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The Stress Test:
Is online shopping getting hearts racing?

Is online shopping a breeze or stress inducing? We tracked participants’ heart rates to observe their stress levels while online shopping and completing other tasks.

person stressed by online shopping

Online shopping shouldn’t be stressful, should it? Unfortunately, for a lot of people it can be. While some love the ease and convenience of being able to do all their shopping from the comfort of their own home, or even on the move, others find the whole experience confusing or complicated.

To find out a bit more about the public’s attitudes towards online shopping and their experiences with it, we completed a study on people’s experiences and stress levels while shopping online and completing other everyday activities.

What we did.

You may know this already, but your heart rate can increase when you experience feelings of stress, excitement, anger and other strong emotions. This means any significant changes to your heart rate (without the involvement of physical exercise) could reflect how you’re feeling at that moment. Anxiety bubbling up inside? Your heart rate will likely reflect this!

We used this theory to investigate the emotional impact that online shopping has on the customer. Firstly, we surveyed volunteers of various ages about their thoughts on online shopping. We then asked them to complete a series of tasks - online shopping, browsing social media, gentle exercise such as going for a walk and solving optical illusions. In the survey, we asked them how stressed they thought they would be while completing each activity by rating them out of 10 (10 being the most stressed). The average response for online shopping was 4/10, which was just lower than completing optical illusions (4.4), and higher than browsing social media (3) and going for a walk (1.5). 

To bring heart rates into the mix, and assess our volunteers’ real stress levels during each task, we provided them with a heart rate monitor to track their BPM (beats per minute) while completing each one. What we were looking for was any significant rise or fall in their heart rate - an increase could indicate a spike in stress levels, while a decreased or stable heart rate could suggest they are relaxed.

What we learnt.

The heart rate raisers.

So, which activities got pulses in overdrive? Overall, we found that participants’ heart rates rose by an average of 4.9% (3.2 BPM) while completing their online shopping task. To put this into perspective, you could compare this with other sedentary activities like browsing social media - which saw an average heart rate decrease of 2.7%, and completing optical illusions (adding a little more brainpower to the mix) - which saw an average increase of 3.6%. So, with heart rates raising the most while online shopping, it’s possible participants found this activity more stressful than any other activity included in the study. But why is this?

The age divide.

It turns out experiences can vary for different people. Take older people, for example. Of all age groups, those over 55 were the most likely to experience a significant increase in their heart rate during the online shopping task, with BPM going up an average of 5.5% (3.6 BPM). This compares to an average of 4.9% (3.2 BPM) across all age-groups. They also took 22.7% longer to find the desired item (7 mins 12 secs) than the average of all ages (5 mins 42 secs) and 44% longer than the 26-34-year-old participants (4 mins 36 secs). This is likely because the latter are a generation who are generally more adapted to the digital world.

Online shopping’s highs and lows.

We’ve learnt that online shopping can raise heart rates, but a little stimulation doesn’t seem to put people off. Interestingly, 60% of participants said that they prefer online shopping to shopping in-store. And when asked to rate their overall experience of online shopping out of 10, the average response was 6.1/10. While this isn’t too bad, it does suggest there are ways that their experiences could be improved or made easier.

Common challenges faced when online shopping are not being able to assess the quality of a product before buying it, spending hours browsing because there’s so much to take in, ending up with the wrong sized clothing, inaccurate imagery, waiting for deliveries and having to return items. This said, participants did note that online shopping is very convenient and was especially useful during the COVID-19 lockdowns. A couple of participants also noted that they find better deals when shopping online. So, how could this all be made easier so that people can reap the benefits without facing challenges?

statistics about online shopping

Currys’ ShopLive tool to the rescue.

Fortunately, the Currys ShopLive tool has been designed to make the whole online shopping experience smoother and more stress free. Forget fiddling around with navigation filters and checking product specs. You can have a one-way video call with a real in-store expert (it’s only one way, so they can’t see you!) so you can discuss exactly what you’re looking for with an expert. They can recommend the ideal products to suit your needs, offer tips and advice, and generally take the fuss out of searching the website for the right items. This means you can find products quicker, have specific questions answered directly and in detail, and benefit from the knowledge of experts who really know their stuff. It brings the in-store experience online to make your life easier. 

To put the tool to the test, our final task in the study was to get our volunteers to trial the ShopLive tool. While heart rates still went up slightly (probably because everyone secretly gets a little bit spooked by talking to a real person these days!), on average, people were able to find the correct product in 6% less time than by themselves. Plus, you get an expert opinion if you’re struggling to decide which one to buy or if you’re not sure about a particular feature. By interacting with one of the Currys experts, you can rest assured that you’re making a purchase that will fit your criteria.

All in all, our study has found that people generally enjoy online shopping and the benefits it can offer. But it’s not always plain sailing when you shop solo. The trick appears to be to make use of retailer’s assistance services, to find exactly what you need. Why spend precious minutes hunting for products and answers, when there’s someone on hand to help in a flash?

So, while online shopping can leave people feeling a little bit puzzled, whether shopping for clothes or looking to buy a TV, companies such as Currys are there to make people’s experiences much smoother, helpful and more enjoyable. The Currys ShopLive tool, for example, makes it quicker and easier to find the products you’re after at Currys - buy online for home delivery or pinpoint what you’d like to purchase in store. After all, being able to order the items you want direct to your door is pretty handy if you get it right!