The effectiveness of e-retailer external stimuli in triggering the internal cues that result in online impulse purchasing of fashion apparel within Generation Y females

Fiona Keegan, Elaine Ritch, Noreen Siddiqui

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Online fashion shopping has expanded more rapidly than in-store (Bowsher, 2018). The global fashion high street generated £5.9 billion for UK e-retailers in 2016 (Ibisworld, 2017), a considerable sum that underpins the scope of the market and the potential for expanding online offerings. Research has identified that consumers are seeking increased hedonic experiences when shopping online (Liu and Forsythe, 2010), especially as 40 and 80 per cent of online shopping derives from impulse consumption (Aragoncillo and Orus, 2018). This presents opportunities for fashion e-retailers to enhance their online marketing strategy and shopping experiences to generate more impulse purchases. This research seeks to examine how manipulated stimuli triggers impulsive fashion consumption. Much work to date has focused on the concept of impulse purchasing not on the actual triggers and some debate exists as to what actually arouses impulse purchasing (Virvilaite et al. 2012). Internal stimuli which includes “ consumers’ self, feelings, moods and emotional states (Youn, 2000, pg. 180 ) and external stimuli encompass “market controlled environmental and sensory factors (Youn and Faber, 2000, pg. 180) with Rook (1987) postulating that both of these are accountable for prompting impulse purchasing. In additional a relationship between internal and external stimuli in triggering impulse consumption has been determined (Lo et al., 2016; Dholakia and Kim, 2000). Stimuli can be defined as “ a trigger that arouses consumers” (Chan et al. 2017, pg. 207). Past research indicates that impulse purchasing is triggered by manipulated stimuli generated by e-retailers and marketers (Wu et al., 2016); this includes environmental stimuli, such as website attractiveness and ease of use (Parboteeah et al., 2009), as well as marketing stimuli that includes promotions and clothing suggestions (Dawson and Kim, 2010). Yet, consumers are increasingly immune to online marketing, particularly Generation Y consumers (defined as being born between 1977 and 1995) who have been socialised as internet capabilities have developed (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008; Lissitsa and Kol, 2016). Generation Y are also more adept at using the internet and are described as the first generation to be highly technologically advanced (Norum, 2003). Gen Y relies on technology for social and emotional needs (Bolton et al. 2013) and are influenced by social media. In particular, Gen Y participate by creating and sharing User Generated Content (UGC) and contributing to online content (Lissitsa and Kol, 2016). Age is used as a method of segmentation as generation cohorts share experiences of their youth (Godfrey and Charles, 1994). Such shared experiences lead them to react in similar ways to marketing stimuli (Parment, 2013). Of interest to the fashion clothing sector, Gen Y have been found to be more fashion orientated than other generations frequently purchasing fashion with increased inclinations to purchase fashion impulsively (Pentecost, 2010). Gen Y are attuned to consuming fashion from an earlier age (Bakewell and Mitchell, 2003) and are a key segment for many fashion clothing retailers. However, due to the early exposure to technology, this cohort is more sceptical of online advertisements (McKinney, 2004), often refuting marketer’s efforts (Morton, 2002) and therefore it is vital to investigate the effectiveness of e-retailers marketing strategies to better understand how external strategies can be enhanced to be more appealing. External stimuli are enhanced by social media and bloggers (Chen et al., 2016) and Generation Y are highly social avid social media users through creating and contributing to online content (Bolton et al., 2013), for example, using the internet to review products, supporting their desired purchase products based on word of mouth advertising (Morton, 2002). Past research has linked external stimuli to the triggering of internal stimuli that leads to impulse purchasing (Lo et al., 2016), however there is a distinct lack of empirical research that focuses on fashion, Generation Y females and online shopping within the one study which would allow knowledge to be imparted on marketers that is specific to this segment. External stimuli which may contribute to an increase in impulsive shopping include website design, including functionality, ease of use, easy payments and free delivery (Vehagen and Dolan (2011). In addition, visual content that can trigger impulse purchasing such as image sharing through social media (McCormick and Livett, 2012) and text information such as product reviews that can reduce risk and increase impulse tendency (Wu et al. 2016; Hajili, 2015). Marketing stimuli that triggers impulse purchasing include product discounts such as sales promotions and promoting product exclusivity Two of the strongest external triggers of consumers cognitive and affective decisions to impulse purchase online are promotions and product suggestions (Dawson and Kim, 2010). The fashion literature supports the assertion that females are more involved and interested in fashion (Bratko, 2013), including browsing and purchasing (Cho and Workman, 2011). As Generation Y female consumers tend to spend their disposable income to actualise their fashion desires (Tran, 2008), this cohort is an exceptionally lucrative segment to fashion e-retailers (Pentecost, 2010). Given Generation Y females fashion orientation, this has an enhanced effect on internal cues such as positive effect, self-esteem and normative behaviours, all of which lead to impulse purchasing (Park et al., 2006). This research therefore interrogates what internal stimuli or cues are, namely the emotions and feelings that an individual has (Rook, 1985), with hedonic satisfaction being posited as one of the reasons consumer’s indulging in impulse purchasing (Hausman, 2000). Whilst others include the internal need to fluctuate oneself from a negative to a positive mind state (Wu et al., 2016) and their desires to adhere to normative behaviours, which ultimately allow consumers to outwardly become their desired self to their perceived reference groups (Bandyopadhyay, 2016). There is currently a void of research in the area of online impulse behaviour and more specifically within fashion consumption (Chan et al. 2017; Xiang et al., 2016). Online shopping with the vast array of choice available, lacking the constraints of physical stores and availability of mobile devices to check information, compare products and read reviews lends itself to impulse shopping (Nagar 2016; Marriott et al. 2017; Hillman et al. 2012 Holmes, 2013). This research will contribute and extend understanding of online impulse shopping behaviour within fashion clothing. Data were gathered using an online survey that was informed by the SOR Framework (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). This framework was developed to explain how a consumer’s environment can affect their cognitive and affective actions within a retail setting (Lee and Johnson, 2010). The paradigm posits that the external stimuli, garnered from environmental cues acts as a trigger that sparks subsequent consumer behaviour (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). The organism refers to the consumer’s internal catalyst that has been aroused, urging a response, which manifest itself as the action of impulse purchasing (Xiang at al., 2016; Lui et al., 2013). This allowed casual relationships to be sought out to develop an understanding of consumer’s impulse purchasing behaviours. The survey online questionnaire was employed to capture predominately quantitative data via Likert scale questions, followed by qualitative open questions to gain deeper understandings of consumer’s answers relating to their online impulsive fashion purchasing behaviours. A sample of 100 respondents fitting the criteria of females born between 1977 and 1995 who are proficient in online shopping were questioned, gathered via convenience sampling utilising social media. The questionnaire was tested to ensure no ambiguity to the questions asked and results from the pre-test highlighted areas of improvement, such as adding in definitions of ‘impulse purchasing’ and ‘fashion’ and ensuring all questions adhered to the theme of fashion. The questionnaire was segmented into four sections, guided by several hypothesises. The sections are firstly, the population’s purchasing impulsiveness; secondly their internal cues including normative influences, fashion involvement, self-esteem, positive mood effect and searching of hedonic rewards that can lead to impulsive purchasing of fashion online; thirdly, the effectiveness of external stimuli in regards to online fashion stores; and finally ascertaining a relationship between external and internal and the likelihood of impulse purchasing fashion online. The data will be collected in July 2018 and subsequently analysed using SPSS and content analysis on the open questions to allow them to be quantified. It is anticipated the data will analyse the effectiveness of current fashion e-retailer marketing strategy, including how external stimuli triggers internal cues in Generation Y females that tempts them to impulse purchase fashion online. References Aragoncillo, L., Orus, C., (2018) "Impulse buying behaviour: an online-offline comparative and the impact of social media", Spanish Journal of Marketing - ESIC, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp.42-62. Bandyopadhyay, N. (2016). The role of self-esteem, negative affect and normative influence in impulse buying. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 34(4), 523-539. 10.1108/MIP-02-2015-0037 Bolton et al., 2013 Understanding Generation Y and their use of Social Media: A review and Research Agenda Journal of Service Management Vol. 4 Iss. 3 pp. 245-267 Bowsher, E. (2018). Online retail sales continue to soar. Financial Times, Wednesday 11 January 2018. Available at: Bratko, D., Butkovic, A., & Bosnjak, M. (2013). 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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2018


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