The science behind retail therapy revealed

Do you ever feel more excited in the run-up to Christmas, rather than the day itself?

This is the same effect that many people feel when we order a parcel, as research shows that our brains release dopamine as soon as the order has been confirmed, revealing why we achieve that feel-good factor when it comes to retail therapy.

As soon as the order has been placed, “the brain releases dopamine in anticipation of a reward rather than in receipt of an award, making the order transit process the most exciting part of the customer journey.” explains Psychologist and Global Director at Berkeley International, Mairead Molloy.

Logistics plays a hugely vital role, not just in the delivery of the order itself, but also when it comes to the tracking of the parcel as soon as the order has been confirmed. Molloy adds that “this only works when a customer knows their order is coming, which is why confirmation emails, delivery updates and parcel tracking are vital in the customer experience.”

Is shopping online the new retail therapy?

“Once we purchase a product, we start to experience an innate sense of ownership, and we end up giving more value to it and start envisioning all the ways in which it would give us joy or improve our lives.” continues Molloy.

However, this isn’t the same effect that we feel when shopping in-store, when compared to shopping online. This is due to the time gap between the actual purchase, and the use of the product. But when we shop online, “our mind experiences a sense of virtual ownership, and the endowment effect kicks in.” adds Molloy. “This tension between experiencing a heightened sense of entitlement for a product and a delay of a few days in physical ownership makes our mind act in a manner that seems irrational.”

Delivering the goods

“We never really want ‘the thing’ – we want the feeling we think “the thing” is going to bring us.” highlights Embodied Wealth Coach, Leisse Wilcox.

As soon as we’ve hit the order button, our brains release dopamine, giving us that feel-good factor. One self-confessed shopaholic, Danielle Baron, shares how her hunt for this feeling became difficult to manage. “As a previous shopaholic, that delivery is a daily dopamine hit. It got to the point where parcels were arriving, and I’d forgotten what I’d ordered which made it even more intriguing.”

A time and a place

When it comes to the ‘when’ for online retail therapy, our studies have shown that Sunday is the most popular day for scrolling shoppers. This is likely due to additional time for those who do have weekends off, and due to people planning for the week ahead.

Danielle, who is also an Entrepreneur, Coach and Therapy, added: “The positive effects of receiving an order can be felt any day of the week, but they are often associated with the excitement and satisfaction of receiving something new and convenient, especially during the early part of the week.”

The post-Covid world has seen an enormous shift in buying patterns, with findings showcasing that most people are now buying earlier in the day. 10am and 8pm are the most popular times for online orders, which is understood to be largely down to the flexibility of many people now working from home.

Healthy spending habits

Although the arrival of orders delivers dopamine, in today’s current climate it’s incredibly important to ensure we’re not overspending, and keeping within our spending means and limits.

Embodied Wealth Coach, Leisse Wilcox points out that it’s crucial to be aware of our emotions around spending, and treat spending as a partnership. “It’s important to invest your time, money, and energy in what feels good for you, specifically, which is a big part of financial awareness. Acting as the gateway to giving ourselves permission to be engaged with all aspects of our money. Instead of choosing wilful ignorance, reckless abandon, or blatant restriction, but instead being aware of our emotions around money and how we earn and spend it allows us to be more in partnership with it as a tool for creating a lifestyle that just feels good.”

Often treating ourselves to something new can be associated with ‘guilty pleasures’, which Leadership Coach Irene Salter helps us to understand: “treating oneself to something nice in our culture triggers that feeling of ‘guilty pleasure’ – one feels guilt and pleasure at the same time.

“The link between guilt and pleasure in Western consumer culture is so strong that if you subconsciously prime someone for guilt. What we know is that guilt is a feeling of responsibility for doing something wrong. Researchers describe three kinds of guilt.
There’s guilt related to oneself when we violate a personal goal or do something against one’s ideal self.
There’s guilt related to societal standards when we violate societal or cultural norms.
And finally, there’s guilt related to others when my behaviour impacts, harms, or violates someone else.”

However that doesn’t mean that treating ourselves needs to have any negative feelings, in fact, quite the opposite!

“Happiness researchers have shown that treats and pleasures are an essential part of a joyful, flourishing life. Being able to find pleasure in one’s daily life isn’t something to feel guilty about, it’s something to treasure.” concludes Irene.

The role of logistics

Thanks to the many cogs within the logistics industry, customers have access to hundreds of different products that can be delivered to doorsteps in a matter of hours without ever leaving the house. Logistics makes buying products easier and more accessible, which links to convenience and how important this is to customers.

Callum Brough, one of our ambassadors, commented: “Imagine the parcel you receive at your door as a string of Christmas lights on the tree, there are many lights that will make your tree look pretty however If one light is broken the lights will not be lit, if one element of the logistics of getting your parcel does not work you may not get your parcel on time!”

Interested in working a role in which you can help the British public achieve that feel-good factor and deliver the goods? Check out the available career opportunities by taking our Find Your Future Quiz to discover which role is best suited to you.