Stimulating Impulsive Purchases Online: A Consumer Neuroscience Study of the Effect of Visually Salient Stimuli on Online Impulsive Purchasing Behavior

Ida Ling Yun Zhang Illum & Nathalie Maria Madsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Purpose -- The aim of this research paper was to investigate the impact of certain visually salient stimuli, red color background and product zoom element, vs. a neutral stimulus (white background) on impulsive shopping behavior. This was to be examined through the research question: How do visually salient stimuli affect emotional impulsive responses in an online shopping environment? Research design -- This study tests the effectiveness of two visually salient stimuli vs. a neutral stimulus using biometric measures (eye-tracking and GSR) and several self-report surveys. The experiment tested 41 European women (ages 18-35). The majority of the experiment consisted of an on-screen test showing the participants product images manipulated to contain the chosen visually salient stimuli. The participants’ purchase intention, arousal and valence levels, and previous purchase intention of chosen products was used in combination with total fixation duration (TFD), time to first fixation (TTFF), and reaction data to evaluate the general effectiveness of the visually salient stimuli in terms of influencing online impulsive purchases. Findings -- Both visually salient stimuli are similarly effective in creating positive valence but were not correlated with arousal. The red color was most effective in increasing general purchase intention, followed by product zoom element (and lastly neutral stimulus). Product zoom element was associated with the longest TFD; however, the implications of this are unclear and will require further research. Both visually salient stimuli perform positively, however more research is required to optimize product zoom element’s possible use in online retail and effect on consumers. On the other hand, based on findings, red color background performed more effectively on several of the components of impulsive purchasing, and is more readily applicable. Lastly, this study found that an impulsive purchase is increasingly difficult to define and can benefit from future research using more advanced neurometric techniques to pinpoint a concrete and universal definition. Practical implications -- Emotion is an essential component of impulsive purchases, and emotional connection to a product results in greater product satisfaction, lower risk of regret, and potentially increased consumer retention. Secondly, the red color background’s effectiveness on several of the measures indicate that retailers could potentially benefit from implementing red background color. Contribution -- This study contributes to research in the emotional aspect of impulsive purchases and the triggers that influence emotion, as well as the effect of visually salient stimuli on impulsive purchasing behavior.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages129
SupervisorsJesper Clement