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Are social media platforms encouraging impulse buying?

Mon Feb 19, 2024 10:00 AM Last update on: Mon Feb 19, 2024 10:48 AM



Are social media platforms encouraging impulse buying?


Have you ever found yourself purchasing items from social media platforms that you didn’t need? The emergence of social media-based e-commerce has brought about a substantial transformation, turning these platforms into virtual marketplaces. The ease and rapidity of these platforms can foster impulse buying. Users may make swift decisions without thoroughly assessing the products, resulting in regrettable purchases and misuse of financial resources. I believe everyone, including myself, has experienced being an impulse shopper at least once.

The convergence of social media and e-commerce, commonly known as social commerce, offers unparalleled convenience, enabling users to browse and purchase products seamlessly without leaving the platform. According to GWI research in 2023, the average global user spends two hours and 30 minutes on social media per day. This trend is growing exponentially without a discernible balance, presenting a significant opportunity for companies to strategically position their products and services in front of users, capitalising on the considerable time spent on digital platforms. With a few clicks, consumers can explore a wide array of products, compare prices, and make purchases, all within the familiar interface of their favourite social media apps, where continuous scrolling already keeps them engaged.

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According to Insider Intelligence’s eMarketer statistics, US annual social commerce sales is expected to reach $107.17 billion by 2025. These frightening statistics underline the potential of social commerce for businesses, offering an opportunity for intense competition and a race to significantly enhance their financial performances. Companies aggressively advertise and pursue customers with fervour, striving to outdo one another in capturing market share. Furthermore, studies show that the average transaction value on traditional e-commerce is decreasing compared to social commerce platforms, providing an appealing opportunity for marketers looking to maximise their returns on those platforms. Companies that resist integrating social commerce into their marketing strategies run the risk of falling behind and facing potential disintegration.

Social media platforms are predominantly designed for consumers rather than businesses. Companies struggle with the challenge of maintaining a balance between promotional efforts for their products and ensuring a genuine and high-quality user experience. The spotlight is frequently on extensive advertising at the expense of the intrinsic quality of the product. Consequently, with the increasing number of advertisements, the products’ quality drops. Moreover, personalised promotion offers and advertisements also have a psychological impact on customers. The predictive nature of these advertisements diminishes the likelihood of customers exploring innovative ideas in using a variety of products.

The most alarming fact in the present trend of discussions surrounding social commerce is the lack of attention on guiding consumers to navigate these platforms, contrasting the main focus on describing the strategies for companies to boost their traffic and attract more customers. The disproportionate discussion trends are contributing to the rising number of consumers lacking knowledge of how to behave within the dynamic landscape of social commerce. Consequently, they are becoming victims of frequent cycles of impulse buying, encounter security issues, and end up with a number of low-quality and unnecessary products.

Certainly, full escape from this challenging situation may be impossible, but we should try to minimise the severity of the damage through simple yet effective steps. First, avoid shopping on social media during vulnerable HALT stages (H=hungry; A=angry; L=lonely; T=Tired), as these psychological states are linked to making impulsive decisions on needless purchases. If restraining becomes challenging, you can always add the products to your waiting list, providing more than 24 hours to reconsider. Identify and address your weaknesses by cancelling subscriptions and unfollowing the pages, the exposure to which triggers stimuli in your mind. Establishing a budget is also crucial in dealing with impulse buying. It is ideal to start with daily limits and gradually expand to weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets. Strict adherence to these budgets is crucial for ensuring disciplined spending. Allocate a specific budget for entertainment shopping, allowing enjoyable purchases while maintaining financial mindfulness. Before clicking on a product link, practise critical thinking and observation to encourage a mindful approach.

Consistent adoption of these practices can result in the formation of a good habit of conscious shopping on social media, in a similar pattern as James Clear highlighted in his book Atomic Habits, where he clearly emphasises the importance of repetitive cycles in habit formation. Over time, focusing on the strategies can lead to the cultivation of a habit of conscious buying, leading to more deliberate and thoughtful purchasing decisions with a reduced tendency for impulse buying.

Fahmida Habib Nabila is a PhD fellow in Goto-Kamiya Laboratory, Department of Applied Chemistry, Kyushu University.

Views expressed in this article are the author’s own. 

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