Online Shopping, Social Media, and the Impulse Purchase Phenomenon

Online Shopping, Social Media, and the Impulse Purchase Phenomenon


Online shopping has become a common habit for many, with social media playing a significant role in influencing purchasing decisions. A recent Bankrate survey reveals that Gen Zers and millennials are particularly susceptible to impulse shopping as a result of social media, with 60% and 61% respectively admitting to making impulsive purchases within the past year.

Bankrate’s senior industry analyst, Ted Rossman, suggests that experiences such as travel, dining, concert tickets, and sporting events are likely key contributors to this phenomenon. Clothing and related expenses for events like weddings and parties may also play a role in impulsive buying behavior.

Interestingly, it is the generation that spends the least on social media impulse purchases, baby boomers, who experience the most regret, at 62%. Millennials, who spend the most on average at $1,016, feel the least regretful, with only 55% expressing remorse. Gen Z falls in between, spending $844 but experiencing more regret than millennials at 58%.

This issue is not new, as previous surveys have shown that younger generations feel financial pressure from their social media feeds. Deloitte’s annual survey found that more than half of Gen Zers and millennials are influenced social media to purchase items they cannot afford, despite financial anxieties and concerns about the cost of living.

Impulse purchases might be a coping mechanism for younger generations faced with the challenges of late-stage capitalism and climate change. In comparison to the weight of student loan debt and the intimidating prospect of homeownership, these smaller purchases can provide temporary relief, contributing to lower levels of guilt among millennials.

However, online shopping can have negative repercussions on mental health and financial well-being. The Deloitte survey highlighted that Gen Zers and millennials experience anxiety as a result of their financial behavior, while a previous Bankrate study revealed that impulse spending prompted sponsored social media posts had a negative impact on consumers’ perception of their finances.

Bankrate’s latest survey also indicates that social media promotes unrealistic lifestyles and creates a negative perception of one’s financial situation. This sentiment is expressed over half of all generations surveyed, although only 12% admit to engaging in similar behavior. Millennials and Gen Zers are more likely to have negative feelings about their financial situation after seeing others’ social media posts and acknowledge that social media hampers their money management skills.

In conclusion, while social media can provide inspiration and entertainment, its influence on impulse buying and financial well-being should not be overlooked. It is essential for individuals of all generations to be aware of the potentially negative effects of online shopping and to develop responsible spending habits.

1. Bankrate survey of more than 3,500 people
2. Deloitte’s 12th annual Gen Z and Millennial survey