Odd online shopping purchases surge during pandemic

Another full day spent in bed surfing the internet for new things to buy. This has become the norm for so many Americans who have extra time and money due to Covid-19, and need the serotonin boost that getting a package in the mail seems to give them.  

It has been roughly 10 months since the coronavirus changed the consumer world forever. Month after month, consumer reports show that online shopping is steadily on the rise, and  DePaul’s student body has made its contributions. 

DePaul senior Ryann Holland could not help but laugh when asked if she’d made any purchases recently that she probably could have lived without. 

“Totally. I’ve bought like three humidifiers, a heated blanket, heated slippers and an electronic keyboard… I don’t even know how to play the piano! I bought all of these things literally just because I was bored,” Holland said. 

Boredom seems to be the common thread of this spike in online purchases. Sophomore Ruben Plaza said that he bought the new iPhone simply “because I wanted the new one. There wasn’t even anything wrong with my iPhone 11.” Senior Pantelis Xidias chuckled, saying that his Cartier watch purchase was “as impulsive of a buy as it gets.”  

So if we are aware that the purchases we make are unnecessary and impulsive, why do we continue to make them? Do we truly get a serotonin boost when we purchase things online? 

“Are specific neurochemicals related to online purchasing? No, not really,”said Geoffrey Durso, an assistant professor at DePaul with an expertise in consumer behavior. “In general, when something fundamental to biological functioning, like the presence or absence of a hormonal chemical, is connected to a socially complex idea like happiness or impulsivity or buying behavior, then it’s almost assuredly the wrong way to think about it.”

“I would say first that whether a purchase is ‘unnecessary’ depends on how the purchase works out in actual use,” Durso added. “If you’re making purchases and already know what you’re buying is ‘unnecessary,’ then you may be simply bored. It makes sense, given our need to stay at home as much as possible during the pandemic, where many of us may feel deprived of our normal daily experiences… We may feel like we need something new or to switch things up in  our day-to-day lives, and online shopping can provide that.” 

Senior Diery Faye did just that. He felt the need to switch up his daily routine, so he purchased a $400 hotel room. 

“It was a fun night. Definitely worth it,” Faye said. 

Health concerns and boredom continue to drive online shopping sales among DePaul’s student body and all across the country. According to eMarketer and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, eCommerce has risen by approximately 32.4 percent. As this pandemic continues, so will the spike in online shopping and “unnecessary” purchases. With so many things changing in the world, it is no surprise that consumer behavior has as well.