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Difference in Motivational Factors Affecting Online and Offline Shopping Habits

Online shopping is affecting people’s shopping behavior in multiple and divergent ways. The relatively new shopping method differs, in several aspects, from the traditional brick-and-mortar shopping method. The need to find out the differences necessitates research on how its motivational factors diverge from the older version. Deeper insight into how human decision-making biases impact online shopping may also explain its dynamics. The research also explores the compatibility of sustainable consumer behavior with the proliferating number of goods available online, and whether conspicuous consumption impacts online shopping. Online shopping differs in motivational factors, is subject to unique motivational factors and human decision-making biases, and is negatively impacted by sustainable consumer behavior.

The Difference In Motivational Factors Affecting Online And Offline Shopping Choices and Habits

The motivational factors that affect online shopping choices and habits differ from those that affect the same phenomena on-ground retail shopping. Mainly, online shopping choices and behavior result from utilitarian factors. According to Wong, Wong, & Ke (2018), utilitarian factors are task-oriented. They focus on the completion of the task as opposed to the experience of doing so. Utilitarian people view shopping as a task that deserves to be measured based on its functional benefits instead of the sensations that the shopping experience prompts. Shopping online is less sensational than it is functional. It is for this reason that the people who prefer online shopping are considered to be driven by its functionality.

In many ways, online shopping resonates with the functional aspect of shopping. According to Falode et al., (2016), one of the ways in which shopping is a means to an end is if it offers the essential value of allowing price comparison. The online space allows shoppers to make an informed decision by offering the information needed to compare the prices. Shoppers can assess which e-commerce website offers the best value for their money from the comfort of their homes, workplaces, or other cozy environments. On the contrary, physical shopping is draining, since the shopper has to move physically from one outlet to the other before settling on the one with the best prices. Online shopping also offers the convenience of searching for promotional deals and the opinion of other people who may have used the product in the past. Physical shopping restricts the source of information to a few knowledgeable persons, advertisements that may not be exaggerated, and the interactive session between the seller and the potential buyer.

The ability to satisfy the hedonic needs of shoppers is also a key difference in the motivational factors affecting online and offline choices and habits. According to Wong, Wong, & Ke (2018), some shoppers prioritize the satisfaction of hedonic needs. To them, the gratification they derive from the shopping experience is a major guide on the mode of shopping they prefer. From this perspective, ground retail shopping has more to offer than online shopping. Interaction is one of them. People who visit physical stores get the opportunity to physically meet other people. Humans are social beings who derive satisfaction from meeting new or old friends, celebrities, and other categories of people. The need to satisfy this urge motivates them to visit the physical stores and shun the relatively new online channels. They also derive this satisfaction from shopping together alongside family members and friends.

The entertainment and social status aspects of shopping also influence shopping choices and habits. According to Falode et al., (2016), entertainment is one of the main hedonic reasons why people prefer visiting physical stores to online shopping. It offers them a form of adventure that they cannot derive from e-commerce sites.  Some people find offline shopping so entertaining that they move across long distances in search of new experiences. Others develop a habit of going out to shop as one of the relaxation routines during the weekends or other free times. Offline shopping also offers shoppers the chance to improve their social status. Some drive pleasure from visiting prestigious retail stores and subsequently earning more respect from other people. The need to satisfy such wants influences people’s offline shopping choices and habits.

How Human Decision-Making Biases Have an Impact On Online Shopping Habits

Human decision-making biases guide evaluation, judgment, and action when shopping online. According to El Shamy & Hassanein (2015), the repetitive paths of thinking influence the quality of a buyer’s decision when acting in an e-commerce environment. Their repetitive nature makes them manipulative, thereby leading the human brain to make decisions in a specific way instead of thinking independently according to the unique conditions. Mostly, cognitive biases cause mistakes, since they negatively affect the cognitive process.  For this reason, the resultant habits when buying online are deficient in that they do not allow the person to enjoy the full benefits of e-commerce. The resultant habits are under the influence of beliefs and preferences that are not necessarily correct in all purchasing situations. However, they are different amongst different shoppers, since the causative beliefs are not uniform.

Causing herd behavior is one of the main ways in which human decision-making biases impact online shopping habits. The bandwagon effect is one of the common effects of biases that result from the influences of other people (Ady, 2018). Online shoppers are susceptible to the beliefs, attitudes, and ideas of other people. They seek an opinion from others on how they should behave regarding a certain product that they wish to purchase for them to gain a better understanding of the same. The resultant indoctrination affects the decision-making process of the online buyer. For example, if a product has several positive reviews, a potential buyer may think that the item can is good enough for his/her unique needs. The belief that the positive reviews gained within the short time mean quality, affordability, or other positive additions may lead to a wrong decision. Repetition of similar decisions based on people’s perceptions may result in the poor purchasing habit of buying items that do not serve the purpose based on the popularity of the product.

Biases also tend to demand confirmation. Usually, the human brain is resistant to change. It seeks confirmation of the same things that are familiar with the known. Confirmation bias is a common effect that guides the minds of many people towards decisions on what to purchase or not. Most online shoppers seek to purchase the goods and services with which they are familiar (El Shamy & Hassanein, 2015). In most cases, they are unwilling to adjust to new products and services that would have otherwise served them better or revolutionized their experiences. For example, a buyer may resent a new brand of a certain product due to the thought that the new item cannot satisfactorily offer the same value for their money. The bias that guides people towards the belief that they have to get what they believe is true leads to an unfavorable behavior of only searching and purchasing the items that satisfy one’s beliefs and thoughts instead of being open to new and probably better suggestions.

Sometimes, online consumers fall victim to the bias that the first information they receive is the only one that is right. Upon exposure, the first piece of information that one comes across on the online platforms about a product or service tends to ingrain a specific idea in the brain of a shopper (Ady, 2018). In some cases, people trick themselves to think that the review, comment, or idea from the first person is correct, especially if it concurs with their beliefs, bears considerable sense, or is smartly presented. They tend to pick it and close their mind from the possibility that other ideas may have made a significant contribution to their decision. Being biased in such a manner is disentangles the shopper from the realities of the item or service. For this reason, the shopper’s online experience is negatively affected, since they do not realize the full potential of the item or service.

Compatibility of Sustainable Consumer Behavior With The Rise Of Numerous Online Products

The increase in the number of products being sold online is degrading the environment more than it is improving sustainable consumer behavior. According to Chung (2018), visiting physical stores results in the emission of fewer greenhouse gases than does online shopping. Online shoppers make several purchases since they do it from the convenience of their environments. The high competition for online customers prompts online shops to deliver goods to their customers regardless of their quantities. For these reasons, both the sellers and buyers who transact online are contributing to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Amazon delivers everything, including small items, to customers around the world. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted by cargo planes and courier vehicles delivering small items to customers in specific areas is overwhelming. The environment would be better off if the customers bought in bulk from their nearby convenience stores. In this sense, the convenience created by the availability of more goods online is a downside for the environment.

Online purchases are also associated with an increase in amounts of unfriendly packaging material. Each purchase made online demands packaging material to ensure that it is delivered in the best form to the customer, regardless of its size. It is commonplace for e-commerce sites to package items in material that can preserve the initial wellness of the items being purchased (Kavilanz, 2020).  For example, e-commerce sites that sell perishable items have to package them in non-biodegradable papers for them to reach their customers with farm freshness. Failure to do so would result in rejection by customers. The increasing number of items available for purchase in online stores is increasing the demand for such packaging material to ensure customer satisfaction. The traditional visit to offline stores offers more benefits than online shopping. Offline shoppers are known to reuse packaging material in their quest to minimize the amount spent during each shopping experience. Purchasing a shopping bag is an unnecessary cost that they avoid incurring. Also, offline shoppers are known to purchase goods in large quantities to minimize movements. In this sense, the increase in the number of goods available for shopping online translates to an increase in the rate of environmental degradation in the aspect of packaging material.

If Conspicuous Consumption Impact Upon Online Shopping Habits

Conspicuous consumption impacts online shopping habits in several ways. In one way, it discourages private shopping and works in favor of public shopping. Conspicuous consumption is associated with the need to show off to the members of the public. According to Sennet & Ratti (2016), most people who are into conspicuous shopping are obsessed with the same due to the satisfaction that it offers in creating a public image. The consumers are constantly in pursuit of clout that emanates from showing to others what they have achieved and done above their counterparts. The satisfaction that they derive from such engagements is best achieved through shopping in the glare of the public. For this reason, shopping from brick-and-mortar stores provide the best environment for engaging in attention-seeking activities. For example, a conspicuous consumer would prefer purchasing an expensive Mercedes Benz car from a showroom where there are onlookers as opposed to buying from the company’s website and having it delivered to their home. Preferring the offline experience explains why conspicuous shopping reduces online shopping habits.

The urge for recognition by peers also minimizes the chances of online shopping. The need for recognition by peers is also a major trigger for offline shopping choices and habits. According to Wong, Wong, & Ke (2018), offline shopping satisfies the hedonic need for interaction.  Conspicuous shopping is one of the known habits of people who seek interaction with others to whom they need to prove themselves. Consumers who feel the urge to be recognized by their peers are more likely to seek shopping experiences that can instantly improve their social statuses as opposed to those that demand more effort. Online shopping does not offer the instant gratification of feeling better or worthy of the company of peers that such consumers would want. The persons are mandated to seek more attention through more public engagement, such as attending events while donning the items they feel they would want their peers to see for them to recognize them. On the contrary, offline shopping instantaneously elevates them towards the exact feeling that they would have wanted without the need for showing off at a later date. The inability of online shopping to offer this gratification inverts its connection to conspicuous consumption.


Online shopping is a contemporary method that differs from traditional offline shopping in various unique ways. It offers the utilitarian satisfaction of convenience and price comparison. However, it does not offer the hedonic gratification of a social and entertaining shopping experience. Shoppers who utilize the relative novice shopping channel are also influenced by unique motivational factors and the decisions they make when purchasing from the e-commerce sites are affected by various definable biases. However, it is important to minimize the biases and mitigate their effects for a beneficial shopping experience. Despite its avant-gardism, online shopping is associated with several adverse effects on the environment that minimize its compatibility with sustainable consumer behavior. It bourgeons the use of non-biodegradable packaging material and increases carbon emission. It is also negatively affected by conspicuous consumption since it does not satisfy the hedonic needs that are associated with luxurious expenditure. Despite its shortcomings, online shopping is a dominating method of shopping and is likely to remain so in the future.

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