31%) think they’re addicted to online shopping because there’s a never-ending stream of options, and one in three (31%) reveal they can’t stop researching products even after they’ve gone to bed.

Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Dr Elizabeth Kilbey commented:

“The concept of browsing takes on a whole new meaning when done from the comfort of your living room via the Internet. It is important to think about how much time can easily slip away whilst shopping online. We certainly wouldn’t be able to spend nearly as many hours browsing in person wandering round the high street or shopping centre. However, at home it’s very easy for shopping to creep into the many spare moments of the day and before long it’s eating up significant chunks of time.”

Information overload

Although choice is often liberating, with the explosion of options, reviews and recommendations now available online, a quarter of UK shoppers (27%) say they feel less able to make a decision about what to buy than they used to be.

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“Choice is brilliant – but when there’s an impossible amount to process, it can feel overwhelming rather than empowering. This is why we created Meraki Travel. We’ve hand-picked the best stops, accommodation and experiences in each destination and put a curated list of options at your fingertips which makes booking a top-quality, tailored holiday much easier and far less time consuming.”

— Matt Hodgson, General Manager at Meraki Travel

Building on the findings from the research, Meraki specifically looked into how much choice consumers have to process when booking a holiday online. To illustrate the problem, Meraki calculated how long it would take to read every recommendation for ‘things to do’ in different cities around the world. In London alone, there are more than 1.1 billion articles, which would take a staggering 4,350 years to read.

Although this represents an extreme, it’s easy to see why a third of Brits (36%) take at least two weeks to research their holiday options, one in four of us (22%) take more than a month, and one in 20 spend at least six months researching and comparing possible holidays before feeling ready to book.

The top five cities that would take you the longest to research:

  1. LONDON, UK – 4,350 years

  2. MEXICO CITY, Mexico – 1,618 years

  3. PARIS, France – 1,568 years

  4. SINGAPORE, Singapore – 1,335 years

  5. WASHINGTON DC, US – 1,313 years

Five tips on how to reduce anxiety when shopping online from Dr Elizabeth Kilbey

(Consultant Clinical Psychologist and was in-house psychologist for the TV show ‘The Secret Lives of 4/5 Year Olds’. She specialises in emotional and behavioural psychology.)

  1. Give yourself an allocated amount of time – We have all become so familiar with meandering through the Internet that there is a tendency to forget that this is a specific and discrete task of its own. It’s easy to forget when you’re sat in the comfort of your own home, in a onesie with a cup of tea that time is passing. We certainly wouldn’t take an open-ended approach to wandering around the supermarket and the same logic should apply when wandering round the Internet. It’s very helpful to have a list and give yourself an allocated amount of time to help focus your search and keep you on track.

  2. Don’t do too much research – From a psychological perspective shopping and researching are two different tasks. Researching affords the luxury to investigate and explore and weigh up the options with no pressure to come to a conclusion or decision. However, shopping needs to be an outcome-based exercise. At the end of a shopping trip you need to have acquired the purchases you set out to get. So, if you’re going to shop online it’s really important to think whether you are going to spend time researching your items and come back and make a decision later or whether you are going out to make purchases and that needs to be the outcome of the exercise. For this reason it’s a good idea to decide whether you have done enough research (and there is such a thing as too much research) and whether you’re ready to make a decision about that purchase. If you’re not ready to make the decision you’re probably not ready to shop.

  3. Work out a structure that’s best for you – Some people really enjoy the researching that goes into shopping and can spend many an hour navigating the Internet comparing prices and reviews. For others it can feel overwhelming and frustrating and results in them stepping away completely and not ending up making any purchases. When it comes to online researching take some time to think about the way that works best for you. Do you need lots of time or a little time? Do you like review sites or do you like to go to your own favourite webpages? Take some time to put some structure to the task and then you will get the most out of it for your preferred way of researching.

  4. Once you’ve made a purchase, don’t continue to research other options – One of the obvious downsides of online shopping is that the items aren’t immediately in front of you. That can make it more difficult to make immediate comparisons and choices and so there may be a tendency to over order. The other problem with the items not being in front of you is that it’s very easy to lose track of what you’ve purchased. So it really is helpful to keep a list and tick off the things you’ve bought and once you purchase something don’t conduct any further research, move onto the next item on the list.

  5. Be mindful of when and where you’re shopping online – At home it’s very easy for shopping to creep into the many spare moments of the day and before long it’s eating up significant chunks of time. So be mindful of when and where you use your phone including putting some sensible limits around your shopping time. If going to bed involved spending more time browsing online than it does sleeping then the balance probably needs to be redressed.


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