WOMEN
09/10/2011 11:57 am ET | Updated Nov 08, 2011

Online Shopping Dangers: How E-Retail Affects Women's Spending

By Carrie Sloan | LearnVest

Online shopping: Above all, we love it for its ease. After all, it’s far more convenient to steer your mouse to get what you need than to drive around to four stores.

But there are hidden dangers: First, with deals from more sites than ever before landing in our inbox, it’s easy to overspend. Then there are the ever-slicker methods those sites use to get us to spend.

Just in time for back-to-school and fall shopping, LearnVest is here with surefire tips to beat e-retailers at their game. In other words, a guide to scoring exactly what you want online -- and less of what you don’t.

Breeding Shopaholics: How Online Sites Seduce Us

The Magic Click
The very thing that makes online shopping so effortless can lead us to spend more than we meant to. Consider: To buy a sweater at a brick-and-mortar store, you’d browse, pick it out, try it on, head to the register, stand in line, swipe your card, then sign. In other words, you have ample time to think about what you’re purchasing. Online, it’s as simple as three clicks: An impulse buy can happen in the blink of an eye.

Plastic vs. Cash
Studies show that paying for a purchase with a credit card, as opposed to cold, hard cash causes consumers to spend 20-40% more, simply because you’re distanced from what you’re spending. It’s even easier when your go-to cards are saved in a site’s system. A recent study by BIGResearch/Shop.org found that a back-to-school shopper who buys online tends to spend 40% more than if she’d been pushing a cart.

The Rule of Scarcity
It’s no secret that supply drives demand, and the rule of scarcity tells us that being told we can’t have something—or that someone else wants it—means we covet it more. Think: “We’re sorry, that dress is in another shopper’s cart.” Now flash sales have elevated the idea to a fine art: Everything you’re shopping for is in short supply, and you have a very limited time to buy it. With your finger poised to click, and a deadline looming, the situation actually activates your brain’s fight-or-flight mechanism, which short-circuits your ability to make a rational decision.

Neuromarketing 101
Do you really like that bathing suit, or do you just like the fact that it costs75, as opposed to the one next to it for150? The new field of neuromarketing aims to boil your buying habits down to a science—then use them to help retailers profit. One key finding: When online, beware the mid-range buy. Research reported in the New York Times has shown that if you have two similar items on a page, one selling for200 and the other for250, most people will choose the cheaper item. But add a third item, at a higher price point, like300, and now the same customer will buy the250 item. Sites often add high-price items they’re unlikely to sell, seducing you into buying up.

The Rise of the BUI
And then there’s the new trend of buying under the influence. Many women, it seems, find the ease of browsing the internet makes it fun to sip while they click. Drunk shopping, we’re sure you can surmise, often leads to unpleasant surprises. For example, Lucky magazine reported that one woman failed to remember what she had bought until she received a customer service call. And time-limit-driven flash sales have even spawned a new pastime: competitive drinking/shopping. One group of women recently gathered for an “extreme shopping” game. The rules? Friends competed to see who could buy something online the fastest, using any technology -- from a mobile device to a laptop -- she had. The winner? A woman who completed a transaction in under 30 seconds.

6 Rules Of Savvy Online Shopping:

6 Rules Of Savvy Online Shopping

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