Do you ever find yourself browsing products online, adding items to your cart, and then abandoning them there without making a purchase? If so, then you are an online window shopper. You’re not alone! We conducted a recent study that revealed almost 60% of Americans regularly spend time window shopping online. That’s no small number considering there are 230 million online shoppers in the United States alone, and 2.14 billion online shoppers globally.

Research has shown that the shopping process is a happy experience. 85% of American adults and 86% of teens admitted that it makes them feel better. More than one-third of American adults revealed that shopping makes them feel better than eating pizza.

We surveyed 2,000 shoppers to find out what lures them in and how much time we’re losing to browsing stores online. Key takeaways include:

  • 1 in 5 window shoppers scrolls online retailers for an hour or more with no intention of making a purchase.
  • Online window shoppers are lured in most by discounts and sales (30%).
  • Adults ages 41-55 are twice as likely to spend over an hour browsing online compared to young adults ages 18-24.
  • Social media marketing triggers online window shopping 3 times more often than TV commercials.

21% of Online Window Shoppers Spend Over One Hour Browsing

Illustration shows a shopping cart with the stat that 1 in 5 window shoppers browse for an hour or more with no intention of purchasing.

51% of survey respondents who window shop online spend under 10 minutes browsing, but 19% typically spend over an hour leisurely scrolling without making a purchase. The pandemic brought us a lengthy lockdown filled with boredom, stress, and loneliness. It provided millions of people stuck at home with the opportunity to indulge in the act of fantasy shopping for items they’ll never buy or can’t afford. One online window shopper told Refinery29, “It takes me away from the stress of work and coronavirus.” 

Emotions do provide a powerful influence on our shopping experiences. A Journal of Consumer Research report indicates that materialistic consumers experience significantly stronger positive emotions when thinking about a future purchase than after they’ve completed the purchase.

Perhaps the people killing an hour browsing online are the same 13% of American shoppers who confessed to shopping while bored in another recent Coupon Chief survey. Respondents cited boredom most often as the number one reason they purchased an item they didn’t need. 

According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Scott Bea, “Shopping and its sensory stimulation gets us to visualize positive outcomes. Those perfectly merchandised, personally curated online products can get our imagination going as we project ourselves in satisfying environments.” In a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threw the routines of most Americans out of whack, online window shopping offered a brief sense of control and hope.

33% of Online Window Shoppers are Looking for a Good Deal 

Bar chart shows how online window shoppers are most tempted by discounts.

The prospect of a discount or a good sale is the biggest lure (30%) for window shoppers to spend their time contemplating online purchases. Recent statistics show that 73% of Americans use paperless coupons, with digital coupon redemption projected to reach $91 billion by 2022. The desire to save runs deep among American consumers, where 1 in 4 wishes they had spent less money on themselves.

Trusted recommendations, from friends, family, celebrities, or the media, are the second most common trigger to begin browsing online stores, at almost 25%. Online reviews have also gained influence, as 93% of consumers read reviews before making an online purchase. And 79% of consumers say they put just as much trust in online reviews as they do personal recommendations from their social circle.

Gen X Spends Twice as Much Time Window Shopping Online as Young Adults 

Illustrated statistic states that Gen Xers are twice as likely to online window shop for an hour more more compared to Gen Z and Baby Boomers.

Generational differences in online window shopping habits are clear, and Gen Xers (those born between 1965–1980) are the most likely age group to be found lost in a digital window shopping rabbit hole. Adults ages 41-55 (30%) are two times as likely to spend over an hour browsing online compared to both young adults ages 18-24 (16%) and older adults over age 56 (14%). With larger households to purchase for on average and a willingness to splurge on themselves when shopping, evidence suggests that Gen X shoppers take their retail therapy seriously. 

Millennials (born between 1981–1996) surprisingly browse online the least, with 18% stating they do not engage in online window shopping at all. Baby Boomers (born between 1946–1964) are right behind the Millennials, with 16% revealing they aren’t digital window shoppers either. 

Social Media Ads Influence Online Browsing More Than Three Times as Often as TV

Social media advertising prompts online window shopping three times as often as TV ads.

When examining the marketing side of online shopping triggers, social media advertising outpaces television 3-to-1 (25% vs. 8%). The ability to actively engage with a brand makes social media a prime spot for marketing efforts to connect with consumers. 89% of shoppers will make a purchase from a brand they follow on social.  

Statistically, women (15%) are much more likely than men (9%) to get sucked into clicking a social media ad to start browsing online. But the biggest reason men and women start online window shopping is still the potential for a good deal.

Generationally, it’s interesting to note that Gen Z respondents have never felt inspired to shop online due to TV advertising. This makes sense as Gen Z has turned to streaming videos on their mobile devices rather than subscribing to cable TV services.

Ways to save while virtually window shopping 

Digital window shopping serves a purpose and fulfills a need, whether it’s to relieve stress during a rather difficult year or because you actually think you might buy something. If you’re the type to browse for a few minutes or a couple of hours, it’s smart to keep some strategies in mind so you don’t blow your budget.

1. Pre-plan to stack coupons on a future shopping trip.

Use your window shopping time to discover coupons for products you want or need. By accumulating a blend of stackable store and manufacturer coupons, researching the coupon policies of the retailer, and creating a tailored shopping list, you can strategize your next in-person or online shopping experience to achieve maximum savings.

2. Understand the emotions tied to your shopping habits.

Researchers believe that materialistic consumers who learn that the happiness they feel from acquiring things is actually less pleasurable than the anticipation of making a purchase may help them avoid credit debt issues by delaying purchases until they can afford and need them. We have additional tips for curbing impulse shopping available on our blog.

3. Seek out freebies and rewards programs from your favorite retailers.

Take time while window shopping to find out if your favorite store provides birthday freebies or other rewards programs for being a loyal customer.

The practice of online window shopping is here to stay, with 3 out of 5 American shoppers regularly taking time to look around online retail sites. Complimentary data shows that almost 60% of online shoppers in the U.S. have abandoned a digital shopping cart within the last 3 months because they were “not ready to buy.” 

The flexibility provided by online window shopping explains this growing popularity, providing shoppers the opportunity to learn as much about a product before committing to a purchase in their own time. Or perhaps, giving a potential buyer the time they need to find the right coupon to get the perfect deal.

Methodology

This study consisted of two survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question for a total of 2,000 respondents. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. All age range data presented in the findings come from Google Consumer Surveys. The survey ran during May 2021.

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