The Effect of Individual Differences on Adolescents' Impulsive Buying Behavior

Article excerpt


Impulsive buying behavior is a widely recognized phenomenon. It accounts for up to 80% of all purchases in certain product categories (Abrahams, 1997; Smith, 1996). It has been suggested that more purchases result from impulse than from planning (Sfiligoj, 1996). A 1997 study estimated that 4.2 billion annual sales volume was generated by impulse purchases of such items as candy and magazines (Hogelonsky, 1998). Retailers try to increase the number of impulse purchases through product displays and package design (Jones et al., 2003). In addition, contemporary marketing innovations, for example, 24-hour stores and television and Internet shopping, make impulse buying even easier (Kacen & Lee, 2002). Further, the growth of e-commerce and the increasing consumer orientation of many societies offer greater opportunities for impulse purchases.

Most of the research on impulse buying has focused on adults (e.g., Beatty & Ferrell, 1998) or college students (Rook & Fisher, 1995; Rook & Gardner, 1993). A few studies have focused on adolescents in spite of the fact that marketers have targeted adolescents in the belief that younger people have more disposable income (Simpson et al., 1998). Further, they are less likely to seek more information, comparison shop, or postpone purchases (Jones et al., 2003). Most young adolescents tend to be impulsive--doing and saying things on the spur of the moment without taking into account the risk involved (Kahn et al., 2002). In a time of dramatic psychological and physical change, there may be a wide range of impulsiveness based on age and emotional intelligence. Therefore, investigation of impulsive buying among adolescents with a range of personality traits would be a valuable addition to the literature.

Impulsive Buying Behavior

Impulsive buying behavior is seen as a sudden, spontaneous act which precludes thoughtful, consideration of all available information and choice alternatives (Bayley & Nancorrow, 1998; Rook 1987; Thompson, Locander, & Pollio, 1990; Weinberg & Gottwald, 1982). It is "an unplanned purchase" characterized by (1) "relatively rapid decision-making, and (2) a subjective bias in favor of immediate possession" (Rook & Gardner, 1993, p. 3). It is described as more arousing, unintended, less deliberate, and more irresistible than is planned buying behavior. Researchers agree that impulsive buying occurs when an individual makes an unintended, unreflective, and immediate purchase (Rook, 1987; Rook & Fisher, 1995; Rook & Hoch, 1985). Impulsive buyers are likely to be unreflective in their thinking, to be emotionally attracted to the object, and to desire immediate gratification (Hoch & Loewenstein, 1991; Thompson et al., 1990).

Researchers have found that many factors influence impulsive buying: the consumer's mood (Donovan, Rossiter, Marcooly, & Nesdale, 1994; Rook, 1987; Rook & Gardner, 1993; Weinberg & Gottwald, 1982), normative evaluation of the appropriateness of engaging in impulse buying (Rook & Fisher, 1995), self-identity (Dittmar et al., 1995), age, pocket money available, gender (e.g., Bellenger, Robertson & Hirschman, 1978; Wood, 1998), and cultural influences (Kacen & Lee, 2002).

With regard to age, based on a national sample of adults in the United States, Wood (1998) found an inverse relationship between age and impulse buying. Impulse buying increases slightly between the ages of 18 and 39 and subsequently declines. This finding is consistent with that of Bellenger et al. (1978) who found that shoppers under 35 were more prone to impulse buying than were those over 35. Since impulsiveness is linked to emotional arousal, older adults are more apt to control their emotional expression than are younger adults (Lawton, Kleban, Rajogopal, & Dean, 1992; McConatha et al., 1994). This would be reflected in older consumers' control of impulsive buying tendencies. …


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