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Could coffee make you more likely to buy candles?

Posted: 21 July 2022 | | No comments yet

Does coffee make you more likely to purchase certain items? An international research team has conducted a study which could answer that very question.

coffee cup

Could we soon be handed cups of coffee at the entrances to stores?

Everyone knows not to eat before heading to the shops, lest you make some less than prudent purchases. But what effect does drinking coffee on purchasing habits?

Well, researchers from University of South Florida, European University Viadrina, Louisiana State University, SKEMA Business School, and Neoma Business School have conducted research on this very issue.

“Understanding how and why caffeine consumption influences spending is important since caffeine is one of the most powerful stimulants that is both legal and widely available,” the researchers said.

More than 80 percent of Americans consume at least one caffeinated beverage every day with coffee being the primary source of caffeine, followed by tea and soda. Caffeine is also found in energy drinks, chocolate, and in many over the counter and prescription medications.

The study found that drinking a caffeinated beverage before shopping leads to more items purchased at the store and increased spending. The research showed that the effect of caffeine is stronger for “high hedonic” products such as scented candles, fragrances, décor items, and massagers and weaker for “low hedonic” products such as notebooks, kitchen utensils, and storage baskets.

Several studies have demonstrated that caffeine intake enhances arousal, which is experienced as a state of activation and alertness that can range from extreme drowsiness to extreme excitement. Arousal can be a positive hedonic state – referred to as excitement or energetic arousal – such as when one feels active, energized, and excited or a negative hedonic state – referred to as “tense arousal” – such as when one experiences tension and nervousness. Energetic arousal enhances the perception of product features and, in turn, increases purchase intentions for hedonic products such as buttery, salty popcorn, chocolate candy, and luxury vacations.

Prior research has shown that consuming caffeine in the range of 25 mg to 200 mg enhances energetic arousal with practically no effects on tense arousal. This study examined effects of caffeine intake in the range of about 30 mg to 100 mg since, according to the researchers, most caffeinated beverage servings have caffeine content in this range. As part of the study, the research team set up an espresso station near the entrance of two different retail stores in two major cities in France and outside a department store in Spain. Upon entry, half of the 300 shoppers were handed a complimentary cup of coffee containing caffeine and the other half offered decaf or water. “We found that the caffeine group spent significantly more money and bought a higher number of items than those who drank decaf or water,” said the researchers.

Caffeine also impacted the types of items bought at the stores. The group that took in caffeine bought more hedonic (enjoyable/fun) items such as scented candles and fragrances. However, there was very little difference between the two groups with regard to utilitarian purchases such as utensils and storage baskets. Also, the effects of caffeine on spending hold for those who drink a little over two cups of coffee (or less) daily and is weakened for heavy coffee drinkers.

“Overall, retailers can benefit financially if shoppers consume caffeine before or during shopping and that the effects are stronger for high hedonic products. This is important for retailers to factor in to determine the proportion of hedonic products in their stores. Policy makers may also want to inform consumers about the potential effects of caffeine on spending,” concluded the researchers.

So will we soon be seeing espresso machines at store entrances? Perhaps retailers will use coffee as a sales tactic in the way that lighting and loud music is utilised already. Either way, the research team were quick to add that this study opens up several further avenues of research related to caffein and the effect it has on our brains and nervous system.

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