As other posts on this blog discuss, third-party tracking can be an unwelcome and pervasive presence online, particularly in the domain of e-commerce. The tracking exists to identify users' behaviours, interests, and personality traits, which influences the advertisements and products that are shown. Whilst this arguably improves the user experience, many consumers want more control over the kind of data they provide and the circumstances in which they do so. By understanding the relationship between these personality traits and online purchasing behaviour, this allows for a further-improved user experience, where privacy is not sacrificed. One example of these relationships is between the Big Five personality traits and propensity for impulsive and compulsive buying (source).

The Big Five personality traits are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and intellect and they have served as a standard set of traits to predict a number of behaviours and life outcomes for many years, such as mental wellbeing, socioeconomic status, relationship success and even shopping behaviour (source/source/source/source).

Shopping is a necessity in the modern world and most individuals find it at least somewhat enjoyable. However, for some, this enjoyment can become unhealthy and develop into a compulsive buying disorder, surpassing infrequent impulse buys and instead existing as an obsessive passion affecting around 5% of the population (source). Compulsive buying is defined as an impulse control disorder, a behavioural addiction, characterised by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behaviour that leads to distress or impairment (source).

It is important for retailers to understand the difference between impulse buying and compulsive buying. Impulse buying is defined as a sudden and powerful urge in the consumer to buy immediately when the desire for a product outweighs their willpower to resist (source). On the other hand, compulsive buying is more about obtaining short‐term relief from negative feelings than about a desire for specific goods and is less pliable in terms of priming purchases, for example (source).

There exists a large body of research that links the Big Five and tendency to compulsive buying. It is thought that individuals high in extroversion (those who are outgoing, sociable, and active) are more likely to be compulsive due to their impulsive nature and lack of self-control (source). Those who are more neurotic (with particularly unstable negative emotions) are more likely to experience the feelings that are associated with the relief of shopping (source). Interestingly, results for agreeableness are mixed. It would make sense that trusting, sympathetic, altruistic individuals are less inclined to be compulsive buyers, but research suggests that this is sensitive to the retail context and the social desirability of the product (source).

Check back later for more insights.