The impact of emotions on consumer shopping

Ever believed the decisions we make as humans come from a rational analysis? Emotions will strongly influence and determine our choices (Damasio, 1994). He argues that emotion is necessary in all decisions and that previous emotional reactions to situations can influence our current choices, especially in the retail industry. This blog examines how emotions impact upon consumer shopping behaviour and the factors involved in influencing this behaviour.

The physical environment can affect shopping behaviour through emotional states, cognitive factors and increased arousal (Yalch and Spangenberg, 2000). A simulated shopping environment was created, where the music varied by degrees of familiarity. People shopped for a longer amount of time when the unfamiliar music was played, despite shoppers believing they had shopped longer in the familiar music condition. A criticism of this study was that it was not conclusive if a person’s emotional states were directly related to the music changes. There are many individual differences in what music is classed as familiar and unfamiliar.

Unlike the previous study Donovan, Rossiter, Marcoolyn & Nesdale (1994) measured the emotions during the experience and the effects on actual shopping behaviour. They found that pleasantness of the in-store environment was a factor in predicting extra time spent in the store and higher spending. The arousal produced had varying effects and therefore further research is required in this area. The study has implications on retailers, as the store environment can produce emotional states, which overall will affect the time and money consumers will spend.

Since the late 1990s online retailing has emerged as the alternative way to shop, and attracting and retaining customers is very important to online retailers. Ethier, Hadaya, Tabot & Cadieux (2006) found that the quality of a website positively impacts upon the cognitive processes which result in the consumer emotion. The emotions most affected included liking and joy, which were experienced intensively during the online shopping experience.  Many factors can impact upon online consumer behaviour and this includes gender differences. Alreck and Settle (2002) found that male consumers purchase more online and will spend more money than females. Women were found to have a higher level of apprehensiveness and wariness towards shopping on the internet, which could affect the reliability of previous studies, such as Ethier et al (2006).

Negative emotions can lead to impulsive consumer behaviour and this has been shown in the impulsive buying tendency personality trait (Zimmerman, 2012). Individuals who possess this personality trait are more sociable, status-conscious and image concerned. However, they find it difficult to control their emotions and feel more anxious, resulting in temptation to spend more money. Zimmerman (2012) found that these individuals also experience less happiness and therefore give in easier to emotional urges to shop, which they believe will improve their mood.

Despite impulsive shopping being a problem, there are many ways in which people can learn to change their behaviour. Baumeister (2002) found that shopping when upset lead to more impulsive purchases. This can implicate on a person’s life, as the goal of feeling happier becomes more important than goals such as saving money, therefore potentially leading to long-term unhappiness and debt.

Finally, consumer mood during the shopping experience has significant effects on the shopping outcomes. Babin and Darden (1996) found that a consumer’s in-store mood impacts upon spending but it has a greater impact on customer satisfaction with the retailer. A negative shopping mood affects customer satisfaction with the retailer to a greater extent than a positive mood. This has implications for retailers developing better customer loyalty, however an individual’s in-store mood could have been affected by previous emotional situations which was not accounted for in the study.

In conclusion, research shows there are many factors that influence consumer shopping behaviour including: physical environment, pleasantness of the store, quality of the website, consumer’s mood and impulsive buying. However these can by affected internal factors, such as emotions from previous situations and by external factors, such as the music played in the store. The research shows there are clear links between emotion and the amount of money people will spend in-store and online and this can help retailers to improve and develop the success of their businesses.



Alreck, P., & Settle, R.B. (2002) Gender Effects on Internet, Catalogue and Store Shopping. Journal of Database Marketing, 9(2), 150-162.

Babin, B.J., & Darden, W.R. (1996). Good and bad shopping vibes: Spending and patronage satisfaction. Journal of Business Research, 35(3), 201-206.

Baumeister, R.F. (2002). Yielding to temptation: self-control failure, impulsive purchasing, and consumer behaviour. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(4).

Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Putnam Publishing.

Donovan, R.J., Rossiter, J.R., Marcoolyn, G., & Nesdale, A. (1994). Store atmosphere and purchasing behaviour. Journal of Retailing, 70(3), 283-294.

Ethier, J., Hadaya, P., Talbot, J., & Cadieux, J. (2006). B2C web site quality and emotions during online shopping episodes: An empirical study. Information and Management, 43(5), 627-639.

Yalch, R.F., & Spangenberg, E.R. (2000). The Effects of Music in a Retail Setting on Real and Perceived Shopping Times. Journal of Business Research, 49(2), 139-147.

Zimmerman, I. (2012, July 18). What motivates impulse buying? Psychology Today. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from


Posted on November 19, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Complimenting your understanding of Donovan, Rossiter, Marcoolyn Nesdale’ (1994) research, Doncan and Rossiter (1982) earlier investigation found that arousal and pleasure (emotional states) could also be influenced by music. Their study indicated that store atmosphere influenced emotions felt, and their behaviour towards a product. This implies that music has the ability to affect how an individual feels and thus, their purchase decision. However, this study did not consider why this causes emotions as different stimuli have been shown to have separate influences depending on the context (Belk, 1975). Although, additional studies have found that people’s motivation for a purchase decision can be shaped by background music (North et al., 1997). Therefore, decisions and emotions are shaped by music and separate atmospheric factors (North et al., 1997), moulding later behaviours and decisions (Kolter, 1993).


    Belk, R. W. (1975). The objective situation as a determinant of consumer behaviour. Advances in Consumer Research, 2, 427-438.

    Donova, R. J., & Rossiter, J. R. (1982). Store atmosphere: an environmental psychology approach. Journal of Retailing, 58(1), 34-58.

    Kolter, P. (1973). Atmospherics as a marketing too. Journal of Retailing, 49(12), 48-64.

    North, A. C., Hargreaves, D. J., & McKendrick, J. (1997). In-store music affects product choice. Nature, 390, 123.

  2. It has been suggested that the experience of shopping alone, can relieve us from our negative emotional state, hence the phrase ‘retail therapy’ (Rick, Periera & Burson, 2013). They suggest that shopping is an effective way to minimise residual sadness as it suggests that the choices we make during shopping help to restore our sense of personal control. However, it must be questioned if it’s the internal decision of spending money that improves our mood, or if it is down to external factors such as interacting with a helpful staff member or just the experience of ‘window shopping’ which takes our mind off our negative mood.
    Furthermore, as well as the customers mood which you have touched upon, the mood of the store personnel can also have an effect on the motivation of customers spending behaviours. Yoo, Park and MacInnis (1998), for example, found that if the staff deliver exemplary service, the shoppers tend to feel positive emotions after their shopping experience. Whereas, the shopper reported experiencing negative emotions when they were served by an incompetent or unkind salesperson. This seems fairly obvious, however it has important implications for the managers to motivate their staff to encourage positive shopping experiences for the consumer.

  3. There is a strong link between music and emotions, it can be used to change or match emotions and to relieve stress (Juslin, and Sloboda, 2010). Previous evidence conducted by Yalch and Spangenberg (1993) also found that music specific to a department of a shop positively impacted the amount of purchases and money spent in store. However they suggest that there are large individual differences. For example, music played in the foreground was found to increase sales in a young male department in contrast to an older women department, where background music increased sales. Smith and Curnow (1966) in contrast found that music did not affect sales. However, they did find that less time was spent in market in periods of loud music playing. This adds weight to your argument that music, and therefore emotion can affect a shopping experience.

    Juslin, P. N., & Sloboda, J. A. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of music and emotion: Theory, research, applications. Oxford University Press.
    Smith, P. C., & Curnow, R. (1966). “Arousal hypothesis” and the effects of music on purchasing behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 50(3), 255.
    Yalch, R. F., & Spangenberg, E. (1993). Using store music for retail zoning: a field experiment. Advances in Consumer Research, 20(1), 632-636.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: