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The research team conducted three experiments in retail stores, an industry in which coffee bars are increasingly being placed near store entrances. In a study published in the Journal of Marketing, the authors discovered that shoppers who drank a cup of free caffeinated coffee before browsing the store spent approximately 50 percent more money and purchased nearly 30 percent more items than those who drank decaf or water.
"Caffeine, as a powerful stimulant, releases dopamine in the brain, which excites the mind and the body. This leads to a higher energetic state, which in turn enhances impulsivity and decreases self-control," said lead author Dipayan Biswas, the Frank Harvey Endowed Professor of Marketing at USF. "As a result, caffeine intake leads to shopping impulsivity in terms of higher number of items purchased and greater spending.
The experiments consisted of installing espresso machines at the entrances of a retail chain, a home goods store, and a department store in France and Spain, respectively. More than 300 shoppers were given a free cup upon entry, with approximately half receiving coffee containing approximately 100 mg of caffeine and the other half receiving decaf or water. Upon exiting the stores, they shared their receipts with the researchers. The team discovered that caffeinated individuals purchased significantly more items and spent more money than those who consumed decaffeinated beverages or water.
Researchers discovered that caffeine also affected the types of items individuals purchased. Those who consumed caffeinated coffee purchased more non-essential items, such as scented candles and fragrances, than other shoppers. When it came to utilitarian purchases, such as kitchen utensils and storage baskets, there was, however, little difference between the two groups.
They conducted a laboratory experiment for the fourth time and obtained similar results, this time regarding online shopping. They divided the study pool of 200 business school students between those who consumed caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and asked them to choose which of 66 items they would purchase. Those who consumed caffeine chose more impulsive items, such as a massager, compared to those who chose more practical items, such as a notebook.
"While moderate amounts of caffeine intake can have positive health benefits, there can be unintended consequences of being caffeinated while shopping," Biswas said. "That is, consumers trying to control impulsive spending should avoid consuming caffeinated beverages before shopping."
Journal Reference: Dipayan Biswas, Patrick Hartmann, Martin Eisend, Courtney Szocs, Bruna Jochims, Vanessa Apaolaza, Erik Hermann, Cristina M. López, Adilson Borges. EXPRESS: Caffeine's Effects on Consumer Spending. Journal of Marketing, 2022; 002224292211092 DOI: 10.1177/00222429221109247