overstimulated tend to buy less

Overstimulated tend to buy less

I read a very interesting piece of research recently that said that if people are overstimulated, they will tend not to try new things (in this case foods) (Koster and Mojet, 2007). Overstimulation can happen in a variety of ways. If you are surrounded by loud noise, colourful moving objects, bright light or an uncomfortable ambient temperature, you may be overstimulated. In this case, you will tend to not engage in variety seeking behaviour – such as trying new things.

trash fashion - thousands of outfits in a trash warehouse - overstimulated

I was thinking about this on a couple of occasions when I was out in the world buying birthday presents and browsing for clothing recently. In a department store in the city, first there is the chaos of streets filled with people. All on their way somewhere in the city. There are trams, buses, trains, cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

overstimulated department stores - people everywhere

Then, there is the massive sensory experience of scent as you walk through the perfume department on the first floor. Or the bright lights and thousands and thousands of products. In the case of one store that I went to, the background music was so loud that I did just what the research suggested that I would do. I didn’t buy the top. I didn’t buy the present. It looked fine probably, and it was a good present, but I didn’t take it home. And why?!? Because I was utterly overstimulated with the experience of the shop and just wanted to get out of there.

Applications for websites and online promotions

Usually when someone encounters your website they are doing it from the comfort of their home or office or on public transport. In some of those occasions, they can choose the level of music volume, lighting, temperature and stimulation in their environment. Therefore they are probably at an optimal level of stimulation and may engage further with information on your website. You, or your web designer can also control the amount of visual information that your potential client is getting through the website.

beautiful plant cafe at ngv - lovely level of stimulation

You can’t control the emotional state of the person viewing your website. But you can assume that if they are looking at it from home, they are (hopefully) at their optimal level of stimulation. They are therefore more likely to try new things and engage in new behaviours, like trying your products.

My overwhelming advice though, for people who have a physical shopfront is to assess the level of stimulation in and around the environment of your store. And then turn down the volume of those stimulating sensory experiences. Or try to make them harmonious. Obviously this optimal level of stimulation is different for different people, but some basic principles apply. In this case, people will be more receptive to your products and buy more.

lingering over a lovely drinks and dinner

The opposite is also true. Research showed that people who ate with friends, in soft lighting with music, lingered longer over their meal and ate more (Wansick, 2004). If you want people to linger in your store, or on your website, then making them feel comfortable, will help. 🙂


Köster, E. P. and Mojet, J. Theories of food choice development. In: Frewer L and Van Trijp H C M, (eds.): Understanding consumers of food products, (2007), Abbington Cambridge UK, Woodhead Publishing, 93-124

Wansink, B. Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknown consumers. (2004), Annual reviews of nutrition, 24, 455-479

Image credit: “I heart @tptHome but I get completely overstimulated in there.” by AngryJulieMonday is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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