For some TV apparel shoppers, program hosts may help lead to impulse buys

10/06/04

COLUMBUS, Ohio – For people who buy clothing on television shopping channels, the hosts of the programs may play a significant role in leading them to make purchases.

A new study found that television shoppers who developed one-sided relationships with hosts of apparel programs were also more likely to buy clothing impulsively from these shows than were other shoppers.

"Some viewers regard the hosts of shopping programs almost as being friends, and they develop a pseudo-relationship over time," said Sharron Lennon, co-author of the study and professor of consumer and textile sciences at Ohio State University.

"This kind of relationship is more likely to lead to impulse purchases."

Lennon conducted the study with Ji Hye Park, currently an assistant professor at Iowa State University. Park led the study while she was a graduate student at Ohio State. Their results appear in a recent issue of the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.

The researchers conducted a mail survey of 154 people who had purchased clothing from television shopping programs. They identified the participants from a database of television shoppers. This is part of a larger study of people who have bought a wide range of products on television.

Participants were asked a variety of questions to examine impulse buying and the relationship viewers developed with the hosts of shopping programs.

In order to determine if viewers developed close relationships with program hosts, the participants were asked to rate on a scale how much they agreed with statements like "The hosts are almost like friends you see everyday."

Impulse shopping was measured by how participants rated their agreement with statements like "I decide what to buy after I watch television shopping programs."

It's not surprising that viewers develop close relationships with hosts, Lennon said. The shopping channels actively encourage viewers to feel close to the hosts.

"The hosts and guests on these shopping programs use a variety of conversational techniques that may encourage pseudo-interactive responses on the part of viewers," she said.

"The hosts focus on similarities between the viewers and themselves, in order to facilitate a relationship."

In addition the hosts invite viewers to contact them, and often provide e-mail and postal addresses, as well as telephone numbers to contact the hosts.

"Viewers develop attachments to their favorite hosts, and we find that this encourages viewers to buy more impulsively without considering whether they need the clothing they are buying," Lennon said.

Not surprisingly, the study also found that viewers who watched more hours of television shopping programs were more likely than others both to buy impulsively and to also to develop closer attachments to the program hosts.

The study didn't examine the details of what caused impulse shopping. But Park said the study indicates there may be a process that leads to impulse purchases.

"It may be that the more you watch these apparel-shopping programs, the more you develop personal relationships with the hosts, and then the more you buy on impulse," she said.

The study also asked participants to name their top reasons for shopping for clothing on television. The top reasons were related to the products themselves: lower prices and greater selection.

Slightly more than half of those surveyed reported buying large-sized clothing, and there may be more such clothing available on television than in many stores, Lennon said.

The second biggest reason given for in-home shopping was convenience. The average age of these shoppers surveyed was nearly 56, and some of them may either be too busy or find it harder to shop in stores, she said.

Park said the results suggest that people who buy clothing on television need to be especially vigilant when making their purchase decisions.

"Television shopping is very impulsive. You have to focus on the features, not the hosts," Park said. "Consumers have to think about what they need, and whether the clothing they're looking at on television really meets those needs."

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