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£1.6 billion a year spent on impulsive purchases via social media

Press release   •   Jan 31, 2018 09:48 GMT

  • A quarter make impulse purchases on social media on a monthly basis, spending an average of £318 per user per year
  • 65% had regrets about their purchases
  • One in seven confess to ‘financial upgrading’ – buying something more expensive than they had planned
  • Despite this, nearly half say social media has no impact upon their spending habits
  • More than half fell short of their savings aspirations in the last 12 months

New research from Post Office Money has revealed spending directly influenced by social media amounts to £1.6 billion annually, with individual users* spending an average of £318 over the past year. However, two in three (65 per cent) have ended up regretting what they bought - with 37 per cent wishing they had put the money towards reaching a savings goal instead. Despite more than three-fifths (62 per cent) of UK users working towards a long-term savings goal, many remain unaware of the full impact their impulse buying is having on their ability to meet this.

Social shopping

Almost a quarter (24%) of users have made a purchase as a direct result of something they have seen on social media – with almost half (47 per cent) admitting to doing this at least once a month.

A significant number of these purchases inspired by social media appear to be unplanned, either impulse buys (24 per cent) as a direct result of seeing a post or advert, or the result of ‘financially upgrading’ (14 per cent) and buying something more expensive than otherwise intended.

This impulse-driven spending is not without its consequences, with 83 per cent regretting a ‘financial upgrade’ at some point. More than a third (37 per cent) say that with hindsight they did not need their upgraded purchase, and 23 per cent said it did not meet their expectations. With more than half (55 per cent) of people in the UK saving towards a specific financial goal, a number (36 per cent) wish they had simply put their money towards that instead.

Gender Spenders

The research also revealed a number of differences in how men and women approach social-media spending, with men spending an average of £438 a year compared to £230 by women through social media.

While women are more likely to buy on impulse (27 per cent) than men (21 per cent), men are more likely to financially upgrade (17 per cent vs. 12 per cent).

Interestingly men are more likely to regret their unplanned purchases than women; almost three quarters (73 per cent) have experienced regret following one of their purchases, while one in four (24 per cent) wish they could take back all of their social media-influenced spending – suggesting that women perhaps have a clearer idea of what they are looking for before they buy.

Spending vs. saving

Despite almost half (44 per cent) describing themselves as a saver rather than a spender (35 per cent), three-fifths (58 per cent) found themselves falling short of their savings goals over the past 12 months. This is perhaps because less than half (44 per cent) recognise that social media has influenced their spending habits.

Owen Woodley, Managing Director at Post Office Money, said: 

“Our research shows the main reason people regret purchases influenced by social media is that they didn’t really need what they bought – and this sort of spending can build up over time, and have a significant impact upon long-term savings.

“With more than half falling short of savings goals last year, it’s helpful for people to be aware of what influences their spending habits so they can take a moment and think twice before they swipe. Understanding where your money is going and sticking to a well-considered plan will help you to stay on track and achieve financial goals for the years to come.”


*Social media users in the UK and NI aged 18 to 50

** Research conducted by Opinium on behalf of Post Office Money between the 11th and 15th January 2018. 2,005 online interviews with UK social media users aged 18 - 50

Comparison of spending on social media by gender:

Men Women
Average amount spent as a result of social media £438 £230
Percentage who have bought on impulse as a result of social media 24% 27%
Percentage who have financially upgraded 17% 12%
Percentage who have regretted a social media-driven impulse purchase 73% 59%
Percentage who have regretted all social media-driven impulse purchases 24% 6%
Percentage who have regretted financially upgrade 89% 76%

For more information, please contact:

Emma Brown

Post Office Money Press Office

Tel: 0207 012 3456

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