Do you recognize yourself in this picture? Well, don’t feel guilty, there would seem to be explanations…
An interesting study realized in 2009 investigated the factors inducing flow in online environment. A person is said to be in a flow state when he or she is highly involved and concentrated on a task without realizing the passage of time and sometimes forgets about other concerns.
The participants were asked to act like a real shopper on one of eight web sites including Amazon.com. While surfing the site, a series of pop-up screens were used to question subjects about their shopping experiences on this specific website and to rate the complexity of it. Experimenters also used the Flow State Scale to measure preconditions and dimensions of flow.
It turned out that your flow experience in online shopping is induced because you perceive control over this task, you are the master of your own basket 😉. It is also because you become so involved in and concentrated on the task at hand that the shopping becomes spontaneous, almost automatic. As preconditions, a perceived balance of challenge and skills showed to lead to flow; online shopping is unlikely to stress you, as it doesn’t exceed your skills. The fact that you have a clear goal, namely buying items, helps you focus on the essentials of that activity.
Researchers also found that you would be less likely to experience flow while surfing on a more complicated web site.
Guo, Y.M., & Poole, M.S. (2009). Antecedents of flow in online shopping: a test of alternative models. Information Systems Journal, 19 (4), 369-390. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2575.2007.00292.x