Credit – Oscar Wong—Getty Images
Online shopping is more than a hobby for those who get a thrill out of traversing the biggest mall in the world: the internet. It’s also a sport.
How else to explain Monica Corcoran Harel’s reaction to the news that there’s a flash sale at one of her favorite online stores? “I get very, very excited and incredibly competitive,” she says, hitting refresh over and over to land the best deal. If a family member happens to enter the room while she’s hovered over her computer, “I’m like, ‘flash sale! I have a flash sale!’” In other words: do not disturb.
Corcoran Harel, 53, who lives in the Los Angeles area and runs Pretty Ripe, a lifestyle newsletter for women over 40, has been shopping online for years. She relishes the ability to visit dozens of shops at once, comparing prices before clicking “buy now,” and the promise of quick delivery, all without stepping out of her house. Online shopping is “beyond intoxicating,” she says. “I’m probably partially responsible for the downfall of brick-and-mortar stores.”
But what exactly makes these orders feel so good? Experts explain the psychology behind online shopping—along with tips on how to show restraint if your virtual cart is overflowing.
Online shopping increased during the pandemic
Online shopping transformed from novelty to normality years ago: Amazon launched nearly three decades ago, in 1995, as an online bookseller, and now reports that customers buy around 7,400 products per minute from its U.S. sellers. But the pandemic shifted consumer habits in a way that favored buying even basic necessities like toilet paper online. According to the Annual Retail Trade Survey, e-commerce sales increased by $244 billion—or 43%—in 2020, jumping from