Caffeine Consumption Leads to Impulsivity during Shopping, New Study Shows

Caffeine Consumption Leads to Impulsivity during Shopping, New Study Shows

New research conducted at multiple retail stores across different countries and in the lab indicates that consuming a caffeinated (vs. non-caffeinated) beverage before shopping leads to higher shopping impulsivity in terms of a higher number of items purchased and greater spending. Additionally, the effects of caffeine on shopping impulsivity were stronger for high hedonic (vs. low hedonic) products. Also, the effects of caffeine on spending hold for people who drink up to 2 cups of coffee (or less) daily and get attenuated for heavy coffee drinkers.

Caffeine is the world’s most popular stimulant and is consumed daily by a significant portion of the world’s population through coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks.

Consumers often shop online and in brick-and-mortar stores immediately after or while consuming caffeinated beverages, with this phenomenon being catalyzed by the presence of coffee shops and widespread availability of caffeinated beverages.

This is further facilitated by some retail stores providing complimentary foods/beverages that might contain caffeine.

Despite the prevalence of coffee consumption before shopping, there is no research insight as to how consuming coffee or other caffeinated beverages could influence purchase behavior.

That is, how might drinking a caffeinated beverage (e.g., a cup of coffee) before shopping influence the number of items consumers purchase and their overall spending?

“Caffeine, as a powerful stimulant, releases dopamine in the brain, which excites the mind and the body,” said Professor Dipayan Biswas, a researcher at the University of South Florida.

“This leads to a higher energetic state, which in turn enhances impulsivity and decreases self-control.”

Professor Biswas and colleagues ran three experiments in several retail stores.

The experiments consisted of setting up an espresso machine at the entrances of a retail chain and home goods store in France and a department store in Spain.

Upon entry, more than 300 shoppers were provided a complimentary cup — with about half offered coffee that contained about 100 mg of caffeine and the others decaf or water.

They then shared their receipts with the researchers as they exited the stores.

The authors found that shoppers who drank a cup of complimentary caffeinated coffee prior to roaming the stores spent about 50% more money and bought nearly 30% more items than shoppers who drank decaf or water.

They also found that caffeine also impacted what types of items they bought.

Those who drank caffeinated coffee bought more non-essential items than the other shoppers, such as scented candles and fragrances.

However, there was a minimal difference between the two groups when it came to utilitarian purchases, such as kitchen utensils and storage baskets.

The researchers set up a fourth experiment in a lab and received similar results, this time regarding online shopping.

They split the study pool of 200 business school students between individuals who consumed caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and asked them to pick which items they’d purchase from a preselected list of 66 options.

Those who consumed caffeine picked more items considered to be impulsive purchases, such as a massager, while others selected more practical items, such as a notebook.

“While moderate amounts of caffeine intake can have positive health benefits, there can be unintended consequences of being caffeinated while shopping,” Dr. Biswas said.

“That is, consumers trying to control impulsive spending should avoid consuming caffeinated beverages before shopping.”

The study was published in the Journal of Marketing.


Dipayan Biswas et al. Caffeine’s Effects on Consumer Spending. Journal of Marketing, published online June 11, 2022; doi: 10.1177/00222429221109247
Caffeine Consumption Leads to Impulsivity during Shopping, New Study Shows
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