I’m going to be honest here. I’m one of those people that, ahead of a holiday or specific event, I have been known to spend hours and hours scrolling online, looking for the perfect outfit or make-up look because there is just so much choice. And do I come away from these purchasing power sessions feeling content, empowered and successful? Absolutely not. In fact, I close my computer feeling stressed, anxious and, quite frankly, flat. Here’s why; I inevitably ask myself the following questions; “Oh gosh, I only scrolled through 2340 dresses, should I have gone through all 4000? What if the perfect one was in that final number?” and “I’ve spent £60 on new make-up, but I didn’t even get a new eye shadow, should I stay up later and go back to look?” And so on, and so on. I am a living, breathing example of shopper’s anxiety. And I’m not alone.
A recent study into online shopping habits by Meraki Travel highlights that a growing number of consumers are feeling this anxiety, overwhelmed by the amount of choice available on the internet. Alarming statistics highlighted in the research show that, on average, shoppers in the UK now spend 16 hours a week scrolling through different options when researching things to buy online, which amounts to 832 hours a year. In comparison, respondents reported they spend just five hours a week socialising with friends, six hours a week cooking, and 12 hours a week having quality time with their family. Worrying statistics indeed.
While the beauty world perhaps isn’t as accountable as the fast fashion industry in terms of the conveyer belt of options, it has its place with the non-stop deliverance of new products, limited edition ranges, color palettes, and seasonal offerings. One just has to watch Kylie Jenner’s Insta-stories over the course of a month to feel truly fatigued by the endless stream of ‘must-have’ collections her millennial and gen z fans are being bombarded with.
Within the study consultant Clinical Psychologist, Dr Elizabeth Kilbey said, “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.”
That said, while shopper’s anxiety is rising due to the influx of options via the computer screen, as is the wellness industry, with slow living and self-care increasingly being adopted by consumers, and eco-conscious consumerism unrelenting. So, where do the two meet in the middle? As self-care grows in importance, will shopper’s anxiety eventually turn into shopper’s burnout? Will we become a generation of fatigued shoppers that have no other option than to work hard on a fundamental behavioural shift, and learn to say ‘no’ to the super-speed conveyor belt of product in favour of placing greater focus on our mental well-being?
By the looks of things, we’re already well on our way. At the end of last year the lure of heritage brands seemed to be fighting back against the sea of shiny new indies. Following ‘outstanding’ results in November, 2019 The Estee Lauder Companies CEO and President, Fabrizio Freda claimed that the global success of its four biggest brands ‘demonstrates the enduring consumer interest in established brands and their proven, desirable products’.
As put by Matt Hodgson, General Manager at Meraki Travel, said, “Choice is brilliant – but when there’s an impossible amount to process, it can feel overwhelming rather than empowering.”
Indeed, will we adopt self-empowerment to a point that we have such awareness of our own anxiety triggers that we will start self-regulating our online consumption? And if so, the question is, how will the industry fare and how will it react?