Revealed: Is online shopping a stressful task?


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: Revealed: Is online shopping a stressful task?.

While online shopping comes as second nature to some, this isn’t the case for everyone. For others it can cause confusion and frustration. To investigate how people really feel about online shopping and how stressful an experience it can be, Currys completed a study that compared peoples’ responses to online shopping with that during everyday activities.

This involved surveying volunteers of various ages and tracking their heart rates while they completed a number of tasks including online shopping (unassisted), online shopping using the Currys ShopLive tool (video chat with an expert), exercising, browsing social media and completing brainteasers. You can learn about the findings below.

Online shopping gets people’s hearts racing more than social media

  • Volunteers’ heart rates increased by an average of 3.2 BPM while online shopping, compared with a decrease of 2.2 BPM when browsing social media
  • People give online shopping a stress rating of 4/10, compared with just 3/10 for social media
  • Women enjoy online shopping more than men, but their heart rates raised 3.4% more than men when doing so

The psychological implications of using social media are well reported, but it turns out that online shopping could be causing higher levels of stress – with heart rates raising more during the online shopping task than browsing social media platforms. Online shopping can also be compared to completing brainteasers, which received a stress rating of 4.4/10 – just marginally higher than online shopping (4).


Change of heart rate (BPM)

Change of heart rate (%)

Online shopping (unassisted)



Browsing social media



Completing brainteasers



Gentle exercise




Confusion over online shopping leads to many buying the wrong items

  • Half (53%) have bought the wrong item online in the past
  • 53% return at least one item bought online per month
  • While 60% of participants say they prefer online shopping to shopping in-store, it’s apparently not always plain-sailing. When asked to rate their overall experience of online shopping, the average response was 6/10, suggesting that while things aren’t all bad, there is room for improvement.
  • Common online shopping challenges reported by the volunteers were:
  • not being able to assess the quality of a product before buying it
  • spending hours browsing because there’s so much to take in
  • ending up with the wrong sized clothing
  • inaccurate imagery
  • waiting for deliveries
  • having to return items

Online shopping poses more challenges for older people

  • The heart rate of over 55s went up by an average of 5.5% (3.6 BPM) while online shopping, compared to an average of 4.9% (3.2 BPM) across age groups
  • Over 55s took 44% longer to find what they were looking for when online shopping (7 mins 12 secs) than 26-35-year-olds (4 mins 36 secs)
  • 67% of over 55s have bought the wrong item online

Unlike younger generations, over 55s haven’t grown up with the internet, making online shopping more of a challenge to navigate. In fact, over 55s rate their usual online shopping experience at just 5.8/10 – the lowest of all ages, with 54% stating they prefer shopping in-store.

The Currys ShopLive tool is quicker and easier than browsing unassisted

  • When using the tool, participants were able to find the correct product in 6% less time than when browsing unassisted
  • It took people over 55 13% less time to find the item they were looking for via ShopLive than when shopping unassisted
  • Heart rates for those over 55 years of age only rose by 1.2% (0.3 BPM) when using the ShopLive tool, compared with 4.6% (2.7 BPM) shopping unassisted

The Currys ShopLive tool has been designed to make the entire online shopping experience smoother and more stress-free by allowing you to video chat with a customer service agent. The agents can recommend products and respond to queries, so shoppers can find products quicker, have specific questions answered directly and in detail, and benefit from the knowledge of experts.


The study consisted of 47 volunteers who were provided with a heart rate tracker to use during several tasks. They were asked to do the following.

  • Compete a survey which asked them about their experiences and opinions of online shopping.
  • Complete a series of activities:
  • An online shopping task (unassisted)
  • An online shopping task (using the Currys ShopLive tool)
  • Browsing social media
  • Solving brainteasers
  • Gentle exercise
  • During each activity, record their heart rate before and after, and time the activity when asked to do so (online shopping tasks and brainteasers).

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