“I haven’t been in shops in three years. Like, at all. Of course, I buy groceries at the supermarket by the house, like everyone else. However, I order all the clothes and shoes online. I started this to spend less. I used to go to shopping malls very often; I knew when the collections were updated and when the sales would take place. I went to the store when I was upset or had problems at work. Of course, on the day of my paycheck I also ran shopping. When I have realized that I bought the fifth blouse of khaki color this month and need to borrow money from my mother again, I’ve decided that it was necessary to do something about it. I started buying things only in online stores.
At first, this approach saved me money. Now I understand that I still cannot control my purchases and expenditures: I am inspired by the choice of my favorite blogger and buy the same costume as hers, or I see an advertisement for some pair of shoes and decide to buy them! The cupboard no longer accommodates all my purchases, and some things I never wore because they don’t suit me.”
– Olga, 25, flower arranger
Online shopping addiction is a relatively new form of shopaholism that is spreading rapidly. This can be explained by the fact that the Online trade segment is steadily growing. Just look at the statistics: 55% of Russian consumers make online purchases at least once a month. 
Of course, one useful purchase per month is not a reason for panic. As they say, this is the ballpark number. Some people are so passionate about online shopping that they can waste most of their paychecks on things they don’t really need.
Why is this happening? What encourages unplanned shopping on the Internet? What if the habit of buying online becomes a stable addiction?
In this article let’s talk about how to define and get rid of online shopping addiction.
The world of online trading is developing rapidly. Almost every day traders set new rules in it. These rules are not always fair to buyers. In 2016 the users of the Habr portal teamed up to study the “honesty” of discounts during the largest sale on the AliExpress website, which is held annually on November 11. According to the results from the price monitoring of more than 400,000 goods during the previous two months, 28% of discounts were “fake” on the day of the sales. That is, earlier these goods were being sold at the prices of the main sale, but a few days before the price had been raised and then dropped again. 
Meanwhile, in 2018 a student from China was hospitalized for acute stomach pains because she ate quick-cooking noodles for three weeks to save money for shopping during Black Friday.  Another resident of the People’s Republic of China did not leave the computer all day and did not even eat in between making Internet orders. As a result, he lost consciousness and was hospitalized.  These examples prove that the fascination with online shopping is dangerous both for mental, but also for physical health.
We have already discussed shopping addiction (shopaholism) and the causes of occurrence thereof previously. Dependence on online shopping is based on similar psychological mechanisms, but there are also some distinctive features. Here are a few reasons for dependence on online shopping.
Online sellers do everything to give customers a sense of availability of goods right here and now. Can’t afford a new smartphone? Fill out the questionnaire, get a bank’s decision from the bank in a minute and take away your new phone. Pay it later but with a small interest. Such mechanisms encourage people to make more expensive purchases and to do them more often.
The online trading mechanisms are such that they direct the buyer to the decision to make a purchase. The expression of marketers – “customer funnel” – sounds really threatening from the point of view of psychologists.
Just imagine how you step on the edge of the whirlpool and are rapidly drawn into the abyss. That’s exactly what happens. At first, you are just interested in some products. Then you see the same product on other sites – the contextual advertising “catches you up”. Then you get a letter with the subject “You’ve forgotten something,” “Special offer for you, Julia” or something like that. When opening the letter, you see that the product has become much cheaper. Many cannot resist the temptation and decide to buy it.
Influencers deeply affect buying decisions. Bloggers with a million audience can convince people to buy exactly the same clothes, phone model or cosmetics they choose themselves. Most of the products advertised by bloggers are provided free of charge to them. Ordinary users of social networks cannot count on such generosity from major brands, but cannot resist the purchase, especially when the favorite blogger “gives his/her discount”.
All online purchases are made on a non-cash basis. That fact alone facilitates the process of parting with money: when you do not pay in cash, it feels like you do not spend money. It is even easier to decide on spending if the card is connected to the cashback service or the store promises to “return part of the purchase with bonuses.”
This way you can spend 20-30% more than planned. 
There is no seller on the Internet that follows you, while you are looking at the goods on the shelves. Nobody asks if you need some help, and does not make appraisal judgments about how perfect a thing suits you. This creates an imaginary sense of freedom and personal control of choice, making it easier for you to make purchase.
Dependence on online shopping includes signs of shopping and internet addiction: uncontrollable desire to make purchases, loss of control over time, constant need to be aware of new products and sales, etc.
Here are some examples of how online shopping addicts behave.
“I think there’s something wrong with my daughter. She became engrossed in making small purchases on the popular Chinese platform so much, that she wastes there half of her salary. She constantly buys some hairpins, brooches, handkerchiefs and stationery. You should have seen her eyes shine when she brought another banderol and started unpacking it! I ask what’s there, and she says: “I don’t remember by now.” Then, instead of joy and anticipation, there is concern and confusion on her face. At times like this, I can see that she ordered this next trinket in some kind of daze, and now doesn’t need it…”
– Olga, 47, accountant
Frequent purchases of trifles on the “paid and forgotten” principle are the first red flag. The desire to buy something to lift the spirits can be a sign of developing dependence.
“My sister is an Instagram follower of a blogger girl. She either has so much money that it can grow hairs, or just big brands send her clothes. Every day she shares dozens of stories with unpacking and fittings of new outfits. My sister tries to copy her style, uses her links and promo codes to buy the same things, some being very expensive, which she cannot afford. They do not always suit her, because her type and constitution are very different. At first, she borrowed money from me. When I tried to convey to her that this situation is not normal, she stopped. I thought she had come to her senses, but it was not to be: she got a credit card and now she’s using it to pay for her purchases.”
– Julia, 32, economist
Often people dependent on online purchases spend money till the last, run into debts and exceed the limit on credit cards. They may experience severe anxiety or even become depressed from the inability to make another purchase.
“Husband constantly “hangs around” in the Internet communities on autotuning. They have their own world there: they share finds on Chinese sites, resell each other some dubious frills for the interior. At first, I did not worry and even rejoiced that he had a passion. But this month he ordered sliding glasses and a roof-rack… the second one. These are quite large purchases, which we did not take into account in the family budget. Now I think of how to explain to my son that he will have to wear last year’s jacket. It would be something like: “Son, its okay that the sleeves are short, but at least our dad now has a new trunk that can hold extra10 liters!”
– Regina, 39, doctor
The addicted person cannot resist the temptation to make a profitable purchase; at this moment he/she forgets about the sense of responsibility to the family and brings losses to the joint budget.
“Lately my friend has been increasingly frequently sending me links from online shopping sites. The links are accompanied by words like “look what an awesome skirt I ordered at the sale,” “the handbag is just incredible,” “look at the cool jeans, I’m buying them!”, and things like that. I think she’s obsessed with online shopping. Haven’t we got anything better to talk about?
– Polina, 21, student
The addict has an urgent need to share the impulsive joy of shopping with friends. It’s like he/she constantly needs approval and confirmation of how successful and profitable was his/her new purchase.
“If you were in my apartment, you would think I was a very well-read person. I have a bunch of motivational books and best-selling novels. But, alas, I either did not finish them or haven’t even started. I’ve signed up for mailings from several bookstores. I always receive offers with discounts. I open them when I feel down (and this often happens). When I see the difference between “price for all” and “price for you,” it makes me crazy. I begin to admire the design of the cover, read reviews, imagine the smell of a new book. I think that when I read this book, I’ll become a time management goddess, I will learn to invest, learn English in half an hour, etc. But then I regret that I spent so much, and when the books arrive I end up not reading them. It’s been like this a few times, not just with books. I buy something online and then don’t know what to with it.”
– Tatiana, 37, manager
An addict decides to make another purchase in a depressed state, hoping to stifle the stress from their problems with positive emotions from a hotheaded purchase. However, soon joy is replaced by the awareness of spent money, and they feel shame or guilt for an ill-considered decision.
From the statements below, choose the ones that are typical of your behavior.
|1||I get parcels and realize that I don’t need the things I bought anymore pretty often.|
|2||I make purchases on the Internet, using a credit card, as well as borrow money from friends, relatives, etc.|
|3||I subscribe to the mailing lists of stores and regularly review them|
|4||I spend a lot of time on online shopping sites, visit them several times a week|
|5||I can’t close the website of the online store until I make another order or add something to the wish list|
|6||I regularly read product reviews, watch video reviews and follow bloggers’ shopping|
|7||Sometimes I just need to order something to make myself feel better.|
|8||I often share my findings in online stores with a friend|
|9||I pretty often don’t remember exactly what I ordered by the time the parcel arrives.|
|10||My family is worried about my financial situation.|
If you marked 7 or more statements, you should think about learning how to control your purchases on the Internet.
You can learn to control hotheaded decisions about online purchases on your own. Here are few ways and tips from psychologists.
Think about your past purchases on the Internet and try to understand what motivated you to commit them, in what temper and condition you were and what you felt after that. It is important to find a “trigger” that pushes you to uncontrolled spending. Most likely, the addiction is based on some kind of psychological problem or need you are trying to fill. It needs to be worked out separately.
Admit it frankly, how much time you waste in online stores, consuming branded content in social networks and watching Youtube videos about products? After all, you could spend the same time on educational and professional portals, read blogs about self-development and watch channels about travel. There is a lot of really useful information on the Internet that helps to improve the quality of life.
Make an approximate plan of how much time a day you will spend browsing useful resources and responding to friends’ messages and seeing what they share with you. Visit online shopping sites no more than once a week.
We live in a saturated media space, and it is impossible to completely protect ourselves from the influence of advertising. However, we may limit the flow of advertising on the Internet.
Install a special browser extension that will block pop-up and banner ads.
Remove online shopping sites from browser bookmarks.
Unsubscribe from promotional e-mails or set up your email so that all store emails are placed in a separate box, which you will view no more than once a week.
At the beginning of the month, make a list of necessary purchases and set a limit on the amount you’ll allow yourself to spend on unplanned shopping. Follow this list for a month. At the end of the month, analyze your spending. This is easy to do with a special mobile app, in which you need to enter information about purchases daily, dividing them by category.
After a while, you will learn to better control your habit of buying unnecessary things.
Identify a list of criteria that the item must meet. Try to soberly assess all the pros and cons, to correlate the price with useful properties instead of brand image, and avoid such advertising incentives as “bestseller”, “shock price” etc.
If you know that during sales your ability to think critically is greatly reduced, you can ask for help from loved ones. Discuss a potential purchase with someone whose opinion you trust.
Find interesting activities that will also require material resources, but will bring you more benefits than online shopping. For example, start attending a swimming pool or a foreign language course. Investing in health and the future is much more important than the immediate desire to buy something.
You may think that it is not worth dreaming about buying a personal apartment or going abroad shortly, and small purchases can brighten up your life at least somehow. Try to give them up and set money aside for a bank deposit. Remember the famous expression: “Who cares how old your sneakers are if you’re walking in them in Paris?” Time will pass, and you will make your dreams come true and will be proud of yourself because you have made the right choice.
Unfortunately, not everyone manages to overcome a persistent addiction without qualified help from a psychologist. Most addicts cannot realize that their behavior is not the normal one. They are convinced that they can stop at any moment if they feel a real threat.
The work is carried out remotely under the careful supervision of a psychologist and is completely confidential. During the course, you can consult a psychologist on a convenient communication channel: by phone, e-mail or online chat. The method allows you to achieve results within up to 6 weeks.
The 7Spsy behavior modification technique will allow you to learn how to distinguish short-term desires from real needs, to properly allocate expenses and enjoy deliberate purchases.