Shopaholics Find Empowerment In Online Purchases

January 2, 2014 Jonathan Paul

For the new shopaholic, buying is about empowerment.

The new shopaholic sprung out of new shopping habits and economic factors beyond their control. Digital technology, a temperamental global economy and a premium put on time have changed the way consumers shop. They don’t have as much time to spend browsing and buying at the malls as they used to; digital technology has enabled them to hasten the purchase process with easy online access to their favourite brands across a variety of platforms.

The never-ending shopping experience

“The difference [today] is people now can immerse themselves in shopping online 24/7 at just about any one of their favourite brands or retailers,” says Matthew Diamond, partner at North York-based purchase design agency Hunter Straker.

Today’s consumers are also much smarter, having the ability to gather heaps of intel prior to making a purchase decision – as embodied in Google’s Zero Moment of Truth studies. This trend demonstrates a significant power shift. Now the consumer, not the retailer, is in complete control.

“In today’s world, it’s all about the smarter shopaholic,” says Diamond. “I might still spend $1,000 that I probably shouldn’t spend on clothing if I [regonize] that I’ve been smarter about it.”

“There’s a whole-scale redefinition of price, value and worth happening in the space.”

With a wealth of resources to compare prices and brands, a shopaholic can be convinced to buy while feeling like they’re saving money, Diamond adds.

“I know I’m going to get better value, because I’ve been informed online about when prices might be best.”

To lure new educated and empowered shopping enthusiasts, savvy retailers have started upping their loyalty game, luring them with robust CRM programs, emails, direct mail and redeemable gift cards. They tempt them with discounts, playing into a more fiscally conservative mindset that’s manifested from trying economic times. These more frugal consumers often factor deal-hunting into their online retail reconnaissance.

Gaming the system

While the acquisition of goods is still the primary purpose behind shopping, the motivation behind the behaviour has switched from being simply about gratification, with cost sitting in the back of the mind, to gaming the system. and saving as much money as possible on the goods or services they want. It’s given rise to activities like extreme couponing and loyalty point farming and online bargain-hunting, all things enabled by deal-oriented websites and apps.

“There are [online] communities of Canadians that are of a like mind to pay less for products than they’re actually worth, and that means there’s a whole-scale redefinition of price, value and worth happening in the space,” says Jason Dubroy, VP Managing Director, Shopper Marketing, DDB Canada.

“[Some consumers] will buy more because they’ve saved more dollars thorough the use of technology.”

“People still want to acquire more, but they want to spend less doing it. Since the recession, Canadian attitudes toward shopping have changed fairly significantly. There will always be the people that go out and acquire goods conspicuously, but there are those that are much smarter about the use of dollars and will buy more because they’ve saved more dollars thorough the use of technology.”

The calculated shopper

Websites like,, or Red Flag Deals aggregate and sell tons of deals to consumers and sites like, Groupon and act as RSS feeds for deals on the products people love.

The new shopaholic is a more calculated shopper. They’re much more motivating their buying behaviour than the shopaholic of old, and it’s mostly rooted in enablement through empowerment, says Dubroy.

“Enablement and empowerment aren’t mutually exclusive, and the ability to parlay both of them into a conscious behaviour that allows you get what you want faster, for less than you wanted to pay, that’s going to make people and their pocketbooks happy.”

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