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Impact of COVID‐19 on changing consumer behaviour: Lessons from an emerging economy

Debadyuti das.

1 Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University, Delhi India

Ashutosh Sarkar

2 Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, Kozhikode India

Arindam Debroy

3 Symbiosis Institute of Business Management Nagpur, Nagpur Maharashtra, India

Associated Data

The authors declare that the data used in the paper is collected through a questionnaire survey and have not used any proprietary data from any source. The data collected through the primary survey may be made available on demand.

The present study investigates the impact of COVID‐19 on Consumers' changing way of life and buying behaviour based on their socio‐economic backgrounds. A questionnaire survey was carried out to understand the impact of COVID‐19 on consumers' affordability, lifestyle, and health awareness and how these effects influenced their buying behaviour. A total of 425 usable responses were analysed using the structural equation modelling considering Consumers' socio‐economic background as exogenous variables and Consumers' changing way of life and Adaptation in consumers’ buying behaviour as endogenous variables. The study reveals that COVID‐19 has affected the consumers in the unorganised sectors more than others and induced an increase in the demand for affordable substitutes for daily necessities. The demand for wellness and entertainment products is found to depend upon the occupation and family earning status of consumers which is jointly mediated by affordability and lifestyle changes. Further, the findings show that the demand for health and hygiene products depends on the current employment status and family earning status of consumers which is jointly mediated by affordability and awareness towards health and hygiene. The model developed in the present study allows the decision‐makers to identify which segments of the population with certain socio‐economic backgrounds could be targeted for wellness products and which ones could be targeted for health and hygiene products. In addition, the model provides rich insights to the managers as to what kind of product substitution would be viable in the market during the pandemic.

1. INTRODUCTION

COVID‐19 has disrupted humankind in a manner not seen in recent times, infecting 6.5 million people while leaving millions unemployed (Hensher,  2020 ). While the loss of life, occupation, and livelihood are well‐articulated impacts of COVID‐19, the loss of routine social and economic life over a prolonged period is having long‐lasting effects on people (Chriscaden,  2020 ). COVID‐19‐imposed ‘self‐isolation and social lockdown’ has increased mental stress and inflicted psychological and behavioural changes (Witteveen,  2020 ). Under constant fear of infection and restricted mobility, people are becoming more aware of health and changing their lifestyles and eating habits (Sánchez‐Sánchez et al.,  2020 ). Reported preliminary studies also suggest that the nature and extent of the impact of COVID‐19 is not similar across all citizens and depend on their condition of poverty, age, residential status, and other demographic variables (U n ited Nations, n.d.).

As a consequence of the economic, social, and psychological impact of COVID‐19, people have altered how and where they should spend their money (Rogers & Cosgrove,  2020 ). Kirk and Rifkin ( 2020 ) argued that consumers react, cope, and adapt to environmentally‐imposed constraints such as the COVID‐19 pandemic. During the pandemic, consumers have displayed a variety of unusual behaviours (Laato et al.,  2020 ; Pantano et al.,  2020 ) and forced them to spend more on essentials while cutting back discretionary spending. Consumers are also observed to have changed brands and products, substituted spends when stocked out, and become more sensitive towards health and hygiene. Market studies pertaining to the impact of COVID‐19 on consumers have also indicated increased spending on groceries, and health and hygiene products (Rogers & Cosgrove,  2020 ). The above changes have motivated researchers to explore how the consumers behaved during the pandemic and the reasons for such behaviour.

Some of the COVID‐19‐induced behaviours that were studied include consumption shifts (Kansiime et al.,  2021 ; Pakravan‐Charvadeh et al.,  2021 ), impulsive buying (Naeem,  2020 ), stockpiling, and panic buying (Billore & Anisimova,  2021 ; Keane & Neal,  2021 ; Naeem,  2020 ; Prentice et al.,  2021 ), product and brand substitution (Knowles et al.,  2020 ), and shifts in channel preferences (Mehrolia et al.,  2021 ; Pantano et al.,  2020 ). Researchers have attributed such behaviour to COVID‐19‐induced impacts on consumers' socio‐economic status, changing way of life, and influence on predisposed beliefs (Milaković, 2021 ), changes in the consumers' buying environment such as stockouts, supply and demand disruptions (Prentice et al., 2021 ), and external stimuli such as information and social media exposure. (Laato et al.,  2020 ; Naeem,  2020 ). It was also reported that a significant number of people have lost their jobs (Montenovo et al.,  2020 ) and family income dwindled as a consequence of COVID‐19 (Kansiime et al.,  2021 ). COVID‐19 has affected consumers' disposable income or affordability (Mahmud & Riley,  2021 ), lifestyle (Sánchez‐Sánchez et al.,  2020 ), and awareness (Li et al.,  2021 )—in short, their way of life—making them change their pre‐COVID spending habits. We, however, did not come across research studies that analysed the nature of changes in consumer behaviour due to changes in consumers' affordability, lifestyle changes, and awareness level. This suggests an opportunity to investigate the impact of COVID‐19 on Consumers' changing way of life and consequently on their buying behaviour based on the varying socio‐economic background of the population. Our research primarily focuses on studying consumption shifts and substitution behaviour and connects such changes to the changes in consumers' way of life. Such studies are very important for market researchers and firms in terms of segmentation of the market when a pandemic of this nature affects the entire population. Such studies would help firms in devising targeted marketing strategies during the ongoing pandemic and beyond. With this background, the present study seeks to address the following research questions:

  • How has the socio‐economic background influenced Consumers' way of life including affordability, lifestyle changes, and awareness towards health and hygiene arising out of COVID‐19?
  • To what extent has the Consumers' changing way of life arising out of COVID‐19 influenced Adaptation in their buying behaviour?
  • How has the socio‐economic background led to the Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour arising out of COVID‐19?

The methodology followed in this study involves investigating the influence of exogenous variables including occupation, current employment status, and family earning status on the intervening variables representing Consumers' changing way of life and finally on the dependent variables which reflect the Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour. The study provides important insights to managers in terms of designing affordable substitute products of daily necessities for the vulnerable section of the society. In addition, it also provides insights to the policy planners in terms of developing appropriate intervention strategies for the affected consumers.

2. BACKGROUND LITERATURE

Adaptations in people's buying behaviour due to COVID‐19 are in line with the existing literature encompassing changes in consumers' needs and preferences induced by events that are environmental, social, biological, cognitive, and behavioural in nature (Mathur et al.,  2006 ). Such disruptions often force consumers to seek stability (Minton & Cabano,  2021 ) and, as a result, they display conservative and planned behaviour (Sarmento et al.,  2019 ). Such stability‐seeking behaviour induces austerity measures among consumers affected by economic recession or slowdown making consumers more price‐sensitive (Hampson & McGoldrick,  2013 ). While, in the past, pandemics such as influenza have affected economic activities significantly (Verikios et al.,  2016 ), some changes in consumers’ behaviour are not entirely due to the economic impacts. For example, during the outbreak of the Asian flu, consumers have displayed risk‐coping strategies that influenced their consumption of chicken meat (Yeung & Yee,  2012 ). Similarly, natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina contributed to stress‐induced compulsive and impulsive buying behaviour among the affected residents of the US Gulf Coast (Sneath et al.,  2009 ). During natural disasters, consumers have been observed to have spent on luxury brands and premium categories displaying both cross‐category indulgence (Mark et al.,  2016 ) and impulsive buying behaviour (Kennett‐Hensel et al.,  2012 ).

Recently, adaptations in consumers' buying behaviour due to COVID‐19 have been studied under various themes (Kansiime et al.,  2021 ; Laato et al.,  2020 ; Pakravan‐Charvadeh et al.,  2021 ; Pantano et al.,  2020 ; Rayburn et al.,  2021 ). Gordon‐Wilson ( 2021 ) noted that external influences such as COVID‐19 affected ‘consumer's feelings for self‐control’ by changing their shopping behaviour, type of shopping and preference of store format, and consumption of unhealthy snacks and alcohol. Kim et al. ( 2021 ) highlighted the influence of protection motivation in explaining consumers' commitment to hygienic behaviour, prioritization of local restaurants, and conscious consumption. Guthrie et al. ( 2021 ) employed the react‐cope‐adapt framework to understand how consumer behaviour has evolved in terms of their usage of e‐commerce as a result of stressful events such as the COVID‐19. Eroglu et al. ( 2022 ) revealed that the crowding in retail stores significantly affects the shopping satisfaction of consumers during COVID‐19, which is mediated by customer‐employee rapport. They further argued that such relationships significantly differ based on consumers' perceptions about the appropriateness of retailer precautions, the severity of threats, and vulnerability to COVID‐19. Milaković ( 2021 ) demonstrated the moderating effect of consumer adaptability in explaining the influence of consumer vulnerability and consumer resilience on purchase satisfaction and finally on the repurchase intention of consumers. Yap et al. ( 2021 ) introduced a new dimension called technology‐mediated consumption as a coping strategy adopted by consumers in coping with pandemic‐induced stress and anxiety during the pandemic. They further discussed paradoxes explaining the nexus between the consumption of technology and consumer vulnerability. Nayal et al. ( 2021 ) identified various coping strategies for firms to take care of the employee and customer well‐being. Digitalization and innovation emerged as the two focus areas for adoption by firms for their survival post‐COVID‐19. In addition, the study further revealed that consumers have demonstrated a shift in their consumption behaviour during the present pandemic in favour of hygiene, sustainability, and local products.

The present study also deals with the shifts in consumption behaviour and product substitution behaviour among consumers that were observed during COVID‐19. However, our study is quite different from the existing studies in the sense that we attribute such shifts in consumption and product substitution behaviour to how COVID‐19 has impacted the Consumers' way of life. COVID‐19 pandemic has induced changes in consumers' demand—both in magnitude as well as in their preference (del Rio‐Chanona et al.,  2020 ). The pandemic has also resulted in increased consumption of certain products which were either consumed in lesser quantities or not consumed at all before the event (Kirk & Rifkin,  2020 ). Such effects have led to significant upward shifts in the market demand for these products. We refer to such shifts as ‘new demand’. Examples of ‘new demand’ include cleaning and personal hygiene products such as Lysol and hand sanitizers (Chaudhuri,  2020 ), health and wellness products such as vitamins, healthy foods, and other immunity boosters (Hess,  2020 ), packaged goods and beverages, household care products, fresh and organic foods, personal care products (Knowles et al.,  2020 ) and digital platforms (Debroy,  2020 ), which displayed a surge in demand during COVID‐19. Consumers have also displayed substitution behaviour during the pandemic (Knowles et al.,  2020 ) thereby changing significantly the consumption both by volume as well as product preference. Product substitution is also observed during this pandemic due to lifestyle changes while the change of preference is observed due to awareness of health. The literature on product substitution is characterized by several factors prompting substitution behaviour by consumers (Hamilton et al.,  2014 ). However, while studying new demand and product substitution behaviour under disruptive events, we observed that most of these studies are limited to the economic impacts of the events (Martin et al.,  2020 ) and hence, there is still scope for studying such behaviour considering the non‐economic impacts of the pandemic.

Disruption affects people's lives in a variety of ways derailing their normal ways of living. Earlier studies on disruptions dealt with disruption‐induced depression, lifestyle changes, changes in information, awareness, and education (Mathur et al.,  2006 ; Sneath et al.,  2009 ). During the present pandemic also, significant changes in lifestyle and health awareness (Arora & Grey,  2020 ) were observed. The fear of getting infected with COVID‐19 and the government‐imposed lockdowns have reduced mobility and physical activities (Sánchez‐Sánchez et al.,  2020 ); changed dietary and consumption behaviour (Kansiime et al.,  2021 ; Pakravan‐Charvadeh et al.,  2021 ), and sleep behaviour (Chopra et al.,  2020 ). COVID‐19 has also increased health concerns and awareness impacting consumption of health and wellness products in a significant manner (Baiano et al.,  2020 ; Hess,  2020 ). However, lifestyle changes, awareness towards health, and change in consumption behaviour arising out of COVID‐19 were not found to be uniform across people of diverse socio‐economic groups (Laato et al.,  2020 ). As COVID‐19 has affected the entire population in varying degrees based on their socio‐economic background, there exists a scope for research as to how different consumer groups have adapted their buying behaviour.

3. THEORETICAL MODEL AND DEVELOPMENT OF HYPOTHESES

In order to understand how COVID‐19 has impacted consumers’ way of life and consumer buying behaviour, we mainly draw from preliminary studies, market surveys, and published research articles on the impact of COVID‐19. This study mainly has three dimensions: (1) Consumers' socio‐economic background, (2) Consumers' changing way of life, and (3) Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour as shown in Figure  1 , which serves as the theoretical model of the present work. Consumers' changing way of life has been captured through ‘Change in affordability’, ‘Lifestyle changes’ and ‘Awareness towards health and hygiene’ arising out of COVID‐19 while Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour has been represented through ‘Creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products’, ‘Creation of new demand for health and hygiene products’, ‘Substitution of daily necessities due to affordability’ and ‘Substitution of daily necessities due to awareness towards health’.

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Theoretical model of the impact of COVID‐19 on consumer behaviour

3.1. Consumers' socio‐economic background and affordability

COVID‐19 has significantly influenced individual and household incomes and spending habits. However, such economic hardships varied based on their occupation, employment status, and socio‐demographic background (Witteveen,  2020 ). The adverse effects are estimated to be strongest for those occupations that are characterized by lower levels of skill, education, and income, have lesser possibilities of working remotely (Adams‐Prassl et al.,  2020 ), and require more face‐to‐face interpersonal contacts (Avdiu & Nayyar,  2020 ; Montenovo et al.,  2020 ). We have observed that some people have received lower than the regular salary in their current employment while a few others have lost their jobs during lockdowns which has adversely affected their capacity to sustain the household expenditure. Many studies have observed that family income, personal savings, and occupational status affected the ability of a household to continue their pre‐COVID spending (Kansiime et al.,  2021 ; Pakravan‐Charvadeh et al.,  2021 ; Piyapromdee & Spittal,  2020 ). In addition, the ability to support the household expenditure is found to depend upon the number of earning members, which further reflects the earning potential of a family (Addabbo,  2000 ). Hence, based on the above discussion, we postulate the following hypotheses:

Occupation significantly influences the affordability of consumers.

Current employment status significantly influences the affordability of consumers.

Family earning status significantly influences the affordability of consumers.

3.2. Consumers' socio‐economic background and lifestyle changes

COVID‐19 has brought a dramatic change in the lifestyle of people. However, the change is different for people belonging to different socio‐economic backgrounds. While occupations such as travel, restaurants, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) have seen reduced business activities, there are people in other occupations, for whom work from home during the pandemic is like a much‐needed break from their monotonous schedule. Thus, the nature of occupation seems to have an impact on the work schedule and lifestyle changes of people. Many studies have noted that occupational social class and status are associated with the lifestyle of people (García‐Mayor et al.,  2021 ). Likewise, receiving a reduced salary or having lost their job during lockdown seems to have had a considerable influence on consumers' lifestyles in terms of daily routine, thought process, and social habits (Khubchandani et al.,  2020 ; PTI,  2020 ). On the other hand, the lifestyle of a family with multiple earning members may be significantly different from a family with a sole earning member (Pew Research,  2008 ). Thus, we advance the following hypotheses:

Occupation significantly influences the lifestyle changes of consumers.

Current employment status significantly influences the lifestyle changes of consumers.

Family earning status significantly influences the lifestyle changes of consumers.

3.3. Consumers' socio‐economic background and awareness towards health and hygiene

COVID‐19 has resulted in people becoming more conscious about their health and personal hygiene (Baiano et al.,  2020 ; Hess,  2020 ). Government advisories and campaigns for maintaining personal hygiene through regular hand washes and wearing masks have resulted in people becoming concerned about their hygiene like never before. However, as occupation varies with the level of education, so does the awareness towards health and hygiene (Teisl et al.,  1999 ). Similarly, awareness towards health and hygiene varies with employment status and family earning status (Prasad et al.,  2008 ). Based on this, we posit the following hypotheses:

Occupation significantly influences the awareness level of consumers towards their health and hygiene.

Current employment status significantly influences the awareness level of consumers towards their health and hygiene.

Family earning status significantly influences the awareness level of consumers towards their health and hygiene.

3.4. Affordability and consumers' buying behaviour

Due to reduced affordability, a large number of people are restricting their expenditure to mostly essentials and healthcare products while cutting down on non‐discretionary products (Martin et al.,  2020 ). This has led to a reduction in sales of many non‐essentials. The pandemic, however, has witnessed a significant rise in the demand for wellness and entertainment products delivered through digital platforms (Bakhtiani,  2021 ; Madnani et al.,  2020 ). Since such subscriptions by consumers are discretionary (Singh,  2020 ), we expect an influence of reduced affordability due to the pandemic on the creation of new demand. Equivalently, it could also be stated that a positive change in affordability would have a positive impact on the usage of such products (Bakhtiani,  2021 ; Madnani et al.,  2020 ). Earlier studies in economics and public health have noted that family income significantly influences demand for hygiene products and associated practices (Aunger et al.,  2016 ; Jacob et al.,  2014 ). In many cases, consumers with lower affordability also explored cheaper alternatives such as private labels and affordable brands (Mishra & Balsara,  2020 ). Therefore, based on the above arguments, we postulate the following hypotheses:

Creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products is significantly associated with the change in affordability.

Creation of new demand for products relating to health and hygiene is significantly associated with the change in affordability.

The demand for affordable substitute products of daily necessities is significantly associated with the change in affordability.

3.5. Lifestyle changes and demand for wellness and entertainment products

Lifestyle changes due to COVID‐19 have made people more sensitive to fitness that caused a surge in demand for wellness products (Ojha,  2020 ). Many people are now preferring organic and herbal products and are subscribing to fitness classes and channels (Wernau & Gasparro,  2020 ). Furthermore, institutional lockdowns imposed by governments have forced people to stay at home and spend time with their families (Debroy,  2020 ). Additionally, with a regular source of entertainment such as restaurants and movie theatres remaining restricted, people have turned to online platforms for recreation. Even online yoga classes have experienced a spike in their viewership with the spread of this virus (Debroy,  2020 ). Thus, we propose the following hypothesis:

Creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products is positively associated with Lifestyle changes.

3.6. Awareness towards health and hygiene and demand for health and hygiene products

Marketing experts have always emphasized the importance of increasing awareness among consumers to increase product demand (Baiano et al.,  2020 ; Hess,  2020 ). COVID‐19 has resulted in people becoming more conscious about their health and personal hygiene. As part of maintaining a proper and healthy lifestyle, regular hand washes and wearing masks are considered to be the defence mechanisms of protecting oneself from the virus. Common people have been spending more on buying healthcare products (Rakshit,  2020 ). Moreover, the current times have witnessed an incomparable urge in people to substitute unhealthy food items and daily necessities with healthy ones (Master,  2020 ; Renner et al.,  2020 ). Thus, the following hypotheses are advanced:

Creation of new demand for products relating to health and hygiene is positively associated with consumers' awareness towards health and hygiene.

The demand for healthy substitute products of daily necessities is positively associated with consumers' awareness towards health and hygiene.

3.7. Consumers' socio‐economic background and creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products

During this pandemic, fitness and wellness products, and digital platforms such as Netflix have become very popular (Debroy,  2020 ). However, the nature of demand for wellness and entertainment products varied across people with different socio‐economic backgrounds. A person's occupation, employment status, and family income influence consumers' preference for wellness products (Suresh & Ravichandran,  2011 ) and also have a considerable impact on the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products (Madnani et al.,  2020 ). Therefore, we propose to investigate further the relationship between consumers with diverse socio‐economic backgrounds and the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products. Thus, we postulate the following hypotheses:

Occupation significantly influences the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products.

Current employment status significantly influences the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products.

Family earning status significantly influences the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products.

3.8. Consumers' socio‐economic background and creation of new demand for health and hygiene products

This pandemic has also seen an increased demand for health and hygiene products (Dsouza,  2020 ). People have been forced to spend on hand washes, sanitizers, and masks to protect against this rapidly spreading virus. As there are occupations that would put an individual and her/his family into different levels of vulnerabilities (Avdiu & Nayyar,  2020 ), we expect variations in the consumption of health and hygiene products based on their occupation (Riise et al.,  2003 ). Earlier research has established the relationship between family income and consumers' preference for healthy food (Galati et al.,  2019 ; Pakravan‐Charvadeh et al.,  2021 ). The reduced income and job losses would have a significant bearing on both mental stress as well as disposable income (Witteveen,  2020 ) which, in turn, influence the choice of consumers for health and hygiene products (Khubchandani et al.,  2020 ). Therefore, the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products seems to vary depending on the types of occupation, current employment status, and family earning status. Thus, we propose the following hypotheses:

Occupation significantly influences the creation of new demand for products relating to health and hygiene.

Current employment status significantly influences the creation of new demand for products relating to health and hygiene.

Family earning status significantly influences the creation of new demand for products relating to health and hygiene.

4. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

4.1. design of survey instrument and its reliability.

The findings of Paul and Bhukya ( 2021 ) reveal that the impact of COVID‐19 on consumer behaviour is one of the important contemporary topics of research. However, we could not find any suitable questionnaire in the extant literature with specific reference to the hypothesized research model depicted in Figure  1 which could be directly utilized for data collection purposes. We came across several items in the literature for other kinds of disasters, which were found relevant for our study. In addition, we also observed through newspapers, electronic media, and social media the challenges faced by the consumers in respect of reduced salary, job losses, health issues, the surge in demand for products relating to health and hygiene, etc. arising out of COVID‐19. We took cognizance of all these aspects and framed an open‐ended questionnaire in the initial phase to develop an understanding of different types of challenges faced by the consumers and their impact on changing consumer behaviour. The open‐ended questionnaire was translated into Hindi, Malayalam, and Bengali with the help of three bilingual experts having expertise in Hindi, Malayalam, and Bengali languages respectively along with English. We administered this questionnaire to consumers with different linguistic and socio‐economic backgrounds. We identified five respondents from Government/Public Sector organisations, five from Multinational/Private sector firms, and five from MSMEs. In addition, we identified three independent businessmen and seven daily wage‐earners. All these respondents were requested to participate in the study after thoroughly explaining to them the purpose of undertaking this particular exercise. They agreed to take part in the study. However, the daily wage‐earners had to be given INR100/‐ each to motivate them to take part in the study. Amongst these respondents, some of them could understand Hindi well, some of them could understand Malayalam well while a few others could understand Bengali well. In the case of employees of Public sector and Private sector firms, the questionnaire was sent through email with the request to provide unambiguous responses within a week. In the case of the employees of MSMEs and independent businessmen, we took separate appointments through telephonic calls and requested that one of the authors would seek responses from them in person by maintaining the protocol of social distancing. One author from Delhi and another author from Kozhikode separately conducted this exercise in Delhi and Kozhikode respectively. Finally, in the case of daily wage‐earners, we directly talked to a few rickshaw‐pullers, a few street vendors, and a few masons and managed to secure their responses after incentivizing them. We asked the questions verbally to this category of respondents and they replied to the specific questions based on their experience. Thus, we had to record the conversations which were later transcribed.

Based on the responses received from the preliminary study, we summarized them under different sections and designed another open‐ended questionnaire. The purpose of designing the second‐round open‐ended questionnaire was to cross‐check the same with the experts and to ensure adequate and appropriate coverage of the items under different sections thereby taking care of the content validity of the questionnaire. For example, we identified several items reflecting the financial distress faced by the common people due to COVID‐19 and put them under ‘Affordability’. We requested the experts to exercise their judgment in terms of whether those items represent the essence of ‘Affordability’. Those experts were chosen who had considerable experience in selling essential items either through the offline or online channel. In addition, a few more experts were also selected who conducted research in consumer behaviour for a sufficient period. Accordingly, we selected experts from both academia and industry, which included one Professor of Marketing, two researchers doing research in consumer behaviour, one manager from an offline store selling essential items, and one executive from an online retailer. These experts were known to be thoroughly conversant with the impact of COVID‐19 on the consumers’ way of life and also their changing buying behaviour across consumers of varying socio‐economic backgrounds. The experts recommended the retention of most of the items and the removal of very few ones. Subsequently, we designed the close‐ended questionnaire based on the recommendation of the experts. The close‐ended questionnaire was divided into three sections. The first section contained questions relating to the socio‐demographic profile and earning status of the respondents. The second section carried questions about the factors influencing Consumers' changing way of life arising out of COVID‐19. Finally, the third section contained questions pertaining to the adaptations on consumers' buying behaviour due to COVID‐19. A five‐point Likert scale ranging from 1 = Not at all True to 5 = Absolutely True was used as a response format in the second and third sections. The questionnaire was shown to the same experts once again to elicit their opinion for evaluating its ease of understanding from the perspective of potential respondents. Based on the recommendation of experts, some questions were rephrased. This exercise helped us in ensuring the content validity of the questionnaire. Table  1 presents the first part of the questionnaire while Appendices  1 and 2 show the second and third parts of the questionnaire respectively.

Distribution of the respondents based on socio‐demographic background ( n  = 425)

Subsequently, the reliability of the questionnaire was tested by administering the survey on 30 respondents chosen carefully. Cronbach's alpha of the scale representing Consumers' changing way of life turned out to be 0.795 while the same for the scale showing Adaptation in consumers’ buying behaviour was found to be 0.895. Both the scales showed high corrected item‐to‐total correlations which indicated the presence of high internal consistency. Since the alpha value of both scales was well above the threshold level of 0.7, these scales were considered reliable (Hair et al.,  2009 ).

4.2. Target respondents and collection of data

The survey was administered amongst the respondents with diverse socio‐economic backgrounds in India. The questionnaire was circulated among people working in Government organisations, private sector organisations, MSMEs, and also among the daily wage‐earners. Given the diversity of the languages, we administered the survey in four languages including, English, Hindi, Malayalam, and Bengali. The above languages were chosen as a substantial percentage of the population of India speaks these languages. Efforts were also made to ensure that only one response is received from a single household. Because of the lockdown and the restrictions on mobility, we chose a variety of mediums to reach out to the potential respondents. We approached the potential respondents both through online and offline mode. In the case of online mode, the questionnaire was circulated on social media mainly through LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and Facebook urging people to respond to the questionnaire. These mediums were chosen for their immense popularity in India in terms of the number of users. They were further selected as the authors also have their active networks and groups in these platforms. In the case of offline mode, some respondents were sent questionnaires via email while others were administered through hard copies of the questionnaire in a language of their choice. Field‐workers were hired against remuneration who physically received the responses directly by visiting the respondents' doorsteps or by reaching out to them in public places like, malls, popular restaurants, and shops. Field‐workers were clearly instructed to explain the essence of the questionnaire to the respondents thoroughly before asking them to fill out the questionnaire. They were further advised not to fill out the questionnaire on behalf of the respondents. The questionnaire survey was administered over two months during August and September 2020. During this period, different parts of India were experiencing a variety of restrictions depending on the number and severity of COVID‐19 cases in different places. A total of 494 responses were received out of which 69 responses were found to be incomplete and incoherent. Thus, we were left with 425 usable responses for the final analysis.

4.3. Tests for potential bias in survey data

Non‐response bias was assessed by performing a t ‐test on the scores of early and late respondents based on the assumption that the opinions of late respondents are representative of the opinions of non‐respondents (Krause et al.,  2001 ). A total of 241 responses (56.7%) were received in the first month (i.e., August 2020) while 184 responses (43.3%) were received in the second month (i.e., September 2020). Respondents giving responses in the first month were considered as early respondents while those giving responses in the second month were treated as late respondents. T ‐tests were carried out between early respondents with 241 responses and late respondents with 184 responses on individual items. The results did not reveal any significant difference between the two groups for most of the items. This indicates that the data was relatively free from non‐response bias.

As this study relied on single respondents for doing the final analysis, the potential for common method bias to influence the results was also evaluated. We applied Harman's one‐factor test to evaluate common method bias separately on the scale representing Consumers’ changing way of life and the scale reflecting Adaptation in consumers’ buying behaviour . We carried out the above test separately for both the scales in IBM SPSS (version 25) by doing exploratory factor analysis without rotation. All 13 items representing Consumers’ changing way of life were allowed to be loaded into one single factor and again all 16 items reflecting Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour were loaded into another single factor. It was found that the common factor representing Consumers' changing way of life explained only 25% of the total variance while the common factor capturing Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour explained only 30.4% of the total variance. Since the total variance of a single factor was less than 50% in both the scales, the common method bias did not seem to be a concern for the present study (Podsakoff et al.,  2003 ).

5. DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION

The 425 usable responses were also checked for missing values and inconsistency. An overview of the respondents' demographic profile, descriptive statistics, Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA), and the validation of the conceptual model using the Structured Equation Modelling (SEM) is presented in the following sub‐sections. We utilized IBM SPSS (version 25) for finding out the descriptive statistics of manifest variables and the demographic profile of the respondents. In addition, we also employed IBM SPSS AMOS (version 24) for carrying out CFA and SEM. Regarding descriptive statistics, we determined the minimum score, maximum score, mean and standard deviation of all items of both the scales and presented the same in Appendices  1 and 2 .

5.1. Demographic profile

The socio‐economic profile of 425 respondents revealed that most of them were of working age with a sizeable number of respondents (71.53%) turning out to be male. A majority of the respondents were employed (74.83%). However, a substantial portion of respondents lost their jobs or was receiving reduced salaries after the imposition of lockdown (35.76%). In terms of educational qualification, a major portion of the respondents (69.88%) were graduates with 56% of them having earned their degree in a professional course. The family earning status of the respondents showed that 29.88% were the sole earners in their family. The details of the demographic profile are provided in Table  1 .

5.2. Confirmatory factor analysis

The questionnaire developed through several rounds of an iterative process and validated by the experts allowed us to determine the underlying constructs. We observed that Consumers' changing way of life consists of three constructs while Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour comprises four constructs. We applied CFA to assess how well the observed variables including 13 items relating to the Consumers' changing way of life and another 16 items representing Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour arising out of COVID‐19 reflect unobserved or latent constructs in the hypothesized structure. In the CFA model, all seven constructs were allowed to be correlated with each other forming a composite measurement scale representing the Consumers' changing way of life and Adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour due to COVID‐19. The model was assessed by utilizing the maximum likelihood (ML) method. One of the prerequisites of the ML method is the normality of the endogenous variables (Kline,  2016 ). Thus, for ascertaining whether the data of the endogenous variables follow a normal distribution or not, we computed the kurtosis value. We observed that the values of almost all variables remained within the range of −7 to +7, which assuaged the concern regarding the non‐normality of the data (Mueller & Hancock,  2019 ).

All items were evaluated based on several criteria including items standardized regression weights, squared multiple correlations, and standardized residual covariance. In addition, the theoretical importance and practical significance of every item were taken into consideration while refining the model. This resulted in the removal of five variables of the Consumers' changing way of life and another three variables of Consumers' buying behaviour from the model thereby leaving eight items of Consumers' changing way of life and another 13 items of Consumers' buying behaviour in the final measurement model. This, however, did not significantly affect the content validity of the scale. Rather the model became further parsimonious. We found that one construct namely ‘lifestyle changes’ was left with only two items. However, it did not give rise to the problem of under‐identification of the measurement model. The findings of Das ( 2018 ) and Pullman et al. ( 2009 ) revealed several constructs which contain only two items. The presence of such constructs with two items did not create the problem of under‐identification of measurement models in the above research findings. Goodness of fit (GOF) measures of the final measurement model were as follows: χ 2  = 338.939, degrees of freedom ( df ) = 162, p  = .00, χ 2 / df  = 2.092, goodness fit index (GFI) = 0.931, Adjusted Goodness of Fit Index (AGFI) = 0.902, Comparative Fit Index (CFI) = 0.951, Tucker‐Lewis Index (TLI) = 0.937, Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) [90% CI] = 0.051 [0.043, 0.058], Standardized Root Mean Residual (SRMR) = 0.0512. For an adequate model fit, the fit indices of GFI, CFI, and TLI should be at least 0.9 while the same of RMSEA and SRMR should be less than 0.08 (Hair et al.,  2009 ). Thus, based on the fit indices, it could be inferred that the measurement model fits well with the data on all major indices. The details of the measurement results are shown in Table  2 , which includes the descriptive statistics of the constructs pertaining to the Consumers' changing way of life and Adaptation to consumers' buying behaviour . This includes the mean, standard deviation, and reliability value (Cronbach's alpha) of each construct and also the inter‐construct correlations.

Summary of the measurement results and inter‐construct correlations

The above table shows that Cronbach's alpha coefficients of six constructs out of seven have exceeded 0.7 thereby indicating sound reliability of these constructs (Hair et al.,  2009 ). Alpha coefficient of the remaining one construct reveals acceptable reliability value over 0.6 (Hair et al.,  2009 ). In addition, Table  2 also shows that almost all inter‐construct correlations are significant at 0.1% or 1% level. Only one inter‐construct correlation is significant at 10% level. These inter‐construct correlations help us in ascertaining the discriminant validity of all the constructs, which is discussed in the later part of this section.

This model was systematically evaluated for Construct Reliability (CR), convergent validity, and discriminant validity in order to validate the constructs of the Consumers' changing way of life and Adaptation to consumers' buying behaviour due to COVID‐19. In the present study, we have estimated the CR coefficient of all constructs which is shown in Table  3 . The estimate of CR lying between 0.6 to 0.7 is considered acceptable while the value above 0.7 suggests good reliability of a construct (Hair et al.,  2009 ). Thus, the six constructs may be considered to possess excellent reliability while the remaining one construct is characterized by an acceptable level of reliability.

Results of Reliability, Convergent and Discriminant validity of the consumers' changing way of life and consumers' buying behaviour

Abbreviations: AVE, average variance extracted; CR, construct reliability.

Convergent validity requires that the indicator variables of a given construct share a high proportion of variance in common. It was evaluated by following two different approaches. The first method involves the inspection of estimated factor loadings of items on the constructs in the final CFA model (Anderson & Gerbing,  1988 ). It was found that the standardized loadings of all items are greater than 0.5 and statistically significant ( p  < .001). The second method involves the assessment of convergent validity with the help of Average Variance Extracted (AVE). An AVE of 0.5 or more of a construct indicates a high level of convergent validity (Hair et al.,  2009 ). The seven constructs have AVE ranging from 0.477 to 0.648 as shown in Table  3 . Six constructs have more than the threshold level of AVE (0.5), thus indicating a high convergent validity of the above constructs. Only the lifestyle changes construct is found to have an AVE slightly below the threshold value. However, since this construct meets the criteria of convergent validity in the first method and in the second method, the value of AVE is somewhat close to the threshold value, the lifestyle changes construct may be considered to possess a reasonable level of convergent validity.

Discriminant validity is a measure of how a construct is distinct from other constructs in the same model and whether each construct is measuring different concepts (Hair et al.,  2009 ). Discriminant validity was also assessed by following two different approaches. The first method involves the investigation of the correlation between each pair of constructs in the CFA model. If the correlations between constructs are well below 0.9; then there is very little possibility that a group of items loading significantly on one construct would also load on another construct (Kline,  2016 ). The correlations between the constructs occurred within the range of −0.282 to 0.616, which were well below 0.9. This is reported in Table  2 . The second method involves the comparison of the AVE of each construct with the shared variance of each pair of constructs. If the square root of the AVE of each construct is more than the correlation of each pair of constructs, then this implies that the constructs account for a greater proportion of variance of the items that are assigned to them (Fornell & Larcker,  1981 ). Table  3 shows that the lowest value of AVE of a construct is 0.477. Its square root is 0.690, which exceeds the maximum correlation coefficient of 0.616 between a pair of constructs as reported in Table  2 . Thus, the seven construct CFA model demonstrates a satisfactory level of discriminant validity. This facilitated the SEM on the final measurement model to be carried out for investigating the relationships hypothesized in Section  3 .

5.3. Structural equation modelling

The final measurement model has been taken as the main input for developing the structural model. In the structural model, demographic variables of the respondents including occupation, current employment status, and family earning status were considered as the exogenous variables while Consumers' changing way of life and consumers’ buying behaviour arising out of COVID‐19 were treated as endogenous variables. This was investigated through SEM and the hypotheses formulated earlier were tested. The model was assessed utilizing the ML estimation method. GOF measures of the structural model were as follows: χ 2  = 887.533, df  = 324, p  = .00, χ 2 / df  = 2.739, GFI = 0.878, AGFI = 0.825, TLI = 0.840, CFI = 0.881, RMSEA [90% CI] = 0.064 [0.059, 0.069], SRMR = 0.075. The fit indices indicate that TLI and CFI are below the acceptable level of 0.9 while RMSEA and SRMR are within the acceptable range of 0.08 (Hair et al.,  2009 ). In this context, it is to be mentioned that the model complexity in terms of the number of observed variables, number of parameters estimated, etc. has a significant negative impact on GFI, AGFI, and CFI. Thus, the general rules of thumb with the cut‐off values of GFI or CFI being at least 0.9 may sometimes be misleading for complex models (Baumgartner & Homburg,  1996 ). A similar observation was also made by Srinivasan et al. ( 2002 ) in respect of model complexity. In one of the measurement models developed by them, both CFI and TLI were found below 0.9. However, since both RMSEA and SRMR remained within the acceptable range of 0.08, the model was considered reasonably fitting to the data. Based on the above argument, we can infer that the present findings indicate an acceptable level of fit to the above indices. The final structural model is shown in Figure  2 . We have shown only the significant paths in this model, which include both direct effects and total effects covering both direct and indirect effects. The interpretation of these paths has been provided in appropriate places of the following section.

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Final model of the impact of COVID‐19 on consumer behaviour

6. MAJOR FINDINGS

6.1. influence of occupation, employment status and earning status on affordability.

The profile of the socio‐demographic and economic background of the respondents provided in Table  1 reveals that they differ in terms of their occupations, current employment status, and also their earning status. The respondents were categorized into five types of occupations described as Job1 through Job5. In terms of employment status, they were categorized into four types which have been shown as Emp1 through Emp4. Finally, the respondents were classified into three categories in terms of the earning potential of their family, which have been designated as Earn1 through Earn3. All these categorizations in terms of occupation, employment status, and earning status have been indicated in Table  4 . The categorical variables were transformed into binary variables individually before considering them as exogenous variables. In the structural model, Job1, Emp1, and Earn2 were considered as the reference categories for occupation, employment status, and earning status respectively following Cohen et al. ( 2003 ), as each one of them was the most dominant category in the respective socio‐economic classes and least likely to be affected compared to other categories by the pandemic. Out of 21 hypotheses formulated in Section  3 , 15 hypotheses had a direct effect while the remaining six hypotheses involved both direct and indirect (mediating) effects. Tables  4 and ​ and5 5 present the results of hypotheses that only have a direct effect, based on standardized regression weights (β), critical ratios (t‐value), and p values. Table  4 specifically describes the results of the effect of Consumers' socio‐economic background on their changing way of life. The results of Hypothesis  1a showing the relationship between occupation and affordability reveal that the affordability of people with four types of occupations (Job2 through Job5) was negatively affected due to COVID‐19 compared to the affordability of people belonging to the reference category, i.e., Job1. However, the negative effect was found to be significant only for people with occupation categories Job3 and Job5. This suggests that the lockdown affected the affordability of people in the unorganised sector more than the organised sector. The results of Hypothesis  1b explaining the relationship between current employment status and affordability indicate that there was a significant negative effect on the affordability of people of three types of employment (Emp2 through Emp4) due to COVID‐19 compared to the same belonging to the reference category, i.e., Emp1. This directly demonstrates that people having lost their job or receiving reduced salaries due to COVID‐19 were severely affected in terms of their affordability compared to the people who were receiving full salaries. Hypothesis  1c describing the relationship between family earning status and affordability shows that the affordability of people with two categories of earning status (Earn1 and Earn3) was not affected due to COVID‐19 compared to the reference category, i.e., Earn2. This further illustrates the fact that the respondents with a single earning member, multiple earning members, or non‐earning members cannot be differentiated in terms of their affordability due to COVID‐19. The significant impact of occupation with categories Job3 and Job5 on affordability and again the significant effect of employment status including categories Emp2 through Emp4 have been indicated in the final structural model (Figure  2 ).

Results of structural model for socio‐economic factors (direct effects) ( n  = 425)

Job1: Respondents who are working in government or public sector jobs; Job2: Respondents who are working in private sector jobs; Job3: Respondents who are working in MSME sectors/ Contractors/ Daily wage earners;

Job4: Respondents who own their own business or startups; Job5: Respondents with other job profiles.

Emp1: Respondents who are currently employed and getting full salary; Emp2: Respondents who are currently employed but are getting reduced salary; Emp3: Respondents who have lost their jobs during lockdown; Emp4: Respondents with other employment status;

Earn1: Respondents who are the sole earners of the family; Earn2: Respondents who are one of the earning members of the family; Earn3: Respondents who are the non‐earning members of the family.

Results of structural model of consumers' way of life (direct effects) ( n  = 425)

6.2. Influence of occupation, employment status and earning status on lifestyle changes

Following a similar approach, we investigated the influence of occupation, current employment status, and earning status on lifestyle changes of people due to COVID‐19. Hypothesis  2a showing the relationship between occupation and lifestyle changes reveals that the lifestyle changes of people with Job2 through Job5 were significantly affected in opposite direction compared to the lifestyle changes of people with reference category, i.e., Job1. This demonstrates that people other than those engaged in the Government or Public sector did not indulge themselves in lifestyle changes arising out of COVID‐19. Hypothesis  2b explaining the relationship between current employment status reveals that the lifestyle changes of people with Emp2 and Emp3 were positively affected compared to the lifestyle changes of people with reference category, i.e., Emp1. The effect was found to be significant. This signifies that the people receiving a reduced salary or having lost their jobs are becoming more concerned with doing yoga and using herbal products in their day‐to‐day life compared to the people receiving full salary. Hypothesis  2c delineating the relationship between family earning status and lifestyle changes shows that the lifestyle changes of people with Earn1 and Earn3 were not affected compared to the reference category, i.e., Earn2. This indicates that the lifestyle changes of people cannot be differentiated based on their earning status. The significant effect of occupation with categories Job2 through Job5 on lifestyle changes and further the significant effect of employment with categories Emp2 and Emp3 on lifestyle changes have been shown in Figure  2 .

6.3. Influence of occupation, employment status and earning status on awareness towards health

Hypothesis  3a describing the relationship between occupation and awareness towards health reveals that the health awareness of people with occupations Job2 through Job5 was negatively affected compared to the awareness of people with reference category, i.e., Job1. However, the effect was found significant only in the case of Job2. Hypothesis  3b showing the relationship between employment status and awareness towards health indicates that the awareness of people with categories Emp2, Emp3, and Emp4 was not affected compared to the reference category, i.e., Emp1. This implies that the awareness of people towards health cannot be distinguished based on their employment status. Finally, Hypothesis  3c outlining the relationship between earning status and awareness towards health shows that the awareness of people with Earn1 and Earn3 was not affected compared to the reference category, Earn2. This further explains that the awareness of people towards health cannot be discriminated against based on their earning status. The significant effect of occupation with category Job2 on awareness towards health is shown in Figure  2 .

6.4. Association of Affordability, Lifestyle Changes and Health Awareness with Demand for Wellness Products, Health Products, Substitution of Affordable necessities etc

Table  5 presents the results of the impact of different constructs constituting Consumers' changing way of life on the Adaptation in consumers’ buying behaviour . Hypothesis  4a reveals that the increase in demand for wellness and entertainment products was associated with a fall in affordability. However, the effect was not significant. Similarly, the increase in demand for products relating to health and hygiene was associated with a non‐significant decrease in affordability as specified in Hypothesis  4b . Hypothesis  4c shows that the fall in affordability had a significant influence on the demand for affordable substitute products of daily necessities. Hypothesis  5 shows that lifestyle changes had a significant positive influence on the demand for wellness products which explains the reported rise in demand for wellness and entertainment products during the pandemic. Further, increased awareness towards health and hygiene had a significant positive influence on the demand for products relating to health and hygiene as also on the demand for healthy substitute products of daily necessities as described in Hypotheses  6a and 6b respectively. The significant results of Hypotheses  4c , 5 , 6a , and 6b have been delineated in Figure  2 . Thus, our study validates many of the anecdotal explanations that are observed in market surveys and news reports on the effect of COVID‐19 on consumers' changing buying behaviour.

6.5. Influence of occupation on the demand for wellness products

Test results of the remaining six hypotheses involving both direct and indirect effects of socio‐economic background , Consumers’ changing way of life, and consumers' buying behaviour have been shown individually in Tables  6 , ​ ,7, 7 , ​ ,8, 8 , ​ ,9. 9 . These tables show the direct effect, indirect effect, and total effect of the relationships. We utilized the AMOS plugin developed by Gaskin and Lim ( 2018 ) for estimating the specific indirect effect in IBM SPSS AMOS (version 24). Table  6 presents the results of Hypothesis  7 explaining the influence of occupation on the demand for wellness and entertainment products. We considered Job1 as the reference category and tested the scores obtained by categories Job2 through Job5 against the reference category. The results show that the occupation with category Job3 had a significant negative influence on the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products compared to the reference category. The association is moderate which is mediated through two mediating constructs: (1) Change in affordability and (2) Lifestyle changes. Further, the mediation is partial. However, it was observed that the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products by the remaining categories of occupations including Job2, Job4, and Job5 did not significantly differ from the demand created by the reference category. We present the results of Hypothesis  7 in Table  6 for occupation with category Job3 only. We further show the results of the total significant effect of occupation with category Job3 on the demand for wellness and entertainment products in Figure  2 through a bold arrow.

Hypothesis  7 Influence of occupation on the demand for wellness products (direct, indirect and total effects) ( n  = 425)

Hypothesis  9 Influence of earning status on the demand for wellness products (direct, indirect and total effects) ( n  = 425)

Hypothesis  11 Influence of emp. Status on the creation of new demand for health products (direct, indirect and total effects) ( n  = 425)

Hypothesis  12 Influence of earning status on the creation of new demand for health products (direct, indirect and total effects) ( n  = 425)

6.6. Influence of employment status and earning status on the demand for wellness products

We investigated the results of Hypothesis  8 describing the influence of current employment status on the demand for wellness products considering Emp1 as the reference category and observed that the current employment status of people with categories Emp2 through Emp4 did not have a significant influence on the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products compared to the reference category. Since the results of Hypothesis  8 involving all categories of employment status were insignificant, we have not reported the results. We analysed the results of Hypothesis  9 explaining the influence of family earning status on the demand for wellness products considering Earn2 as the reference category. The results are presented in Table  7 . The results reveal that the earning status of people of category Earn1 had a significant negative influence on the creation of new demand for wellness and entertainment products compared to the reference category. The relationship is mediated by two mediating constructs: (1) Change in affordability and (2) Lifestyle changes and the mediation is full. It was further observed that the earning status of people of category Earn3 did not have any significant influence on the demand for wellness and entertainment products compared to the reference category. The significant effect of Hypothesis  9 explaining the influence of earning status with category Earn1 on the demand for wellness and entertainment products is represented in Figure  2 .

6.7. Influence of occupation, employment status and earning status on the demand for health products

We analysed the influence of occupation on the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products considering Job1 as the reference category and found that the occupation with categories Job2 through Job5 did not have a significant influence on the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products compared to the reference category. We, therefore, have not reported the results of Hypothesis  10 . We investigated the results of Hypothesis  11 delineating the influence of current employment status on the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products considering Emp1 as the reference category. The results show that the employment status of category Emp3 had a significant positive influence on the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products compared to the reference category. The association is mediated by two constructs: (1) Change in affordability and (2) Awareness towards health and hygiene and the mediation is partial. We did not observe any significant influence of employment status with categories Emp2 and Emp4 on the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products compared to the reference category. Table  8 presents the results of hypothesis Hypothesis  11 for employment status with category Emp3 only. We have further shown the total significant effect of Hypothesis  11 in respect of employment status of category Emp3 in Figure  2 . Finally, Table  9 outlines the results of Hypothesis  12 explaining the influence of earning status on the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products considering Earn2 as the reference category. The results reveal that the family earning status of category Earn3 had a significant positive influence on the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products compared to the reference category. The association is mediated by two constructs: (1) Change in affordability and (2) Awareness towards health and hygiene and the mediation is partial. The significant total effect of Hypothesis  12 in respect of earning status of category Earn3 is depicted in Figure  2 . The earning status of people of category Earn1 did not have any significant influence on the demand for health and hygiene products compared to the reference category.

7. DISCUSSION

7.1. theoretical contributions.

The main theoretical contribution of the study involves understanding the impact of the socio‐economic background of the respondents in terms of their occupation, employment status, and family earning status on Consumers’ changing way of life and subsequently on consumers’ changing buying behaviour at a granular level in the context of the pandemic. While earlier researchers had studied consumption shifts during the pandemic (Laato et al.,  2020 ; Pakravan‐Charvadeh et al.,  2021 ), we are not aware of any study that investigated the Consumers' changing way of life and their changing buying behaviour arising out of COVID‐19 based on the socio‐economic background of the consumers. Although the survey was carried out in India in the backdrop of COVID‐19 pandemic, the findings of the study could provide important insights to other emerging economies afflicted with COVID‐19. Thus, it may be considered as a significant contribution to the existing body of consumer behaviour literature.

Second , we have gone beyond panic buying and stockpiling behaviour, which are extensively covered in the earlier works (Kirk & Rifkin,  2020 ; Laato et al.,  2020 ), with an attempt to link affordability, lifestyle changes, and health awareness with consumer behaviour. The findings of the study demonstrating the impact of consumers' socio‐economic background on their affordability, lifestyle changes, and awareness towards health and finally on the adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour arising out of COVID‐19 have enabled us to develop a theoretical model which seems to be generalisable for other similar kinds of pandemics in the emerging economies. Third , the extant literature suggests that during the period of the pandemic, consumers focus mostly on essential products and exercise control on discretionary expenditure. However, the present study notes that the demand for some discretionary products (e.g., the demand for wellness and entertainment products) has shown a varying pattern depending on the occupation and earning potential of a family during the pandemic. We have further demonstrated that this change in demand for wellness products among consumers of certain socio‐economic groups is not merely due to the economic impacts but also due to the pandemic‐induced lifestyle changes. By including lifestyle changes, we have added a new dimension to the understanding of consumers’ behaviour during the pandemic and enriched similar studies by earlier researchers such as Naeem ( 2020 ) who attributed consumers’ impulsive buying to information overload. Fourth, the study reveals that the creation of new demand for health and hygiene products was found to depend upon the current employment status and family earning status of consumers which is jointly mediated by affordability and awareness towards health and hygiene. These findings enrich our understanding of consumers' behaviour in terms of their demand for wellness products as also the demand for health and hygiene products during the pandemic (Pakravan‐Charvadeh et al.,  2021 ). Finally , the study further reveals that the consumers demonstrated product substitution behaviour due to the availability of affordable substitutes of daily necessities and also due to the availability of healthy substitutes of daily necessities. Therefore, our study confirms product substitution behaviour during the pandemic as noted by Knowles et al. ( 2020 ). Thus, it may also be considered to be another unique contribution of the present study.

7.2. Managerial implications

The study reveals that the affordability of the most vulnerable section of people including daily wage earners and those working in MSMEs has been affected due to COVID‐19. The study also finds that the affordability of the people receiving a reduced salary or having lost their jobs has also been severely affected. This provides an important insight to the policy planners in terms of developing targeted intervention strategies with a view to providing economic aid to the affected people. In addition, the study provides insights to marketing managers in terms of designing and introducing affordable substitute products of daily necessities for a substantial section of the population. Thus, there lies an opportunity to penetrate the market with inexpensive substitutes in a market already occupied by established brands.

The study shows that people engaged in most of the occupations other than Government or public sector jobs are not much concerned with lifestyle changes arising out of COVID‐19. However, it shows that people receiving a reduced salary or having lost their jobs have become quite active in practicing yoga and utilizing herbal products. This possibly indicates that these consumers have become sensitive in maintaining their health due to the fear of contagion despite the challenging situation faced by them in their professional lives. On further scrutiny, we observed that the demand for wellness products by people working in the unorganised sectors is significantly lower than those working in the organised sectors. It is significantly less in a family with a sole earning member than in a family with multiple earning members. In addition, the demand for wellness products by people receiving a reduced salary or having lost their jobs does not significantly differ from people receiving full salary. Thus, the market planners need to carefully take into consideration the socio‐economic factors of the consumers including occupation, employment status, and family earning status while introducing wellness products in the market. Increased awareness towards health and hygiene motivates marketing managers to introduce innovative products relating to health and hygiene and healthy substitute products of daily necessities. To boost demand, designing appropriate awareness campaigns would be very useful. It is observed that the demand for health and hygiene products by people belonging to different occupations does not significantly differ from the people working in the government or public sector jobs. Further, the people who lost their jobs exhibited significantly more demand for health and hygiene products than those receiving full salary. In addition, the demand for such products by the non‐earning members of a family has significantly increased compared to the multiple earning members of a family. This is quite surprising. This probably indicates that even though the pandemic has negatively affected the economies across the globe, the sale of products relating to health and hygiene has significantly increased. The companies selling products relating to health and hygiene should go all out in their efforts to advertise and increase their sales during such a crisis. Finally, there is an opportunity to introduce healthy substitutes of daily necessities in a market already occupied by established brands.

Given that emerging economies such as India, where this study was carried out, have a large share of the unorganised or informal sector (Murthy,  2019 ), our findings are indicative of the nature of the economic impact that the unorganised sector has experienced during this pandemic. Post‐COVID it would be essential for firms dealing with daily necessities to expand their product assortments to include cheaper alternatives. Emerging economies are further characterized by a smaller market for health and hygiene as well as the wellness and digital entertainment market (Sood,  2020 ). The study observed that it is lifestyle and health awareness that affect the demand for wellness and entertainment products, and hygiene products respectively. Hence, firms dealing with such products in emerging markets should realise that it is important to focus on market creation through lifestyle changes and health awareness in addition to regular promotions. The study also gives enough insights into the customer segments that could be targeted for such efforts.

8. CONCLUSION

In this paper, we have carried out a questionnaire survey to understand the impact of COVID‐19 on consumers' affordability, lifestyle, and health awareness and how these effects influenced their buying behaviour. Analysis of the survey data revealed several interesting facts about the impact of COVID‐19 and how the consumers behaved. Some of the major findings of this study include: (1) COVID‐19 affected the affordability of consumers employed in the unorganised sectors more than those who were employed in the organised sector, (2) Type of occupation, current employment status, and the earning potential of a family had a varying degree of impact on lifestyle changes undergone by consumers, and (3) the health awareness was significantly higher for consumers who lost their jobs or had lower family earning status. It was observed that the demand for wellness and entertainment products was not affected much by affordability but by lifestyle changes while the demand for health and hygiene products was more influenced by consumer awareness towards health. Affordability, on the other hand, influenced the demand for affordable substitutes of daily necessities. Therefore, this study and the findings would be very useful for studying the effects of disruptive events on the nature of the shift in consumption behaviour and substitution behaviour exhibited by consumers. Further, the findings of this study would help organizations formulate appropriate strategies to cope with the shift in consumption and substitution behaviour as a result of the pandemic.

The study is not free from certain limitations. The imposition of lockdown in different parts of India at different points of time made it very difficult for us to carry out the survey. Further given the diversity and the large geographical size of India, we could not reach out to all the diverse groups, communities, and cultures. Increasing reach possibly could have generated more insights into consumer behaviour and market segmentation. Moreover, our study was limited to wellness, entertainment, and health products as also the products of daily necessities. Therefore, extending this research to include more diversity in terms of the nature of products would be useful in further refinement of marketing strategies under disruption.

The observations of Paul and Bhukya ( 2021 ) encourage us to propose extension of the present research primarily along the following directions: (1) cross‐country studies for understanding how the pandemic‐induced disruptions have affected consumer behaviour across various social groups based on culture, region, and age, (2) studies on how organizations cope with such adaptations in consumers' needs during pandemic, and (3) studies focusing on understanding how and to what extent consumers' consumption shifts influence retailers' strategies related to product selection, channel choice, promotions, and discounts. It can also be expected that the choice of the above strategies would differ based on retailers' location, the scale of operations, and the target segments. A major influence on the Consumers' changing way of life during such pandemic‐induced disruptions includes government interventions in the form of schemes, aids, and subsidies. An important extension of the present research would be to understand how such interventions were able to mitigate the adverse impacts of the pandemic on consumers' life and at the same time maintain the sustainability of business organizations.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Biographies.

Debadyuti Das is a Professor at the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University in the Operations Management Area. He received his Ph.D. from IIT BHU. He has a rich blend of experience in both industry and academics spanning over more than two and half decades. He has extensive experience in executive education and management development programs. His current areas of research include Sustainable Supply Chain Management, Managing Carbon Footprint in Supply Chain, Distribution Network Design in Public Health, Efficient Sourcing and Distribution of water etc.

Ashutosh Sarkar is an Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode in the Quantitative Methods & Operations Management Area. He received his Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, University of Texas at Dallas. Earlier, Dr. Sarkar has served as a faculty member at IIT Kharagpur and Institute of Technology‐Banaras Hindu University (now IIT BHU). He has extensive experience in executive education and training. His areas of interests include Inventory and Supply Chain Optimization, Application of Stochastic Dynamic Programming in Operations Management Problems, Purchasing and Supply Chain Risk Management.

Arindam Debroy is an Assistant Professor at the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management Nagpur in the Operations Management Area. He received his Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. He has also received the Institute Fellowship during his doctoral program at IIT Kharagpur. His areas of interests include Inventory and Logistics & Supply Chain Management, Purchase Management, and Project Management.

APPENDIX 1. DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS OF FACTORS INFLUENCING CONSUMERS' CHANGING WAY OF LIFE

Appendix 2. descriptive statistics of adaptation in consumers' buying behaviour.

Das, D. , Sarkar, A. , & Debroy, A. (2022). Impact of COVID‐19 on changing consumer behaviour: Lessons from an emerging economy . International Journal of Consumer Studies , 46 , 692–715. 10.1111/ijcs.12786 [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH article

Impact of pricing and product information on consumer buying behavior with customer satisfaction in a mediating role.

\r\nHuiliang Zhao,*

  • 1 Department of Product Design, School of Fine Arts, Guizhou Minzu University, Guiyang, China
  • 2 School of Mechanical Engineering, Guizhou University, Guiyang, China
  • 3 School of Data Science and Information Engineering, Guizhou Minzu University, Guiyang, China
  • 4 School of Mechanical Engineering, Guiyang University, Guiyang, China

The relationship between product pricing and product packaging plays an important role in the buying behavior of consumers, whereas customer satisfaction plays a mediating role. To test these hypotheses, research was conducted on university students in China. Questionnaire-based convenience sampling was conducted on 500 students for data collection using online and offline sources. A total of 367 (73%) students responded, and 17 questionnaires were rejected due to missing information. SPSS and AMOS software were used for the data analysis. Product pricing and product information were independent variables in this study, whereas consumer buying behavior was a dependent variable. Customer satisfaction is mediated by one dependent and two independent variables. Confirmatory factor analysis, path analysis, and discriminant validity in structural equation modeling revealed that product pricing and packaging had a statistically significant relationship with the buyer decision process. The introduction of satisfaction as a mediating variable led to the observation of full mediation in the case of product pricing and partial mediation in product packaging. Given the results of this research, product managers should adopt pricing tactics along with product packaging to influence the buying intentions of consumers.

Introduction

In the competitive market of commodities, products, varieties, consumers, ethnicities, and preferences, product pricing and product packaging information descriptions have a considerable influence on the buying behavior of consumers. To explore the cumulative effects of product pricing and packaging on the buying behavior of consumers of different ethnicities, it is essential to research these aspects of marketing. It is worth mentioning that consumer satisfaction also plays a decisive and mediating role in the development and molding of buying behavior of consumers ( Larsen et al., 2017 ). It is believed that pricing has a significant effect on the buying behavior of consumers because the higher a product is priced, the fewer units are sold. By contrast, products selling at prices lower than the market rate are assumed to sell at a higher volume ( Sadiq M. W. et al., 2020 ). Several studies have shown that pricing is more critical and relevant to consumer buying behavior ( Huo et al., 2021 ).

When discussing the combined effect of product pricing and packaging relationships on consumer buying behavior, pricing alone plays a more critical role than packaging, which has a partial role in buying behavior ( Jabarzare and Rasti-Barzoki, 2020 ). Thus, using this analogy, products can be sold, surprisingly, at a much higher volume. One can increase the prices of the products if the competitor products are scarce in the market or if the manufacturers are low in number. This behavior may not affect the number of sales or the attitude of the consumer toward buying. If the product is already in abundance in the market, then pricing will definitely play an important role because the increase in price will discourage customers from buying it. Similarly, if prices are lowered under such market conditions, then consumers will increase the amount that they purchase significantly.

Even though product pricing has a greater influence than product packaging on the decision process of a buyer ( Pratama and Suprapto, 2017 ; Abdullah et al., 2021 ), high prices in a highly competitive market can lose customers permanently due to the effect of increased pricing ( Kotler et al., 2012 ). While talking about the packaging of products, it should be kept in mind that packaging has a significant relationship on consumers and their decision making about product purchases ( Sadiq M. W. et al., 2020 ). For example, quality, color, and material can have a positive effect on consumers ( Rambabu and Porika, 2020 ). Most consumers desire a range of product choices when purchasing, in terms of packaging. Thus, marketers should place a premium on creative and exclusive packaging that is distinctive in scale, instruction, convenience, product design, and form when compared with rivals in the market segment ( Li et al., 2021 ). Marking a product with accurate information adds to its value. Consumers are attracted to detailed labels, content, and packaging. Many people are influenced by the way a product is packaged and presented in the market. While the product itself may be of any quality, the relationship it produces through its packaging has a strong influence on the purchasing attitude of the consumer. Nowadays, eco-friendly packaging is essential. Thus, advertisers should prioritize this factor and employ best practices to the maximum degree possible, including eco-friendly recyclable packaging ( Abdullah et al., 2021 ). Consumer buying behavior also has a lot to do with product selling and buying ( Brun et al., 2014 ), although some customers are not influenced by the packaging or labeling of products, buying is demand-driven or need-oriented by most consumers.

However, super packaging or labeling of products may not attract the consumer for several reasons. One of the primary reasons may be the high price and packaging, announcing the excellent quality of the product. In such cases, there may be a lack of interest by the consumer toward attractive packaging; instead, they may prefer to buy local products that are cheap and readily available in the market. According to Tu and Chih (2013) , consumer satisfaction is another aspect of product selling and consumer buying behavior. It also plays a mediating role in product buying behavior, pricing, and packaging ( Rambabu and Porika, 2020 ). Even though a price might be negotiable and the product is provided with helpful information and good, decent packaging, there is a lot to do to satisfy a consumer. All of these factors are correlated with consumer satisfaction. If the consumer is satisfied with all these, they may buy the product, but there is no guarantee of this. Thus, consumer buying behavior is also influenced by satisfaction ( Brun et al., 2014 ). This study seeks to answer several questions to explain consumer buying behavior in relation to product pricing and packaging, with consumer satisfaction as a mediating factor. In this work, we first present a brief review of this research, which differs from the current literature in various respects. The research has generated several findings.

• Product prices significantly correlate with consumer buying behavior.

• The product information available on packaging influences the consumer’s buying behavior.

• Satisfaction plays a mediating role in consumer buying behavior.

• Pricing of the product plays an essential role in customer satisfaction.

• Product information available on labels plays a significant role in customer satisfaction.

The remainder of this work is structured as follows: Section “Review of Literature and Hypothesis Development” presents a review of previous studies supporting different theoretical frameworks. Section “Research Methodology” presents the methodology adopted for the empirical analysis. Section “Data Analysis and Results” presents the results of this analysis. Section “Conclusion and Recommendations” concludes the present study, limitations and future directions.

Review of Literature and Hypothesis Development

Product pricing and consumer buying behavior.

Product pricing seems to be the only direct element that generates revenue and indicates the success or failure of a product or service. As a result, the researchers in this study chose to emphasize this aspect. Manali (2015) carried out research into the theoretical dimensions of consumer purchasing behavior and the factors that affect it. He analyzed the relationship between consumer buying behavior and factors affecting the buying process and decisions of the consumers. His research provides enough evidence to show that the internal and external influences of a consumer have a major relationship with their purchasing behavior.

According to Al-Salamin et al. (2015) , good prices of well-known brands negatively affect the purchasing process. Young people are eager to buy brands, but their low income hinders them from doing so. The only aspect of the marketing mix that generates revenue is price, whereas the others generate costs. The authors also noted that the purchasing decisions of consumers focus on their price perception and what they think about the actual price of a product. The main goal of marketing is to understand how customers move toward their price perception. We are all customers, no matter how old, educated, wealthy, or talented. Understanding customer behavior thus becomes a critical challenge for advertisers, distributors, and salespeople. Therefore, we hypothesized the following:

H 1 : Product pricing is significantly correlated with consumer buying behavior.

Product Packaging and Consumer Buying Behavior

Packaging a product with relevant product details contributes positively to consumer buying behavior. Names, features, and product packaging attract consumers. Many people are influenced by the packaging and marketing of items. While a product may be of any quality, the impact on customer purchasing is essential ( Rundh, 2009 ; Li et al., 2021 ; Naseem et al., 2021 ). The aim of this study was to determine the effect of product pricing and information about product packaging on the buying behavior of consumers. Innovation in product labeling and packing often has a major relationship with demand, which is why there are many methods for this type of action plan if a company wants to pursue this strategy with regard to its product packaging. When it comes to packaging, many buyers want a range of product choices. Therefore, marketers should pay high prices for innovative and exclusive packaging that differentiate their products from the competition in terms of size, guidance, functionality, product innovation, and shape ( Rundh, 2009 ; Li et al., 2021 ; Sarfraz et al., 2021 ). For the target consumer, product packaging acts as an outstanding networking tool, ultimately increasing their awareness levels. Packaging must highlight key aspects of the product and brand, such as material composition, purpose, and quality. To show respect for customers, packaging should include all of this information in regional languages. Not only is efficient packaging important for storing and preserving products, but it is also important for creating an interest in and generating actions toward purchasing the product. Packaging that is environmentally friendly has become increasingly important. As a result, marketers should place a high priority on this aspect and use best practices to the greatest possible extent, including the use of environmentally friendly recycled materials ( Deliza and MacFie, 2001 ; Abdullah et al., 2021 ; Mohsin et al., 2021 ).

H 2 : Product information on packaging is significantly related to consumer purchasing behavior.

Satisfaction of Consumers and Their Buying Behavior

Customer value and customer satisfaction are considered important parameters for the relationship between customer value and the willingness to sacrifice ( Zechmeister et al., 1997 ). This sacrifice is made in accordance with an exchange mechanism that includes transaction costs and the risk of the goods of the company. According to Larsen et al. (2017) , customers will be disappointed in the future if the ratio value considered by the economic sacrifice of customers with the goods sold by the company does not meet their expectations. Customers will be satisfied if the ratio value is sufficient or exceeds their expectations. Another analysis of consumer value examines the understanding of customers of the quality and benefits of toothpaste in relation to price sacrifice. Social, emotional, and functional values are all aspects of customer value ( Keller and Kotler, 2012 ).

Customer satisfaction is evaluated by obtaining feedback from customers after purchasing products or services, and then comparing it with their expectations. Customer satisfaction is calculated using the performance requirements of products or services that are capable of satisfying the needs and desires of customers. A satisfied consumer is a consumer who believes that the products or services were worth purchasing, which would encourage them to buy the products again. On the other hand, a frustrated consumer will persuade other consumers not to buy the same brand, which ultimately causes switching to rival brands. According to Tu and Chih (2013) , “customer satisfaction is perceived as affecting repurchasing intentions and actions, which, in turn, contributes to an organization’s potential sales and income.”

H 3 : Satisfaction plays a mediating role in consumer buying behavior.

Role of Product Pricing on Consumer Satisfaction

Price is regarded as something that can be calculated according to several measures, such as a reasonable price, a competitive price, a discounted price, a retailer’s price, and price suitability. Value is a higher-level definition than quality and price because it is more individualistic and personal. A satisfied consumer believes that the value of goods and services is comparable with the price, which will encourage them to repurchase the products. According to Zeithaml (1988) , “quality can be characterized as superiority or excellence in a broad sense.” From the customer’s perspective, “The price is given up or sacrificed to get the product or service” ( Zeithaml, 1988 ). According to Bei and Chiao (2001) , “[P]rice is described as giving or sacrificing for the acquisition of a service or product,” while Kotler et al. (2012) proposed that “the price is the amount paid for a product or service and the sum of the value exchanged by consumers for the advantages of a product or service available or being used.” The perceptions of customers of a given price can have a direct relationship with the their decision to buy a product ( Zechmeister et al., 1997 ). Customers will pay attention to the prices paid by their peers, and no one wants to spend more money than their peers do. The fairness of a price can affect the perception of consumers of the product, and ultimately their desire to become a consumer.

H 4 : The pricing of a product plays a significant role in customer satisfaction.

Role of Product Packaging on Consumer Satisfaction

Packaging and labeling can be considered one of the most important tools in marketing and communication, which means that a thorough examination of their components and their relationships with consumer buying behavior is necessary. According to Joewono and Kubota (2007) , consumer satisfaction results from product and service reviews based on customer perceptions and a broad assessment of the overall consumption experience. It is suggested that customer satisfaction affects repurchase intentions and actions, which, in turn, determine potential sales and revenue for a company. According to Zeithaml (2000) , consumer satisfaction is measured on a multidimensional scale that includes service quality, product quality, scenario factors, personal factors, and price factors.

Product packaging plays a variety of roles. It provides information about the product and the company, connects them with customers, and ensures product quality ( Naseem et al., 2020 ; Rambabu and Porika, 2020 ). It is important to remember that packaging has a significant influence on customers and their purchasing decisions. Consumers react positively to quality, color, and content. Similarly, if a product is labeled with accurate information about the product, it increases the value of the product. Consumers respond to a product’s specific name, ingredients, and packaging. Many consumers are concerned about the way a product is designed and advertised. Although the quality of the product itself may vary, the effect of packaging on customer purchasing decisions is important.

H 5 : Product information available on labels plays a significant role toward customer satisfaction.

Theoretical Support of the Study

The following research was conducted to investigate underlying issues. This study is a continuation of expectancy disconfirmation theory (EDT) and social cognitive theory (SCT). Both theories provide a strong background for conducting this research. According to EDT, the satisfaction of consumers is linked to the expectation and perception of product quality. A consumer sets an expectation before examining a product in real time. This comparison of preset expectations with real-sense performance is the basis of EDT. In this study, consumer satisfaction plays a mediating role between product pricing, product packaging, and consumer buying behavior. The expectations of consumers are based on the price of the product, information on product packaging, and perceived quality.

The other central backbone of this research is SCT, developed by Bandura (2012) , which explains that learning takes place in a social context with a complex and reciprocal relationship between the individual, their environment, and their actions. The emphasis on social relationships, and also external and internal social reinforcement, is a distinctive feature of SCT. SCT considers the specific ways in which people maintain their behavior and interact with others. It also considers the specific ways in which people learn and sustain behaviors and the social context in which they do so. According to this theory, past experiences strengthen ideas and expectations, all of which affect whether a person maintains his/her attitudes. Many behavioral models that are used in studies related to health do not include behavior maintenance; instead, they focus on behavior initiation. This is a shame because the real purpose of public health is to maintain conduct rather than initiate it. SCT aims to illustrate how people monitor and reinforce their actions to achieve goal-directed behavior that can be managed. Thus, the product pricing and packaging of a product with useful information on labels will surely correlate with consumer buying behavior that will persist. The customer will buy or not buy in the future on the basis of the expectations and perceptions of the product once his behavior about the product has already been initiated. A conceptual framework was developed to focus on the specific variables. The framework consists of the hypotheses shown in Figure 1 .

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Figure 1. Theoretical framework.

Research Methodology

The research methodology of a study represents an essential and integral part of the entire process and explains how science contributes to aims. The behavioral approach of respondents, i.e., expectations, evidence, observations, knowledge of reality, and individual point of view, can be summarized by analytical parameters. According to James and Vinnicombe (2002) , the assurance of objectivity in the scientific procession is compulsory. Furthermore, a perspective emphasizing social variable is considered essential by the society for practical implications ( Blaikie, 2007 ). Their innovative discoveries and interpretation are leading activities of label research.

Research Design

In this research, the structure of behavior science by Zechmeister et al. (1997) is followed with mediation and description for the problem-solving process. The main focus of this research is the state of mind, mood swings, variations in feelings, and behavior toward the specific situation of the respondents. In addition, the organizational performance in the market and consumer buying behavior can solve many problems by approaching the cooperative feedback process with peers and accumulating knowledge. The analysis of buying behavior may be categorized as “co-oriented” or “comparative.” According to behavioral science, these two factors have real meaning. This study seeks to understand the effect of product pricing and packaging on the buying behavior of consumers. At the same time, satisfaction plays its role as a mediating variable ( Zechmeister et al., 1997 ; Bollen and Pearl, 2013 ). For data collection, self-administered questionnaires were used for quantitative analysis.

Study Population

The sample of this study comprises students from different universities in China. The main reason for choosing university students is that recent research concentrates on product pricing with consumer buying behavior while considering university students as their population. The population selection is based on the area of interest and importance, which covers the objectivity of this research. Divergent online and offline sources were used to collect analytical data. The questionnaires were circulated among 500 students, and the 367 replied to us regarding that, and so the aggregate received response was 73%. Seventeen answers received from respondents were rejected due to incomplete information, and 350 were finalized for the analytical process. This study used convenience sampling for data collection. Bonds-Raacke and Raacke (2012) suggested that field examinations should use a questionnaire. The researcher used a questionnaire to collect the data in this study. SPSS software was used to check the quality, validity, and scale reliability of the instrument.

Data Analysis and Results

SPSS and AMOS software were used for the data analysis. Table 1 presents the reliability analysis results. Product pricing and product information are independent variables in this study, whereas consumer buying behavior is a dependent variable. In this study, satisfaction is mediated between two independent variables and one dependent variable. All variables have acceptable reliability alpha values.

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Table 1. Reliability analysis.

Table 2 shows the descriptive statistics. The mean value of product pricing is 3.4, where product information has a mean value of 3.9, satisfaction has a mean value 3.6, and consumer buying behavior has a mean value of 3.8.

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Table 2. Descriptive statistics.

The product price measuring scale was introduced by Lichtenstein et al. (1993) . The Likert scale ranges from strongly agree to strongly disagree, and this scale was used in this research with slight modifications. The Lichtenstein et al. (1993) ranking was further verified by confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) analysis to meet the requirements of this research. The measuring scales of Brun et al. (2014) and Zekiri and Hasani (2015) were used to measure the product packaging and customer satisfaction. The behavior of consumers toward buying decisions, the measurement scale of Bagga and Bhatt (2013) is used with slight modification to fit the scale for scope and broaden the view of this research. All predefined models/scales were rated on 5-point Likert scale, with higher numerical values indicating greater satisfaction.

Confirmatory Factor Analysis

The pooled CFA is more reliable than other versions and the most up-to-date approach. The AMOS 24 is used to check the relationship among variables ( Afthanorhan et al., 2014 ; Chong et al., 2014 ).

The results of Table 3 declare the structural fitness of the model by meeting all criterion requirements. The reliability values or factor loading of individual items are presented in Figure 2 . The findings of Table 4 have also covered the composite reliability of a wide scale. The composite reliability is indicated by the reliability of the measurement scales while reporting reliability ( Netemeyer et al., 2003 ).

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Table 3. Pooled CFA model fitness tests.

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Figure 2. Pooled confirmatory factor analysis.

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Table 4. Factor loading of items.

Assessment of Discriminant Validity

Discriminant validity was measured using HTMT analysis by considering two determinants, i.e., supposed to be related or unrelated. The value of cut-off criteria for strict discriminant validity was 0.850, and for liberal discriminant validity it was 0.900 ( Henseler et al., 2015 ), obtained by employing discriminant validity. The following discriminant validity criteria have provided the results of Table 5 .

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Table 5. HTMT analysis.

Path Analysis in Structural Equation Modeling

In this study, structural equation modeling was used to determine the proposed relationships. Exogenous variables were included in this analysis to allow for the study of endogenous variables using AMOS 24. Here, we can see whether the independent and dependent variables are linearly related to each other. The analytical observations and their mean values are tabulated and linked with the collected information. The results of Table 6 declare the structural fitness of the model by meeting all criterion requirements.

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Table 6. SEM, model fitness tests.

Figure 3 shows the direct effects of the independent variables on the dependent variable. In this figure, the mediator variable is missing from this path analysis diagram to capture the direct correlation of the independent variable on the dependent variable.

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Figure 3. Direct effects of path analysis.

Table 7 shows that H 1 , H 3 , and H 5 are statistically significant, and their P-value is less than 0.05, which shows the 95% confidence interval. The structural equation modeling with the path analysis is presented in Figure 4 . The path analysis declared the nature of variables, i.e., two variables are independent: one is the mediator and the other one is dependent.

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Table 7. Results of indirect effects.

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Figure 4. Indirect direct effects of path analysis.

The findings of Table 8 indicate that both hypotheses are statistically significant, but the observed mediation values for these hypotheses differ. H 2 is statistically significant but has a full mediation effect, whereas H 4 is statistically significant and has a partial mediation effect.

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Table 8. Results of indirect effects.

Hypothetical Results

The results of the hypothesis are shown in Table 9 in a more detailed and comprehensive manner. To calculate the standard error with T and P-values and the significance of the path coefficient, bootstrapping (1,000 subsamples) was used, which provided direct evidence of the hypotheses being accepted or rejected. The structural model analysis results show the path coefficients and their significance levels, as presented in Table 9 . The findings confirmed that all five relationships were significant, and it can be concluded that H 1 , H 2 , H 3 , H 4 , and H 5 were supported.

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Table 9. Hypothesis results.

According to Sisodiya and Sharma (2018) , the marketing mix has a significant influence on the buying behavior of consumers. In this study, the main principle in packaging is to “reach a greater height of opportunity.” It is often regarded as a critical component of purchase decision making, and has often been shown to be a way of building market awareness and connecting with consumers outside the product itself and across several channels ( Rambabu and Porika, 2020 ; Sadiq W. et al., 2020 ). Packaging performs multidimensional functions. It can not only offer knowledge about products and business entities, but it is also a technique for communicating with consumers and safeguarding product quality ( Silayoi and Speece, 2007 ). Pricing can be considered one of the most vital and essential elements that can influence consumer buying behavior or the buyer decision process ( Dhurup et al., 2014 ; Sadiq W. et al., 2020 ).

According to Kotler et al. (2012) , customer satisfaction “is the extent to which a product’s perceived performance matches the buyer’s expectations.” Aslam et al. (2018) stated that price has a positive and significant correlation with customer satisfaction. Furthermore, they believed that the success of the sector was based on price fairness and customer satisfaction. Previous studies have also discussed this phenomenon in connection with other geographical locations. The price factor is more relatable to consumer buying behavior than product packaging ( Jabarzare and Rasti-Barzoki, 2020 ; Huo et al., 2021 ). Product pricing has a greater influence than product packaging on the buyers’ decision processes ( Pratama and Suprapto, 2017 ; Abdullah et al., 2021 ). Innovation in product packaging also has a significant relationship with the consumer; however, if any organization wants to follow a strategy that is relevant to its product packaging, then there are several strategies for this kind of plan of action. Most consumers desire a range of product choices when purchasing, in terms of packaging. Thus, the marketer should place a premium on creative and exclusive packaging that is distinctive in terms of scale, instruction, convenience, product design, and form when compared to rivals in market segmentation ( Rundh, 2009 ; Bollen and Pearl, 2013 ). Product packaging serves as an excellent networking medium for target customers, eventually increasing their knowledge levels. Packaging must convey pertinent details about the product and brand, including ingredient composition, intent, and consistency. In addition, packaging should provide all of this material in regional languages to demonstrate respect for consumers. Efficient packaging is critical not only for storing and protecting goods but also for generating interest in and action toward buying the commodity. Currently, eco-friendly packaging is essential. Thus, advertisers should prioritize this factor and employ best practices to the maximum degree possible, including eco-friendly recyclable packaging ( Deliza and MacFie, 2001 ; Abdullah et al., 2021 ).

Conclusion and Recommendations

The study results clearly show that both product pricing and packaging have a statistically significant relationship with the buyer’s decision process. At the same time, the introduction of satisfaction leads to the observation of full mediation in the case of product pricing and partial mediation in product packaging. Despite knowing that both the variables have a statistically significant relationship with the consumer buying behavior, it is essential to understand the managerial implications. Suppose, we would like to report and recommend these findings to different organizations looking to cut their operational costs in any possible way without compromising product quality, we suggest in such cases that they focus on pricing strategies for a better consumer response. A focus on the product packaging design process, packaging material, or the information available on product packaging positively influences consumer buying behavior. However, its effect is lower than product pricing. Therefore, it is recommended for managers that if they want to connect with their target customers more efficiently and effectively, they should focus on both product pricing and packaging options. However, if they can afford only one option from the product’s operational cost perspective, they must focus on product pricing strategies.

In future studies, it must be kept in mind that these findings pertain directly to the individuals listed as respondents. To make it more accurate, other demographic, psychographic, and geographic samples should be used. It is likely that when data are thus obtained, the findings will differ. To ensure more lasting and repeatable corporate outcomes, several studies are required to obtain results that are more accurate and reliable.

Data Availability Statement

The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article/supplementary material, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author.

Author Contributions

HZ, XY, and ZL contributed to conception and design of the study. HZ organized the database, performed the statistical analysis, and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. XY, ZL, and QY wrote sections of the manuscript. All authors contributed to manuscript revision, read, and approved the submitted version.

This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (52065010), Open Fund of Key Laboratory of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Ministry of Education (GZUAMT2021KF[07] and GZUAMT2021KF[08]), Natural Science Research Project supported by the Education Department of Guizhou Province [Grant Nos. (2018)152 and (2017)239], Humanities and Social Science Research Project of Guizhou Provincial Department of Education (Grant No. 2018qn46), and the Guiyang University Teaching Research Project (Grant No. JT2019520206).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Abbreviations

CFA, Confirmatory Factor Analysis; RMSEA, Root Mean Square of Error Approximation; CFI, Comparative fit index; EDT, Expectancy Disconfirmation Theory; SCT, Social Cognitive Theory.

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Keywords : product pricing, product packaging, consumer buying behavior, consumer satisfaction, confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modeling

Citation: Zhao H, Yao X, Liu Z and Yang Q (2021) Impact of Pricing and Product Information on Consumer Buying Behavior With Customer Satisfaction in a Mediating Role. Front. Psychol. 12:720151. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.720151

Received: 03 June 2021; Accepted: 08 October 2021; Published: 13 December 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Zhao, Yao, Liu and Yang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Huiliang Zhao, [email protected]

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

case study in consumer behavior

Consumer Behavior

Advertising, Consumerism, Materialism, Marketing

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Consumer behavior—or how people buy and use goods and services—is a rich field of psychological research, particularly for companies trying to sell products to as many potential customers as possible. Since what people buy—and why they buy it—impacts many different facets of their lives, research into consumer behavior ties together several key psychological issues. These include communication (How do different people respond to advertising and marketing?), identity (Do our purchases reveal our personality ?), social status, decision-making , and mental and physical health.

  • Why Consumer Behavior Matters
  • The Psychology of Buying and Spending
  • How Advertising and Marketing Work
  • How to Appeal to Consumers

case study in consumer behavior

Corporations, political campaigns, and nonprofit organizations all consult findings about consumer behavior to determine how best to market products, candidates, or issues. In some cases, they accomplish this by manipulating people's fears, their least-healthy habits, or their worst tendencies. And consumers themselves can be their own worst enemy, making rash purchasing decisions based on anxiety , faulty logic, or a fleeting desire for social status. But consumers aren’t powerless: Learning more about the different strategies companies employ, as well as the explanations for people's often confusing purchasing decisions, can help individuals more consciously decide what, why, and whether to buy.

In developed countries, people spend only a portion of their money on things they need to survive, and the rest on non-essentials. Purchasing decisions based on want, rather than need, aren’t always rational ; instead, they are influenced by personality , emotion , and trends. To keep up, marketers continuously investigate how individuals and groups make buying choices and respond to marketing techniques.

Political marketing is, in many ways, similar to product marketing: it plays on emotions and people’s desire for compelling stories , rather than pure rationality, and aims to condense complex issues into short, memorable soundbites. Smart politicians use marketing research to tailor their messages, connect with voters who share their values, and counter their opponents’ narrative.

Humans are social animals. We rely on a group to survive and are evolutionarily driven to follow the crowd . To learn what is “correct,” we look to other people—a heuristic known as the principle of social proof . Fads are born because a product’s popularity is assumed to signal value, which further bolsters its popularity.

Natural or man-made disasters can trigger panic buying or hoarding behaviors, either before the disaster or after it has passed, usually of products deemed necessary for survival. In the weeks and months after a disaster, some evidence suggests that “hedonic purchases”—such as alcohol or unhealthy foods —rise as victims of the disaster attempt to cope.

After large-scale recessions, such as the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, consumers typically become more frugal and sensitive to price. These changes become permanent for some consumers, especially for those who were particularly hard-hit; for others, behaviors revert back to baseline once the economy has stabilized and any personal financial challenges have been overcome.

It already has. Consumers are buying less , shifting more purchasing online, and spending less on travel and in-person events. Whether those changes will endure, though, is unclear. Some experts predict that most people will revert back to old habits post-COVID; a small few, it’s predicted, will become more frugal and less materialistic in the long term.

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Much of what people purchase—like food, shelter, or medical care—is necessary for their health and security. But what compels someone to buy things that aren’t necessary, like the latest iPhone or an impractical pair of high-heeled shoes? The study of why people make such purchases—which are often irrational—is closely related to the field of behavioral economics , which examines why people deviate from the most rational choice available.

Behavioral economists, marketing professionals, and psychologists have concluded that extraneous purchases may be driven by a need to display one’s social status, or in response to an emotion like sadness or boredom . In other instances, retailers may successfully manipulate the desire for a “good deal” by making an unneeded item seem especially affordable or portraying it as being in limited supply.

Learning how to recognize common manipulation tactics may help individuals and families save money—and stress —in the long term.

Many human behaviors are driven by reward. Purchasing a new gadget or item of clothing triggers a surge of dopamine , which creates pleasurable feelings. Though the glow of a new purchase may not last long, the desire to once again be rewarded with a burst of dopamine drives us to buy more .

It depends. Some research suggests that experiential purchases like vacations bring more happiness than material goods, in both the short- and long-term . However, this rule may not apply universally. For lower-income people, spending on material goods that meet basic needs is often more conducive to happiness, especially if the items remain useful over time.

Consumers are often irrational. Instead of only buying things they need, they also buy unnecessary items—often because the purchase makes them feel good, soothes negative emotions, or boosts social status. A consumer may also buy something that has been framed by a marketer as especially attractive; “buy one get one free” offers, for instance, are hard to resist and encourage people to buy things they don’t need.

Certain buying impulses can ultimately be harmful , but they often serve a psychological purpose. Purchasing unhealthy foods or excessive alcohol, for instance, can temporarily offer comfort from painful emotions; buying a new pair of designer jeans might break the bank, but can also help the purchaser prominently display their social status.

Dissonant buying impulses—or purchases that conflict with one’s resources, needs, and goals —can be difficult to manage, especially when they’re driven by negative emotions. Learning emotional regulation skills —such as naming any negative feelings, redirecting attention to productive activities, or practicing mindfulness —or creating physical “barriers” (such as freezing credit cards so they can’t be used impulsively) can help.

Anxiety is known to spur impulsive purchases —in part because buying things offers a sense of control and can be used to self-soothe. Anxiety can also lead someone to prioritize products that promote safety or a sense of security—such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or canned goods.

In a word, panic. Anxiety and fear make the world appear frightening and senseless; stocking up on certain items like toilet paper is one way to restore a feeling of control. Panic buying is also driven in part by herd mentality; if people see that others are hoarding hand sanitizer, they assume they should too.

Impulse buying may be motivated by negative emotions, as purchasing something often temporarily boosts mood. It may also be driven by personality—the naturally more impulsive or less conscientious may be driven to more frequently purchase items on a whim. Marketing strategies, like advertising products as “limited time offers,” can increase the tendency to impulse buy.

MediaGroup_BestForYou/Shutterstock

Two vast, interrelated industries—advertising and marketing—are dedicated to introducing people to products and convincing them to make purchases.

Since the public’s desires tend to change over time, however, what works in one product’s campaign won’t necessarily work in another’s. To adapt messages for a fickle audience, advertisers employ focus groups, market research, and psychological studies to better understand what compels people to commit to purchases or become loyal to brands.

Everyone has heard the advertising maxim “sex sells,” for instance—but exactly what, when, and why sex can be used to successfully market a product is the subject of much debate among ad makers and behavioral researchers. Recently, some evidence has suggested that pitches to the perceived “lowest common denominator” may actually inspire consumer backlash.

Marketers regularly use psychology to convince consumers to buy. Some common strategies include classical conditioning —training consumers to associate a product with certain cues through repeated exposure—creating a scarcity mindset (suggesting that a product only exists in limited quantities), or employing the principle of social proof to imply that everyone is buying a product—so you should, too.

Marketers often exploit cognitive shortcuts , known as heuristics, to convince consumers to make purchases. One example of this is the anchoring bias , or the brain’s tendency to rely heavily on the first piece of information it learns. A savvy marketer may say, for instance, that a car costs $20,000, then quickly offer to take $1,000 off. Since the consumer “anchored” on to the initial $20,000 price tag, a $1,000 discount seems substantial and the consumer may leap at the offer. But if the car was truly worth $15,000, it would still be overpriced, even with the supposed discount factored in. 

Renowned marketing researcher Robert Cialdini found that advertisements are perceived very differently depending on consumers’ state of mind. Fearful consumers, for instance, are more likely to respond negatively to ads that promote standing out from the crowd. However, consumers in a positive state of mind respond well to ads encouraging uniqueness; thus, timing and context are often critical to an ad’s success.

Limited time offers trigger a sense of urgency and force consumers to make quick decisions. A product only being available “for a limited time” (either at all or at a lower price) creates a sense of scarcity. Scarcity—whether real or manufactured—increases a product’s perceived value, heightening the chance of an impulsive purchase.

Because the majority of humans desire and seek out sex, sexual stimuli naturally capture attention; thus, marketers often make use of attractive models or erotic imagery simply to make consumers take notice. Being “primed” with erotic content can change behavior, too; research has found that sexual priming can lead consumers to make riskier financial choices.

The effectiveness of sex in advertising likely depends on several factors, including gender and context. Women appear to respond more negatively to sexual ads than men, research finds. When the product is unrelated to sex, using erotic imagery in ads can trigger dissonance and trigger negative feelings about the brand.

case study in consumer behavior

In a crowded marketplace, anyone hoping to sell a product or service will need to stand out. To succeed at this, marketers often turn to psychological research to identify and target their most likely consumers, grab their attention, and convince them that a product will fill a specific need or otherwise better their life. Aiming to inform and persuade consumers—rather than manipulate them—is widely considered to be the most ethical approach, and is likely to help build brand loyalty more than cheap marketing tricks.

Both the message and the messenger matter for  persuasion . Marketing researcher Robert Cialdini has found that first impressions matter greatly—a company (or individual) that appears trustworthy and warm is more likely to gain their audience’s trust. Cialdini also coined the term  “pre-suasion”  to argue that marketers must grab consumers’ attention  before  making an appeal—by offering free samples, for instance, or couching a product pitch in an amusing commercial. 

Turning to psychology can help. Appealing to consumers’ emotions and desire for connection with others are often powerful marketing strategies, as long as they’re not interpreted by consumers as manipulative. Introducing novelty, too, can be effective—research shows that consumers respond to surprising ads, humorous ads, or even “experiential” ads (such as parties or events designed to promote a product). Repeating an ad enough times so that a consumer remembers it—but not so much that they become frustrated—is also a critical part of any effective ad campaign.

Humans are creatures of habit and slow to adapt to change. To spread a new message or idea,  advertisers  have learned that simplicity is key; overcomplicated appeals can be frustrating or confusing for consumers. Summarizing the benefits of a new product, service, or political campaign in pithy, memorable phrases or images—and then repeating the message as often as possible—is more likely to grab consumers' attention and convince them to take a chance on a new object or idea.

Customers trust businesses that are honest with them, sharing accurate information about everything from the benefits of using their products to how they run their business.  Other guidelines for ethical marketing  include clearly distinguishing ads from other types of content (news, entertainment, etc.), prioritizing the interests of children or other vulnerable groups (by not marketing unhealthy products to children, for example), avoiding negative stereotypes, and respecting consumers’  intelligence  and privacy.

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From shops to bins: a case study of consumer attitudes and behaviours towards plastics in a UK coastal city

  • Original Article
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  • Published: 30 January 2023
  • Volume 18 , pages 1379–1395, ( 2023 )

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  • Stephanie Lucy Northen   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-6496-9502 1 ,
  • Laura Karoliina Nieminen   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8652-016X 1 ,
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A Correction to this article was published on 16 February 2023

This article has been updated

Understanding the use behaviours of plastic items within households is important to enable informed policy development, particularly with the emerging and developing global plastic treaty. A survey of 400 permanent residents in Portsmouth aimed to identify the general trends in single-use plastic product (SUPP) use and disposal, and their personal motivations and barriers to reducing and recycling plastic. This included identifying common influencers of attitudes such as environmental values, situational characteristics, psychological factors and the individual demographic characteristics of residents. Key factors in consumer behaviour were found to be product availability, affordability and convenience. Often, less conveniently recycled plastics more frequently end up in landfill such as films, shopping bags and personal care items. The age of respondents was found to be the most significantly associated demographic with SUPP consumption, reuse and recycling behaviours. Other demographic variables such as a resident’s location within the city, income and vehicle ownership were potential drivers influencing individual attitudes and their incentives towards reducing and recycling their plastic waste. The findings from this study brought to light the importance of effective local plastic governance. This study also identified consumer perceptions and behaviours that could contribute to future holistic plastic policy recommendations.

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Introduction

Plastics are ubiquitous with approximately 4.9 million metric tonnes of plastic produced for the United Kingdom (UK) market annually (Tiseo 2021 ). The volume of mismanaged plastic waste is increasing, with implications for human health and nature (Jambeck et al. 2015 ; Mason et al. 2018 ; Welden 2020 ). Since plastic manufacturing began in the 1950s, it has been estimated that approximately 4.9 billion tonnes (60%) of all the plastic produced has ended up as pollution. This waste is accumulating in landfills and the environment (as pollution), and only 10% of all plastic waste generated has been recycled (Geyer 2020 ; Geyer et al. 2017 ). In this paper, we briefly discuss single-use plastic product (SUPP) consumption and waste generation in the UK and consider some of the environmental impacts that plastic pollution and waste has on the environment. Here, we present a survey case study we conducted in Portsmouth and our findings regarding the trends in SUPP consumption, demographic influences, and plastic avoidance behaviours (PABs) and waste disposal attitudes (WDAs) of Portsmouth residents. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings for future research and policy priorities to reduce the consumption of SUPPs.

Some of the drivers of plastic consumption and utilisation have been identified as environmental values, situational characteristics and psychological factors that can be used to predict purchase behaviour and waste management intentions (Barr 2007 ). The disposability of plastics and its average residence time within households is often dictated by availability, affordability and convenience (O’Brien and Thondhlana 2019 ). In 2017, 2.4 million tonnes of plastic were sold in the UK, 1.3 million of which was used for plastic packaging alone, which is often a highly discarded and single-use material in retail and hospitality (Burgess et al. 2021 ; WRAP 2018 ). The most littered items in the UK are bottles, bags and single-use food wrappers (Ocean Conservancy and International Coastal Cleanup 2017 ). The UK government in 2018 set out a plan to ban the sale of certain SUPPs such as plastic straws, drink stirrers, cups and plastic stemmed cotton buds, which entered into force in April 2020 (DEFRA 2019 ). The UK, along with other nations, believed that restricting the sale of some of the most frequently littered SUPPs would lead to a gradual phase out of all unnecessary SUPPs (DEFRA 2018 ). However, since the introduction of a plastic bag charge in 2015, the UK has seen little progress in effectively phasing out other SUPPs in legislation (WRAP 2020b ).

Studies of SUPP reuse tend to focus mainly on plastic bags (Van Rensburg et al. 2020 ; Liu et al. 2021 ). Before a five pence plastic bag charge in the UK, 55% of consumers used plastic bags from supermarkets, which fell to 22% within 6 months of the introduction of the charge (Adeyanju et al. 2021 ; Thomas et al. 2019 ). The COVID-19 pandemic subsequently increased the purchase, disposal and litter of plastic packaged items and personal protective equipment (Roberts et al. 2022 ; Khan et al. 2020 ; Kitz et al. 2022 ; Vanapalli et al. 2021 ; Sharma et al. 2020 ; Silva et al. 2021 ; WRAP 2020a ).

It is estimated that within the UK, 1.53 million tonnes of plastic waste was produced in 2016 from all sectors, with household waste contributing 8% of this figure (Smith 2022 ). The latest plastic waste arisings data for the UK show an increase of 24% between 2010 and 2016 (Smith 2022 ). If this rate of plastic waste increase continues, the UK is expected to produce 6.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year by 2030. Plastic packaging will make up approximately two-thirds of the waste (Smith 2022 ). The UK exports approximately 40% of its plastic waste to Turkey and Southeast Asian countries annually for disposal or to be recycled (Tiseo 2021 ; Zhao et al. 2021 ), yet it is unclear if these countries have sufficient waste management capacity to deal with this additional waste (Lebreton and Andrady 2019 ). Up to 12.7 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste enters the oceans annually according to estimates from 2010, with 19–23 million tonnes predicted to enter aquatic ecosystems annually, equivalent to 11% of the global plastic waste produced (Bergmann et al. 2022 ; Borrelle et al. 2020 ; Jambeck et al. 2015 ; The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ 2020 ). Plastic waste enters aquatic ecosystems through a number of different pathways including sewage effluents, surface runoff and groundwater flow. This eventually gets carried into rivers and oceans when unmanaged, particularly during storms or extreme weather conditions in coastal areas. This is a threat to marine life in various ways, ranging from entanglement in plastic items to plastic ingestion (Welden 2020 ). Moreover, plastic manufacturing is an emission-intensive process which exacerbates climate change impacts in the oceans (Center for International Environmental Law 2019 ; Shen et al. 2020 ).

As the awareness of the impacts of plastic waste and pollution on the environment and public health grows, the urgency of switching to more sustainable alternative materials and holistic interventions in plastic governance globally is clear. The recent United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) draft resolution, End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument (UNEP 2022a , b ; IUCN 2022 ), commits to develop a global plastics treaty by 2024 to substantively transform plastic economies and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable and circular plastics economy.

A circular economy approach is often offered as a solution to reducing the impacts of plastics. The principles of a circular economy focus on the importance of cutting plastic production through reducing, reusing and refusing practices (Crippa et al. 2019 ). Although the global effort to participate in recycling practices is still supported for having some sustainable potential in contributing to the transition towards a circular economy and closing the loop on plastic pollution, there is still debate around the limitations of recycling in the current literature (Geyer et al. 2016 ). Recycled and recyclable products are more sustainable than producing and using virgin or unrecyclable plastic. However, recycling only reduces waste generation if it reduces primary material production; otherwise, the end pathway of the plastic is only delayed. Effective and well-managed recycling practices are not universal and adaptable to all nations’ different capacities across countries and are therefore not always a long-term viable solution. Recycling plastic indefinitely is not always recommended due to other environmental impacts involved in the process and that many types of plastic lose structural integrity and their potential to be reused after multiple recycling processes (Geyer et al. 2016 ; Bucknall 2020 ). Recyclability has become a convenient label on products by producers and retailers as a marketing tool; however, the reality of the complexity of processing different plastic materials in different areas of the UK alone is not as simple, and this often becomes misleading or ‘greenwashed’ messaging. This study will examine if any of these discussed considerations on plastic reuse and recycling perceptions and practices are similar amongst the findings in Portsmouth’s survey respondents.

Case study: Portsmouth, UK

Portsmouth is a densely populated coastal city on the South Coast of England, UK with 5315 people per sq. km in 2020 (Office for National Statistics 2021 ). This makes Portsmouth the second most densely populated city in the UK after London (5727 people per sq. km in 2020; Office for National Statistics 2021 ). Portsmouth is the UK’s only island city (Fig.  1 ). The immediate proximity of the city to the ocean carries multiple pollution risks including the erosion of historic landfill sites and beach litter. Due to its geographic limitations as an island and population density, Portsmouth has a limited recycling kerbside collection system. Currently, only paper, card, plastic bottles, metal cans, tins and aerosols are recycled (Portsmouth City Council 2022 ). The current recycling rate for Portsmouth is 24.7%, one of the lowest in the UK and considerably lower than the national average of 46.2% (Letsrecycle 2021 ; DEFRA 2021 ). Most other UK councils on average collect 54% of ‘rigid’ plastics (i.e. drinks and detergent bottles) and 4% of plastic consumer films (i.e. bags, sachets and wraps) (Burgess et al. 2021 ). However, Portsmouth has one of the lowest landfill rates in the UK, with only 4.2% of total collected waste going to landfill, with the majority of waste incinerated (Portsmouth City Council 2022 ).

figure 1

Map of the UK case study city (Portsmouth) showing the location of survey area postcodes (PO1–PO6)

England’s Waste Strategy previously set a target to reuse, recycle and compost 45% of household waste by 2015 and 50% by 2020 (DEFRA 2018 ; Timlett and Williams 2009 ). Portsmouth was not amongst the 22% of UK councils that met this target (Letsrecycle 2021 ). The total amount of plastic sent to a Materials’ Recovery Facility (MRF) in the southeast of England was greater (approximately 14,000 t) than any other area in the UK (< 8000 t) in 2012–2014 (Hahladakis et al. 2018 ). Approximately 50,000 t of all waste from Portsmouth and the surrounding towns is sorted for recycling at the MRF per year and 200,000 t is incinerated at the Energy Recovery Facility (Callingham 2020 ). However, there are no data on the plastic content of those wastes. A waste composition analysis for the Portsmouth City Council found that, in 2018, approximately 14% of waste from recycling bins was plastic, of which nearly 4% were “non-target plastics” such as plastic tubs, pots and trays that are not included in the current recycling collection scheme (Integra 2019 ).

As both a coastal and the second most densely populated city in the UK, Portsmouth can provide critical insights into the role of plastics in everyday life, including the challenges of managing plastic waste in a densely packed urban setting. Previous research on consumer attitudes, behaviours and flows of plastic through systems in cities similar to Portsmouth formed the basis for our research questions (RQ) (Barr 2007 ; Van Rensburg et al. 2020 ; Walker et al. 2021 ; Varkey et al. 2021 ). Our research provides an opportunity to explore this topic to better understand how households in Portsmouth operate in their plastic-saturated daily lives. We aimed to determine trends in household plastic purchase, reuse and disposal habits and approaches in Portsmouth. We identified the demographic factors that influence plastic-related consumer behaviour and perceptions and behaviours around plastics in general. Finally, we determined key PABs and WDAs of Portsmouth residents relevant to local businesses, waste management and recycling services. We set our RQ as follows:

RQ1: What are the trends in SUPP flow through Portsmouth households? RQ2: Which demographic factors influence SUPP trends and consumer attitudes and behaviours? RQ3: What are the dominant PABs and WDAs in Portsmouth?

Materials and methods

Survey method and questionnaire.

We collected survey data on household attitudes and behaviours towards plastic items from 400 Portsmouth residents using a questionnaire between June and July 2021. Red Brick Media Company Ltd (a commercial survey company) sourced the respondents from general public research panels filtered by Portsmouth postcodes. Survey participants were incentivised using a points-based reward system. The pool of 1796 Portsmouth respondents was either qualified or disqualified based on survey completion and their responses checked for validity and quality. This way, the survey company was able to disqualify incomplete survey responses, respondents that “flat-lined” through the survey to get points, and responses with contradicting answers. The final sample ( n ) of 400 qualified and fully completed survey responses were weighted against the most recent 2020 census data based on age and gender distributions in the population in Portsmouth. Based on a power analysis, to have a confidence interval (CI) of 95% with a ± 5% margin of error for the results, minimum sample size was calculated at 317 respondents for a population of 1796.

In addition to social demographics (‘age’, ‘gender’ and ‘postcode’), economic demographics (‘income’, ‘education’, ‘living situation’ and ‘vehicle ownership’) were mapped in the survey (see the key for factor levels in SI2). The five subscales of the questionnaire were SUPP consumption (purchase hereafter), usage (reuse hereafter), disposal and plastic-related attitudes, perceptions, and behaviours (see SI1) in relation to four types of SUPPs (bags, bottles, films and tubs) (Table  1 ; Fig.  2 ). We mapped SUPP purchase and reuse based on a weekly average per household and how they disposed of their SUPPs once they become waste. Regarding attitudes and perceptions, we asked respondents about their knowledge on climate action, marine litter, and the impact of an individual’s actions. In addition, we asked respondents a selection of Portsmouth-specific questions relating to local matters such as littering and awareness of local zero-waste shops (see the full list of questions in the SI1).

figure 2

Image examples of the different types of single-use plastics included in this survey: a plastic bottles, b plastic films, c plastic tubs, d plastic bags. See Table  1 for further classifications. Source: Authors' conception

Data handling and analysis

The majority of the data collected were Likert-type, i.e. statements or questions with neither polar opposites nor neutral middles in the answer scale (see SI1). Due to the exploratory nature of our study (to explore which demographics and socio-economic variables have the widest impact on consumer behaviour towards SUPPs), we used simple Pearson’s Chi-squared tests for independence to identify impactful demographics in relation to SUPP purchase, reuse, and disposal. The postcodes included in the analysis were specific to Portsmouth, UK. Where the cell size of the sample was too small for Pearson’s Chi-squared tests for independence, we performed Monte Carlo simulations of the p values, i.e. Pearson’s Chi-squared coefficients (see R code in SI2). For any test with Monte Carlo simulation, the degrees of freedom ( df ) are not reported by convention. All statistical analyses were performed in R (R Core Team 2022 ) and with the CI of 95%. For the R packages used, please see Supplementary Information (SI2). As the main foci in our analysis were the attitudes and behaviours regarding the purchase, reuse, and disposal of four types of SUPPs, we used descriptive statistics to present the population of respondents (Table  2 ), the purchase and reuse phases of the SUPP household flow and the SUPP-related waste disposal behaviours (WDBs), the PABs and the WDAs of the respondents.

Sample demographics

All of the respondents were permanent residents of Portsmouth, and more than half (57%) have lived in Portsmouth for more than 20 years. Most respondents were either 31–50 years old (42%) or 51 years old and over (36%). The numbers of females, males and people representing other genders were 203, 194 and 3, respectively. The education level of most respondents was secondary school or above (74%). The majority owned their current residence (56%). The average household income was less than GBP 25,000 (38%) followed by GBP 25,000–49,999 (33%). The majority (70%) of Portsmouth households own one or more vehicles (i.e. motorbike, car or van) (Table  2 ).

SUPP trends in Portsmouth households

The median weekly purchase rates for the four SUPP types were ‘none’ (bags) and 3–5 (bottles, films, and tubs; Table  3 ; Fig.  3 A). The majority (61%) of respondents did not purchase any plastic bags in an average week, 89% in total bought 0–5 bags, and only 5% bought either between 6 and 10 or more than 11 bags per week. 61% of respondents bought between 0 and 5 plastic bottles in an average week, 18% bought 6–10 and 8% bought more than 11 bottles. Plastic tubs were often bought in quantities of 0–5 per week (66%), 21% purchasing 6–10 and 10% more than 11 tubs. Respondents bought plastic films more frequently at a rate of 0–5 per week (54%), or over 6 times per week (42%). The median weekly reuse rate for the measured SUPPs were 5–10 times (bags), 2–4 times (bottles), ‘never’ (films) and 5–10 times (tubs; Table  3 ; Fig.  3 B). Respondents often used SUPPs more than 5 times before disposing of them, with most respondents reusing bags more frequently (58%), followed by tubs (48%), bottles (33%) and then rarely films (7%). 60% of respondents never reused film SUPPs.

figure 3

Consumer behaviour and SUPPs. A SUPP purchasing behaviour per average week in Portsmouth households, B SUPP reuse behaviour in Portsmouth households

The most common methods of plastic disposal were in a general waste bin (WDB1), a recycling bin (WDB2) and indefinite storing (WDB7; Fig.  4 ). The SUPP items with the highest household recycling rates (including domestic or public recycling bins (WDB2) and recycling centres (WDB3) were bottles (85%) and tubs (61%). The least recycled SUPPs were bags and films with household recycling rates of 30% and 27%, respectively. Figure  4 also shows the practice of “wish-cycling” (Somerville 2017 ), whereby non-recyclable SUPPs are put in recycling bins by consumers. The use of specialist waste collection services, landfills sites or deposit return schemes was not common and, combined they accounted for approximately only 3–5% per each SUPP type (Fig.  4 ). Although some personal care items such as makeup containers, disposable razors, cotton buds and toothpicks can be considered as SUPP items due to their low likelihood of reuse, we did not analyse them in the same detail. However, we found that most personal care items were disposed of permanently rather than recycled, with 76% of the personal care items ending up in landfills.

figure 4

Waste disposal behaviours (WDBs) of households regarding SUPPs

Socio-economic factors and demographics of significance

Supp flow through portsmouth households.

We found that the most significant demographics with the widest impact on plastic usage were age and gender, with each impacting 10 and 6 aspects of SUPP flow through Portsmouth households, respectively. Age significantly impacted the purchase rate of bottles, films, and bags ( p  < 0.05, Table  4 ). Age also significantly impacted the reuse of tubs, films, and bags, as well as the disposal of all four types of SUPPs ( p  < 0.05, Table  4 ). For example, 85% of respondents aged 51 years and above purchased zero plastic bags in an average week, compared to 39% of the youngest age group (≤ 30 years). The impact of gender was significant ( p  < 0.05, Table  4 ) on the purchase of bottles, the reuse of tubs and the disposal of all four types of SUPPs.

Education, living situation and postcode impacted 3 aspects of SUPP consumer behaviours. Education significantly impacted the reuse of films and the disposal of bottles and films ( p  < 0.05, Table  5 ). Living situation significantly impacted the purchase of films and bags and the reuse of bags ( p  < 0.05, Table  5 ). The impact of postcode was significant ( p  < 0.05, Table  4 ) on the purchase of bottles and films and the disposal of bags. Both income and vehicle ownership impacted two aspects of SUPP consumer behaviour. The impact of income was significant ( p  < 0.05, Table  5 ) on the purchase of bottles and the disposal of films, and vehicle ownership significantly impacted the purchase and disposal of bottles. None of the tested demographics or socio-economic factors had a significant impact on the consumer behaviour around purchase of plastic tubs or on the reuse of plastic bottles (see SI3 and SI4 for full results).

  • Consumer perceptions

With regard to consumer perceptions of plastic, we found age to have the widest impact with significant differences ( p  < 0.05, Table  6 ) in responses of three out of five of the perception-related test statements, namely ‘ awareness of zero-waste shops in Portsmouth ’, ‘ concerned that plastic waste ends up in the ocean ’ and ‘ main consideration when buying products or items ’. Respondents aged 31–50 years were more regular at shopping in Portsmouth zero-waste shops than their counterparts, while the oldest age group (> 50 years) reported being less aware and less willing to shop in Portsmouth zero-waste shops. Without accounting for age, the majority of respondents were not aware of any zero-waste shops in Portsmouth ( n  = 175, 44%) but would like to use them. Whereas 22% ( n  = 88) said they were aware of zero-waste shops but have never visited one, and 17% ( n  = 69) of the respondents said they were not aware and are not likely to use them. Occasional and regular customers of Portsmouth zero-waste shops comprised 8% ( n  = 30) and 4% ( n  = 14) of all respondents, respectively.

Younger respondents (≤ 30 years) were more concerned about plastic waste entering the ocean than their older counterparts (> 50 years). Overall, the concerns around how often plastic waste ends up in the ocean were distributed along the scale of always (5%, n  = 19), most of the time (26%, n  = 104), sometimes (50%, n  = 200), rarely (15%, n  = 60) and never (4%, n  = 17). Regarding the main considerations when buying plastic products or items, price was more important as a purchasing consideration to respondents aged ≤ 30 years and 31–50 years, quality was a more predominant consideration to respondents aged > 50 years. Other significant differences within the main purchasing considerations by order of most likely age groups were sustainability (31–50 years) and ethics (≤ 30 years). Overall, value for money was the most important consideration (30%, n  = 119), followed by price (24%, n  = 97) and quality (22%, n  = 22).

Consumer behaviours

Age was the demographic with the greatest impact on consumer behaviour with significant differences between different age groups (30 years and under, 31–50, and 51 and over) ( p  < 0.05, Table  6 ) in three out of five of the behaviour-related test statements, namely ‘ attitudes towards waste disposal ’, ‘ barriers to recycling plastic ’ and ‘ barriers to reducing plastic ’. Attitudes towards waste disposal consisted of a scale from 1 (“ I don’t really think about what happens to my waste once it is out of my hands ”) to 7 (“ I am very concerned about where my waste ends up and what impact it has on the environment ”). Older respondents (> 50 years) were more concerned about where their waste ends up compared to the other age groups. Overall, the majority of respondents (29%, n  = 114) were extremely concerned about the final destination of their waste.

Regarding the barriers to recycling plastic, respondents aged ≤ 30 years found unclear information, forgetting to recycle and disagreements within households as their main barriers. Respondents aged 31–50 found the lack of both local plastic recycling facilities and local support as their main barriers. The oldest age group (> 50 years) stated limited council collection as their main barrier as well as stating that they already recycle everything they can. Overall, collection practices (29%, n  = 115) and unclear recycling information (16%, n  = 62) were the key barriers to recycling more plastic waste amongst respondents.

The main barrier to reducing plastic consumption for the youngest age group (≤ 30 years) was limited functionality of plastic alternatives, while a few ( n  = 6) respondents in the same age group stated that reducing plastics is not important. The higher price of plastic alternatives was the main barrier for reducing plastic for respondents aged 31–50. While stating limited availability of plastic alternatives as their barrier, the oldest age group (> 50 years) felt that there were no barriers for them to reduce plastic consumption compared to the other age groups. In general, limited availability of alternatives to SUPPs was the main barrier identified (23%, n  = 90), followed by their preferred products not being available plastic-free and alternatives are too expensive (21%, n  = 85 for each). Another wide impact demographic we found was vehicle ownership with significant differences in two out of five test statements ( p  < 0.05, Table  7 ), namely ‘barriers to recycling plastic’ and ‘barriers to reducing plastic’. Households with no vehicles experienced difficulty in transporting their non-collected recyclables as their key barrier to recycling more of their plastic waste. Households with one or more vehicles did not have distinctive key barriers to recycling their plastic waste more.

PABs and WDAs

One in four survey respondents will go out of their way to avoid SUPPs in everyday purchases, whereas the majority (54%) will only avoid SUPPs if an alternative option is readily available. Respondents (93%) most frequently avoided plastic shopping bags (PAB1; Fig.  5 ). Eighteen percent of respondents expressed PAB2 (refusing plastic straws) as one of their avoidance behaviours, with 57% of them saying they ‘always’ refuse plastic straws (Fig.  5 ). Some respondents reported buying in bulk to reduce excess plastic packaging (5%) and to use reusable shopping bags less frequently (6%). Only 8% of respondents stated that they use their domestic recycling bins. Again, only 8% reported using public/workplace recycling bins to dispose of their recyclable plastic waste (Fig.  5 ). The other frequently selected PABs were refusing take-away cups (14%) and avoiding personal care items containing plastic microbeads (13%; Fig.  5 ).

figure 5

A rose chart showing the respondent’s PABs and how often they were expressed by the respondents (count data) based on a series of multiple-choice questions

We found that 65% of respondents often do not know how or where to recycle plastic items (Fig.  6 ). While most respondents agree (90%) that it is important to recycle (WDA3) and that littering is a serious problem that needs addressing (83.5%) (WDA1), many admit that they should do more (WDA7) to recycle (65%) (Fig.  6 ). Respondents agree that employers have a duty to provide recycling facilities in their workplace (83%) and that it is important to them that manufacturers use more recycled and sustainable materials in products (79.5%). The barriers identified by respondents to reducing their plastic intake were the price of alternative products (20%), difficulties in availability of alternatives (23%) and that their preferred products are not plastic-free (22%). The three major barriers to recycling highlighted by respondents were due to the council not collecting all items (35%), difficulties in knowing what and how to recycle (17%) and the belief that there are not enough local recycling facilities in Portsmouth (10%).

figure 6

The percentage (%) of the respondents as to what extent they agree or disagree with the WDAs statements listed

Portsmouth survey respondents then identified potential incentives that might encourage them to recycle more in the future. The most dominant incentive identified was for the council to collect more types of plastic for recycling (59%). Where SUPP is easily identified as recyclable and respondents know what can and cannot be recycled (43%), then the vast majority indicated that they would make the choice to recycle them (79%). The other key incentives that were identified by respondents were having the availability of recyclable products (33%) and local recycling centre information (31%). Expansion of recycling collection facilities in the city (30%), shopping centres (28%), places of work (17%) and local events (20%) would enable improvements in recycling behaviour. Currently, ≤ 3% of respondents use cash back or deposit schemes for recycling all the SUPP types in Portsmouth, but 40% said that they would be encouraged to use these if available locally.

SUPP purchase and reuse in Portsmouth households

Plastic bags were rarely purchased by Portsmouth respondents, while the median rates for purchasing products in plastic bottles, packed in plastic film or plastic tubs were alike (RQ1; Fig.  3 A). A study in South Africa found that the purchase rate of SUPP bags amongst the majority of Durban beachgoers was < 5 per week (48%; Van Rensburg et al. 2020 ), which is significantly higher than Portsmouth respondents. Varkey et al. ( 2021 ) found that a minority (3%) of their respondents in the coastal city of Halifax, Canada, used SUPPs once a month or less. However, it was not clear whether the “use of SUPPs” metric in their survey distinguished between the purchase and the reuse rates of SUPPs. Most Portsmouth respondents (approximately 80%) used SUPPs on a daily to weekly basis. Reuse rates amongst Portsmouth respondents were the highest for bags and tubs (RQ1; Fig. 3B). In Hanoi, Vietnam, approximately 69% of plastic shopping bags had a “high rate of temporary reuse” and they were most often reused as bin liners (Liu et al. 2021 ).

In Durban, a majority of their respondents reused all of their SUPP bags (42%) or reused some of them and threw the rest away (27%; Van Rensburg et al. 2020 ). The weekly reuse rate per bag was not part of their survey. Film packaging was rarely reused by Portsmouth respondents, which may be due to the flimsy nature of plastic film packaging and due to the limited ways in which it can be reused in its current form. Portsmouth respondents are already reusing plastic products that were intended for single use such as bottles, tubs and bags. Ertz et al. ( 2017 ) reiterated the importance of providing more plastic reuse than single-use options and making reusable containers more attractive than the perceived convenience of the SUPPs. Overall, SUPP trend studies are limited and highly variable with no uniform metrics. Quantification of SUPP purchase and reuse rates separately, as used by this study, is not widespread in consumer behaviour studies. Both could be used to determine potential reuse and refill applications, while also measuring the change in SUPP consumption. An enhancement to future data collection would be to include greater exploration of why people responded with certain attitudes and behaviours towards plastics.

SUPP disposal in Portsmouth households

SUPP waste was mainly disposed of in general waste or recycling bins, or kept indefinitely for either reuse or storage purposes (RQ1; Fig.  4 ). Plastic film is not accepted for recycling in Portsmouth, leading to a high rate of disposal in general waste bins. This could be an important focus for investing in alternative innovations or implementing new regulations on film SUPPs, not only in Portsmouth but on a larger scale. This also applies to personal care items: disposable razors, toothbrushes, and cotton buds, for example, are un-reusable, unrecyclable, cannot be rehomed and are hazardous to the environment. Currently, 5% of the top ten most commonly found litter in the UK are personal care items such as cotton buds and sanitary products (Earthwatch Institute 2020 ). We found that, while not always considered as SUPPs, a vast majority of the personal care items in Portsmouth households ended up in landfill. Personal care items are frequently purchased and replaced and tend to accumulate in households over time. Alternatives to SUPP packaging and plastic-based personal care items provide opportunities for changing consumer behaviour. Clearly labelled items, recycling rules and easily accessible recycling points are essential to engage desired consumer action.

The most recycled SUPP waste were bottles and tubs (including domestic bins, public bins and recycling centres). The confusion caused by lack of clear product labelling and contradictory recycling advice on products and recycling policies are likely to be major factors in recycling compliance and are further reflected in variable consumer behaviour (Rhein and Schmid 2020 ). Consequently, recycling rates and standards can be difficult to maintain if communication about product labels and local recycling advice are conflicting, especially in the case of cross-contamination in recycling streams. In 2021, 647,000 t of recycling collected in England was rejected, due to contamination or “wish-cycling”, i.e. placing non-recyclable or not collected plastic items in the recycling bin (Callingham 2020 ; Somerville 2017 ; Valanidas 2018 ). We also observed “wish-cycling” amongst Portsmouth respondents, showing uncertainty whether those items are collected and processed by local waste management. This risks cross-contamination during the recycling process and its outputs. Low recycling rates amongst respondents and in Portsmouth overall may be due to the limited recycling collection in Portsmouth and contradictory messaging. Some respondents may feel discouraged to recycle due to the debate about the sustainability of these practices, as recycling is not a sole solution to the plastic problem, and can often complicate, delay or lead to further environmental health problems (Geyer et al. 2016 ).

A study from Burgess et al. ( 2021 ) proposed the systems-wide vision of ‘One bin to rule them all’ in the UK for the optimum recycling of household plastic items with an all-encompassing framework. This involves starting the stream of easily recyclable plastic materials into the system, removing complex mixed materials, and promoting the reuse of polymers and inclusive chemical and mechanical disposal pathways. If this out-engineering of complexity was implemented, it could be a step towards a circular plastic economy, while conserving resources through the reduction and eventual elimination of plastic leakage into the environment. However, ‘One bin to rule them all’ (Burgess et al. 2021 ) would require an internationally consistent approach, and might still encourage plastic production by promoting convenient recyclability for consumers as the solution, compared to a circular approach. The sorting and processing capacity for mixed waste is problematic in areas such as Portsmouth with limited recycling infrastructure. The information on which plastics are recyclable locally and how to recycle them needs to be clear and uniformly coherent. This should be facilitated through appropriate legislation and policy changes and collaboration with waste management service providers.

Previous research has suggested that younger people are more socially, environmentally, and culturally conscious and more readily accept innovative ideas for sustainability (Deliana and Rum 2019 ; Hume 2010 ). Unexpectedly, our findings did not support this as older respondents overall showed more effort towards reducing and reusing their SUPPs (RQ2). Age of Portsmouth respondents significantly influenced 10 out of 12 SUPP purchasing and reuse behaviours (RQ2; Table  4 ) as well as on six out of 10 of the consumer perceptions and behaviours (Table  6 ). The oldest age group (> 50 years) purchased fewer SUPPs on average and reused bags more often than the two younger age groups, whereas younger respondents reused bottles and tubs more frequently (Table  4 ).

Younger generations often have higher levels of environmental awareness, exhibit ‘green behaviours’ and are more active than older generations on environmental issues (Deliana and Rum 2019 ). These green behaviours in consumers have been defined as being more adaptive to environmentally friendly or sustainable product choices. For Portsmouth respondents, this was often the opposite, with a significantly higher proportion of the older age group saying they have made an active effort to reduce their plastic consumption than younger age groups. The older age group was also most likely to consider sustainability and ease of recycling in their product choices, while the younger generation often expressed that “it is too much hassle to recycle”. Another study on plastic packaging found that 39% of younger generations shop in zero-waste stores very often and only 6% do not plan to shop in a zero-waste initiative, compared to over half of the older generation who have never visited a zero-waste store and 29% do not plan to (Holotová et al. 2020 ). Currently, Portsmouth only has three shops with varying degrees of zero-waste business models, which was reflected in the: (1) low awareness and use of zero-waste shops amongst all respondents and (2) low use of non-plastic food wraps (PAB9, Fig.  5 ). Growing reuse behaviour and zero-waste culture needs the support of a policy framework that backs the reduction of plastic consumption and more sustainable product design to achieve a more circular economy (Steinhorst and Beyerl 2021 ). Measuring existing consumption and use behaviours will be necessary to inform the development of effective plastic policies, especially in light of the recent UNEA-5.2 resolution (UNEP 2022b ).

Age was followed by gender in significance, with an impact on six of the SUPP flow aspects (RQ2; Table  4 ). However, gender only impacted respondents' perceptions on their awareness of zero-waste stores (Table  6 ). Other UK studies have found gender to be the only significant contributor to avoidance of plastic bags and disposable coffee cups (Borg et al. 2020 ). In addition, we identified five less significant demographics and socio-economic factors: education, living situation, postcode, income and vehicle ownership, each impacting four different SUPP flow aspects, consumer perceptions and behaviours altogether. No significance was found between the education levels of respondents and their plastic product choices and sustainable attitudes and behaviours. However, a recent Dutch study found that, in addition to age, purchase decisions of consumers depended on their sustainable behaviour, knowledge of the circular economy and their perception of the usefulness of plastic (Núñez-Cacho et al. 2020 ). This was not the case in Portsmouth. Moreover, the choices of individuals have been found to be affected by personal knowledge and community behaviour (i.e. actions that society takes at different levels such as government policies and changes in the business models) (Cavaliere et al. 2020 ). Núñez-Cacho et al. ( 2020 ) found consumers with greater awareness of the impact of plastic express more concern and more effort in avoiding SUPPs. Higher education levels have also been predicted to correspond with higher levels of environmental awareness and ‘green behaviour’ (Deliana and Rum 2019 ; Zsóka et al. 2013 ).

Barriers to sustainable consumer behaviour

Transport and location accessibility were major barriers to the sustainable purchasing and recycling habits of Portsmouth respondents. Portsmouth is a low-emission transport zone and has heavily restricted parking to reduce vehicle use in the city. These restrictions could result in fewer residents owning vehicles than other city locations (ONS 2012 ), but, currently, the majority (70%) of Portsmouth respondents own vehicles. If a respondent lives within PO4–PO5 postcodes, they have greater ease of accessibility to the three zero-waste stores in Portsmouth. However, these aforementioned postcodes would require transport to recycling centres or council locations from which they are then sent to landfill sites, the MRF or an Energy Recovery Facility located further outside of the city centre. Larger stores with integrated recycling facilities or collection points for drink cartons, plastic bags, film, glass bottles, and tubs are sparsely located around the city. Although postcodes were not found to have a significant impact on recycling, owning one or more vehicles may remove many of the accessibility and transportation barriers. In turn, those barriers still exist for households without a vehicle and may prevent them from recycling more of their plastic waste. These factors might influence the attitudes and behaviours of individuals, particularly those experiencing the inconvenience or frustration with the capacity and accessibility of nearest recycling facilities.

The barriers we identified to reduce plastic consumption showed that respondents felt that they are not completely responsible for their purchase behaviours. The respondents expressed that they would like to see more environmentally friendly decisions from designers, manufacturers, and retailers, which would facilitate the reduction of plastic consumption by consumers. As plastic remains as the most prevalent packaging and product material, it is difficult for consumers to avoid it. Consumers might also be reluctant to take the sole responsibility for reducing plastic consumption as convenience is often governed by the prices and availability of sustainable alternatives. A study on the attitudes and behaviours of businesses towards plastic consumption identified cost as the biggest challenge for 86% of businesses to reduce plastics and use sustainable alternatives (Varkey et al. 2021 ). Moreover, Carrete et al. ( 2012 ) identified three main themes causing uncertainty in consumers for adopting green behaviours: (1) consumer confusion, (2) trust and credibility, and (3) compatibility with individuals’ values. Future surveys should include these themes for more comprehensive insights.

We found four key PABs expressed by Portsmouth respondents (RQ3): the refusal of plastic shopping bags, refusal of plastic straws, refusal of plastic take-away cups and avoidance of personal care products containing plastic microbeads (Fig.  5 ). Unexpectedly, recycling their plastic waste at home or in public bins was only expressed by approximately 8% of the respondents in this section of the survey. Based on our study, we could classify behaviours as low-effort or high-effort behaviours. In low-effort behaviours, decisions are easily and quickly made during shopping or dining that do not require deep reflection beforehand (Jacobsen et al. 2022 ), including our four key PABs. These decisions are premade by the businesses through their provision (or lack) of alternatives. Safety concerns such as preventing COVID-19 spread can also result in preferring single-use plastics to reuse or non-plastic options even after reduced risk of transmission (Winton et al. 2022 ). Conversely, the high-effort behaviours need the backing of external infrastructure and policies (e.g. recycling), require space (i.e. buying in bulk) or can be more expensive and inaccessible to some (i.e. choosing plastic alternatives or zero-waste approaches) (Löhr et al. 2017 ; Sandhu et al. 2021 ; Tadesse et al. 2008 ). Our findings suggest that, when avoiding plastic, consumers are more likely to exhibit low-effort behaviours than high-effort behaviours. This may be due to busy lifestyles, inaccessible infrastructure for zero-waste shopping and recycling, or not being able to prioritise SUPP avoidance for socio-economic reasons (e.g. income, number of dependents in a household). This is a key aspect that could be investigated further in future research.

In regard to WDAs, in general, Portsmouth respondents showed willingness to recycle as much as they can and possessed a strong sense of responsibility around recycling (RQ3; Fig.  6 ). They also admitted to being confused about recycling advice and concerned about the state of littering in Portsmouth. Overall, respondents agreed with most of the WDA statements, such as the importance of recycling, littering being a serious problem and that they should do more to recycle, which suggests that they have a strong perception of responsible disposal behaviours (Fig.  6 ). A UK case study conducted in Exeter examined similar WDBs and attitudes finding ~ 68% of respondents buy products with as little packaging as possible (Barr 2007 ) compared to 5% of Portsmouth respondents who said they avoid pre-packed plastic food products. Approximately 56% of Exeter respondents said that they use their own bag and avoid buying shopping bags, compared to 19% of Portsmouth respondents that refuse plastic shopping bags. Recycling habits also varied significantly between the two cities with 70% of Exeter respondents recycling plastic bottles and only 8% of Portsmouth residents recycling their plastic waste in domestic, public and workplace recycling bins. Another coastal city study found beach goers with a higher environmental awareness had a more negative perception towards SUPPs and a stronger willingness to reduce their plastic consumption (Van Rensburg et al. 2020 ). These individuals also showed greater support for initiatives to combat plastic waste such as container deposit systems and plastic bag bans. Pay-as-you-throw schemes could be another option to encourage consumers to reduce and sort their plastic waste.

Awareness is an important part of SUPP consumer behaviour. Both retailers and customers are often aware of environmental issues associated with plastic, while a lack of awareness can take away momentum from behaviour change. 75% of Portsmouth residents were unaware of the local climate action group, 62% were unaware of the main zero-waste store and 21% did not believe that any of their plastic waste ends up in the ocean. If the consumption of SUPPs is to be reduced, raising awareness of the impacts of plastic should be a part of future shifts towards circularity, especially in densely populated coastal cities. The road should be paved by national and local governments to facilitate the transition to a circular economy amongst consumers and businesses. However, consumers still appreciate the purpose and convenience of plastic products and continue to routinely use them as they feel that there is a lack of feasible alternatives on offer from the producers and retailers to make these changes (Heidbreder et al. 2019 ).

Study limitations and future research recommendations

Establishing each flow of different plastic items through a household accurately from purchase to disposal at home is difficult. In hindsight, the questionnaire was not structured in a way that would have allowed for extensive statistical analysis or modelling the flow of SUPP items through households. To enable this in future studies, a coherent survey structure with similar questions for purchase, reuse and disposal is recommended. Questions about consumers' awareness of important concepts such as circular economy would be useful to infer their influence on consumer behaviour as other studies have shown (Núñez-Cacho et al. 2020 ; Cavaliere et al. 2020 ). Specificity was another issue. Questions should be clear and specific about the plastic focus. Switching the focus from SUPPs to fast-moving consumer goods to incorporate other commonly used plastics such as personal care items and delivery packaging could also add value to future research. Another possible avenue is to group all SUPP items together to analyse consumer behaviour towards SUPPs in a more general but comprehensive way. Other unpreferable end-of-life destinations for plastic waste could be introduced for any unaccounted-for plastic in the flow such as irresponsible littering or dumping to monitor plastic pollution rates and to pinpoint the extent of plastic waste mismanagement. This study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, purchase rates of SUPPs may have been higher than usual. However, there are no peer-reviewed studies or official data available on SUPP purchases in Portsmouth from before the pandemic. Therefore, it was not possible to compare Portsmouth-specific trends in a pandemic-context.

Conclusions

The findings from this study have enabled an enhanced understanding of SUPP purchase, use and disposal trends in Portsmouth. The results demonstrate the value in researching which actions generate the most beneficial behaviour change amongst consumers. However, we recognise that consumers are not the target stakeholder carrying the responsibility for systemic change. While this study was purely exploratory in nature and provides an example of how the role of SUPPs in households could be researched, it has become clear that the way consumer behaviour around plastics has been studied to date is in need of increased standardisation through:

uniform measurement units for plastic items to enable realistic comparisons,

robust but comprehensive questionnaires for analysis and modelling purposes,

survey databases from research across the globe to model and track how plastic products flow through households, which would also act as a valuable resource for the research community.

These standardisations could significantly improve the mapping of both behaviour and policy change options. While also informing governments and other stakeholders whether or not their current products, practices and policies are, in fact, viable or in need of redesign or amendments. As plastics are largely universal both in the sense of utilisation and pollution, the solutions to mitigate against the negative impacts of plastics must also be widely applied.

Data availability statement

Data from this study is available on request from the corresponding author.

Change history

16 february 2023.

A Correction to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-023-01305-4

Abbreviations

Materials’ recovery facility

Plastic avoidance behaviour

Single-use plastic product

Waste disposal attitude

Waste disposal behaviour

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Global Plastics Policy Centre team for their support and proofreading of this paper and the funding from the University of Portsmouth to deliver this study. We would like to thank Red Brick for recruiting participants and disseminating the survey in Portsmouth.

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SLN: methodology, formal analysis, investigation and writing—original draft. LKN: methodology, formal analysis, investigation and writing—original draft. SC: methodology and writing—original draft. SKI: validation and writing—review and editing. KPR: conceptualisation, methodology and supervision. SF: conceptualisation and funding acquisition.

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Northen, S.L., Nieminen, L.K., Cunsolo, S. et al. From shops to bins: a case study of consumer attitudes and behaviours towards plastics in a UK coastal city. Sustain Sci 18 , 1379–1395 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-022-01261-5

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5 mini case studies about understanding and serving the customer

Understanding What Customers Want: 5 mini case studies

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter .

Mini Case Study #1: 34% increase in conversion for powdered health drink company by helping customers come to their own conclusions

A single-product company that sells high-quality, all-natural, powdered health drinks engaged MECLABS Institute to help better understand their potential customers and increase the conversion rate of prospects reaching the homepage.

The original homepage took a claims-driven approach – it provided several bold statements about what the product would do for a customer with no information about the product to help the customer understand why it would work for them. Here is a look at the upper left of the original homepage.

Creative Sample #1: Upper left of original homepage for health drink company

Creative Sample #1: Upper left of original homepage for health drink company

The MECLABS team created a version of the homepage that took a conclusion-driven approach – instead only trying to convince potential customers with only bold claims about the product, the homepage copy included information about the product to help customers understand why the product would help them.

Creative Sample #2: Upper left of treatment homepage for health drink company

Creative Sample #2: Upper left of treatment homepage for health drink company

The team tested this version as the treatment against the original homepage (the control) to help better understand what communication style customers would respond to.

The treatment generated a 34% increase in conversion rate.

This experiment highlights a classic disconnect between customers and marketers. If you work in a company or with a client, you have intimate knowledge of the product and believe in its effectiveness. You spend all day thinking about it. You personally know some of the people who designed it. Your paycheck depends on the success of the product.

A customer does not have this same understanding or belief in the product. They have a significant gap in their knowledge about your product. Bold claims alone are not enough to close that gap. They have to understand why the product will work and come to their own conclusions about the company’s ability to deliver on its promises.

You can learn more about this experiment in The Conversion Heuristic Analysis: Overcoming the prospect’s perception gap from MarketingExperiments (MarketingSherpa’s sister publication).

Mini Case Study #2: Bags company increases conversion 191% by adding clarity to homepage

“I'm the CEO of Doubletake , a tennis and pickleball bag company, but I spent the majority of my career focused on messaging and research, consulting as a strategist for top brands for the last 10 plus years, and in-house prior to that. I'm almost embarrassed that I have this example to share, but I thankfully came to my senses!,” Shawna Gwin Krasts told me.

“It is interesting that crafting messaging/copy for products that aren't ‘your baby’ is so much easier – there is just more distance to see it for what it is. If this wasn't so near and dear to my heart, I would have caught it in a second.”

The team launched its homepage with only the headline “Sports Meets Style” over a photo of a bag. The headline was meant to differentiate the brand from competitors that were either only sporty or fashionable. Below the headline was a call-to-action (CTA) button with the word “shop.”

Creative Sample #3: Previous homepage copy for bag company

Creative Sample #3: Previous homepage copy for bag company

Internally it seemed obvious that the company sells tennis and pickleball bags since a bag was in the photo.

But they came to realize that it might not be as clear to website visitors. So the team added the subhead “Gorgeous Yet Functional Tennis and Pickleball Bags.” They also added the word “bags” to the CTA so it read “shop bags.”

Creative Sample #4: New homepage copy for bag company

Creative Sample #4: New homepage copy for bag company

These simple changes increased the website's conversion rate by 191%.

“It is so important for marketers to get out of their own heads,” Krasts said. “I suppose this is why I struggle with messaging so much for Doubletake. I am the target customer – I have the answers in my head and I suppose my natural curiosity isn't as strong. But clearly, I also have to remember that I've seen my homepage 10,000 more times than my customers, which means things that seem obvious to me, like the fact that Doubletake is a tennis brand not a reseller, might not be obvious.”

Mini Case Study #3: Online motorcycle gear retailer doubles conversion with personalized emails

There are ways to better tap into what customers perceive as valuable built into certain marketing channels. Email marketing is a great example. Marketers can build off information they have on the customer to send more relevant emails with information and products the customer is more likely to value.

"Very early in my marketing career I was taught, 'You are not the target audience' and told to try to see things from my customer's perspective. Empathizing with customers is a good start towards seeing products from the customers' perspective, but marketers really need to focus on quantifiable actions that can help identify customers' needs. That means continuous testing across messaging, price points, packaging, and every other aspect of a product. This is where personalization can really shine. Every time a marketer personalizes a message, it brings them closer to their customer and closes that gap," said Gretchen Scheiman, VP of Marketing, Sailthru.

For example, 80% of the email messages RevZilla sent were generic. But the website sells motorcycle parts and gear to a wide range of riders, each with their own preference in brand and riding style. The online motorcycle gear retailer partnered with Sailthru to better connect with customer motivations. The team started by upgrading the welcome series for new customers by personalizing the email messages based on the customers’ purchases and preferences.

The company has tested and added many new triggers to the site, and now has 177 different automation journeys that include triggers for browse and cart abandonment as well as automations for different product preferences, riding styles and manufacturer preferences.

The conversion rate from personalized email is double what RevZilla was getting for generic batch-and-blast sends. Automated experiences now account for 40% of email revenue. Triggered revenue is up 22% year-over-year and site traffic from triggers has increased 128% year-over-year.

"Customizing the buyer journey isn't about one long flow, but about lots of little trigger points and tests along the way. For any marketer that is intimidated about getting started with personalization, it's important to realize that it's more like a lot of small building blocks that create a whole experience. We started with a custom welcome series using testing and built from there. We're still adding new tests and new trigger points, but it's with the same concept that we started with,” said Andrew Lim, Director of Retention Marketing, RevZilla.

Mini Case Study #4: Pet protection network increases revenue 53% thanks to survey feedback

Huan makes smart tags for pets to help owners find their pets if they go missing. Initially, the company focused on the technical features in its homepage copy. For example, the tags don’t emit harmful radiation, are water-resistant and have a replaceable one-year battery.

From customer feedback surveys, the team discovered that customers purchased the product because they were worried they wouldn’t be able to find their pet if the pet went missing. This discovery prompted the team to change its messaging.

The new messaging on the homepage read, “Keep your pet safe and prevent heartbreak. Huan Smart Tags help you find your missing pet automatically.”

Revenue increased 53% increase following the change in messaging. “We immediately saw an increase in engagement on our website, with a lower bounce rate, higher click-through rate and a higher conversion rate. There were also a few people who messaged us on social media saying how our new message resonated with them,” said Gilad Rom, Founder, Huan.

Mini Case Study #5: Talking to new customers leads SaaS to change strategy, increase sales 18%

When Chanty launched, the marketing messages focused on pricing since the Saas company is 50% less expensive than the best-known competitor. However, when the team started talking to customers, they discovered most people had switched from the competitor for different reasons – ease of use, better functionalities in the free plan, better experience with the customer support team, and a better mobile app.

The team changed its marketing to focus around these product attributes and only listed pricing in the end as an additional benefit.

“It turned out that this was the way to go because we attracted people who wanted a better experience, rather than just customers who wanted to save money. After six months of implementing this new marketing and sales strategy, our sales grew by 18%,” said Jane Kovalkova, Chief Marketing Officer, Chanty.

Related resources

The Prospect’s Perception Gap: How to bridge the dangerous gap between the results we want and the results we have

Customer-First Marketing: Understanding customer pain and responding with action

Marketing Research Chart: How customer understanding impacts satisfaction

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Understanding Consumer Behavior

Close up man hand hold mobile cell phone device while shopping online.

Consumer behavior involves the why, what, and how of consumer purchasing decisions. In 2023, Apple’s iPhone 14 Max Pro boasted 26.5 million units sold and landed at the top of Forbes’ list of Top 10 Selling Smartphones for the year. Why do people continue to choose Apple over other brands? 1 Ever since Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, the iPhone’s appeal has been the ‘cool’ factor—innovation, status, and a sleek design. 2 In the meantime, Apple’s competitor, Samsung, has become the most trusted brand among Millennials because it focuses on affordability and sustainability. 2

Top-selling brands, large and small, strive to understand why people choose their products and services over their competitors’. You can do the same by leveraging the right e-commerce platforms and analytics tools to learn about your customers’ buying behavior throughout your product lifecycle—from discovery to purchase to use. Whether you’re a local coffee shop or a global clothing brand, these valuable insights can help your marketing team craft winning strategies and marketing campaigns to increase sales and build customer loyalty. 3

This post explores consumer buying behavior, including the decision-making journey, cultural and social influences on consumer choices, and the role of ethics in today’s digital landscape.

The Consumer Decision-Making Process

As a marketer, the more you understand about consumer choices, the better you’re able to tailor marketing messages and tactics to match needs and preferences. Studies show that multiple factors play a role in the decision journey, including the customer’s lifestyle, social and cultural influences, and psychological factors as well as brand perception. 3,4

You might not be able to get into the minds of consumers during their purchasing journey, but a decision-making model, such as Engel-Kollat-Blackwell (EKB), give you the next best thing. 3 It offers a framework for understanding consumer needs and the factors influencing their decisions at key touch-points. As one example, access to an online review or a free gift promotion at the right time can convince those on the fence to go ahead and make a purchase.

To get a better return on your marketing efforts, identify ways to engage existing and potential customers at each of these five stages of the EKB model: 3

  • Problem recognition: A potential customer identifies a need or problem, often triggered by internal or external factors
  • Information search: The potential customer conducts online research, browsing websites, reading reviews, and seeking information from various digital sources
  • Evaluation of alternatives: The potential customer compares products or services based on digital content, reviews, and online feedback
  • Purchase decision: The customer completes the transaction, which is influenced by the information gathered during the previous stages
  • Post-purchase evaluation: Do customers love or hate the product? Customers can share product opinions through reviews, ratings, and social media

Cultural and Social Influences

Cultural elements include language, religion, beliefs, and values, while social factors include family and reference groups. Family, friends, and even strangers’ recommendations on social media can influence how individuals make buying decisions.

A marketing campaign that works for McDonald’s in the U.S. may not work so well in India and vice versa. If your company plans to open sites in Asia or Latin America, identify cultural and social factors and potential conflicts with your current marketing strategies. Then, find innovative ways to make your product relevant to local consumers.

When these brands expanded into new markets, they didn’t achieve global success overnight but learned from their missteps and successes.

McDonald’s in India

The company created menu options to appeal to the country’s vegetarian population. 4 The positive response to items like the McAloo Tikki burger, which is made with potatoes, peas, and Indian spices, shows the marketing strategy paid off. 5 The fast-food giant now boasts 300 restaurants in 52 cities across India. 5

Coca-Cola in China

The company’s efforts to name the soft drink with a Chinese phrase that phonetically sounded like “Coca-Cola” bombed because the phrase they used translated to “Bite the wax tadpole.” 6 Their “Share a Coke” campaign landed much better with the target market, as it evoked strong cultural associations with Chinese values of happiness, luck, and prosperity. 4

Nike in Brazil

The brand’s 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign aligned with the country’s passion for soccer. 6 One ad featured player Ary Borges soaring over a conference table that’s surrounded by bewildered men in suits. 7 By playfully celebrating breaking barriers, a diverse sports culture, and the sheer joy of the game, Nike’s approach resonated strongly with Brazilian values. 7

Psychological Factors in Consumer Behavior

The psychological aspects of consumer behavior include attitudes, perception, motivations, and learning and can be powerful drivers of purchasing decisions. Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sheds light on how some of these factors influence our decisions. At the top of this hierarchy are basic needs, such as food, shelter, and rest. 3 But we also have psychological needs, such as belonging and love, that we seek to fulfill through friendships, romantic relationships, and even community connections. 3

For hungry and busy potential buyers, the immediate need might be food, so their buying decision may be heavily influenced by proximity or fast delivery. For others, it could be replacing worn-out athletic shoes to train for a marathon; these customers are more concerned with brand quality.

As a marketer, it’s important to keep these factors in mind when designing campaigns: 8

  • Motivation: Align marketing with Maslow’s hierarchy for targeted campaigns catering to specific consumer needs
  • Learning: Offer learning opportunities through campaigns for informed consumer choices; make case studies and reviews from other customers accessible on your product pages
  • Reinforcement: Ensure that customer experiences align with expectations to foster brand loyalty
  • Socialization: Understand socialization patterns to connect with consumers organically and design campaigns to create a sense of belonging

Personal Factors and Consumer Behavior

Personal demographic factors—such as age, lifestyle, education, and income—affect purchasing decisions and preferences. 9 Individuals with purchasing power might favor luxury brands, ranging from fine wines to watches, while a college student will be more likely to prioritize budget-friendly brands. In addition, consumers with an active lifestyle may gravitate toward fitness and adventure brands, while those focused on sustainability may opt for eco-friendly products and services. Know your audience, then create targeted campaigns based on their personal preferences; these efforts can draw in new customers and build brand loyalty. 9

Application of Consumer Behavior Insights

Once consumers have purchased your products, it’s time to learn more about their interaction with the brand. Use surveys, social listening, market research, and analytics to collect data about your customers' needs and wants. Apply these insights to align your marketing strategies with customer expectations for better results. 10 This data could also lead your company to launch innovative products or new features without market testing. 10

Ethical and Sustainable Consumer Behavior

In a more socially conscious world, ethics plays a bigger role in consumer decisions, especially among millennials who want to engage with brands that care about people and the planet. According to a recent Nielsen report, 73% of consumers in this group are willing to pay more for sustainable products. 11 That’s why it is more important than ever for companies to practice what they preach.

Practicing good ethics means aligning your company’s policies with its values. When that happens, you emerge as a leader and get to shape cultural conversations on topics such as sustainability, in the way that Patagonia and TOMS shoe brands have done. 11,12 In contrast, bad ethics could cause serious harm to your company’s reputation, leading to loss of customers and even legal action.

To help your company build and maintain consumer trust and improve customer retention, it’s important to identify gaps in your ethical brand strategy before your customers do. Use this checklist as a guide to developing a stronger ethical brand: 13

  • Have you outlined a clear ethical purpose? Is that purpose linked to specific social and environmental causes?
  • Do your supply chains and production methods meet sustainability standards?
  • Have you committed to transparent and honest marketing practices?
  • Are you supporting charities and community groups through volunteering?
  • Has your company established policies on fair pay, diversity and inclusion, and positive company culture?

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  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2023/08/29/top-10-selling-smartphones-all-from-2-companies-apple-and-samsung/?sh=4066538c57d1
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from industryleadersmagazine.com/is-samsung-a-trusted-brand/
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from blog.hubspot.com/service/consumer-behavior-model
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from medium.com/@mhalemohamad/the-influence-of-culture-on-consumer-behavior-understanding-the-impact-of-cultural-factors-on-5f533408a3b8
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from thetravel.com/mcdonalds-india-menu-items/
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from smallbusiness.chron.com/examples-company-failure-due-cultural-mistakes-70712.html
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from reel360.com/article/nike-pays-tribute-to-womens-world-cup-and-fans/
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from ca.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/psychological-factors-in-marketing
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from linkedin.com/pulse/understanding-variables-influence-consumer-buying-behavior-yousaf/
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from surveymonkey.com/mp/consumer-insights/
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from forbes.com/sites/theyec/2019/08/30/how-to-use-ethical-marketing-to-attract-the-right-audience/?sh=327efc0e3e04
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from mckinsey.com/industries/agriculture/our-insights/patagonia-shows-how-turning-a-profit-doesnt-have-to-cost-the-earth
  • Retrieved on January 19, 2024, from brandthechange.com/strategy/ethical-branding-how-to-stand-out-in-a-socially-conscious-world/

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Neuromarketing: What You Need to Know

  • Eben Harrell

case study in consumer behavior

The field of neuromarketing, sometimes known as consumer neuroscience, studies the brain to predict and potentially even manipulate consumer behavior and decision making. Over the past five years several groundbreaking studies have demonstrated its potential to create value for marketers. But those interested in using its tools must still determine whether that’s worth the investment and how to do it well.

“Neuromarketing” loosely refers to the measurement of physiological and neural signals to gain insight into customers’ motivations, preferences, and decisions. Its most common methods are brain scanning, which measures neural activity, and physiological tracking, which measures eye movement and other proxies for that activity.This article explores some of the research into those methods and discusses their benefits and drawbacks.

Potential users of neuromarketing should be cautious about partnering with specialist consulting firms—experts warn that the field is plagued by vendors who oversell what neuromarketing can deliver. One neuroscience and business professor suggests using a checklist: Are actual neuroscientists involved in the study? Are any of the consultancy’s methods, data, or tools published in peer-reviewed journals? Is its subject pool representative—a question that is particularly important for global brands? Do the consultants have marketing expertise along with scientific knowledge? Do they have a track record of success? And can they prove when challenged that they will offer insights beyond what can be gleaned through traditional methods?

A report on the state of the art

Idea in Brief

The challenge.

Despite recent studies validating the use of neuroscience methods in marketing, marketers struggle with the question of whether neuromarketing is worth the investment, what tools and techniques are most useful, and how to do it well.

The Solution

Marketers need to understand the range of techniques involved, from brain scanning methods to testing of physiological proxies; how they are being used in both academia and industry; and what possibilities they hold for the future.

The Benefits

By understanding the landscape, marketers can make better decisions about when to pursue a neuromarketing technique to gain insight into customers’ motivations and when and how to engage an outside firm as a partner.

Nobel Laureate Francis Crick called it the astonishing hypothesis: the idea that all human feelings, thoughts, and actions—even consciousness itself—are just the products of neural activity in the brain. For marketers the promise of this idea is that neurobiology can reduce the uncertainty and conjecture that traditionally hamper efforts to understand consumer behavior. The field of neuromarketing—sometimes known as consumer neuroscience—studies the brain to predict and potentially even manipulate consumer behavior and decision making. Until recently considered an extravagant “frontier science,” neuromarketing has been bolstered over the past five years by several groundbreaking studies that demonstrate its potential to create value for marketers.

  • Eben Harrell is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review. EbenHarrell

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Home » Management Case Studies » Case Study on Consumer Behavior: Gillette

Case Study on Consumer Behavior: Gillette

When most people hear “GILLETTE”, one thing comes to mind–Razors. That’s to be expected, since safety razors were invented by King C. Gillette in 1903, and the product in various forms has been the core of the company’s business ever since. Few firms have dominated an industry   so completely and for so long. Wet-razor shaving (as distinct from electric razors) is a $900 million market. Gillette’s share is 62 percent, with the remainder divided among SCHICK–15 percent, BIC–11 percent, WILKINSON sword–2 percent, and a number of private brands.

Gillette would like to achieve a similar position in the men’s toiletries with a new line of products called the GILLETTE Series. However, its record that market is spotty at best.

Case Study on Consumer Behavior: Gillette

One Gillette success, Right Guard Deodorant, was market leader in the 1960’s. Right Guard was one of the first Aerosols, and it became a family product which was used both by men and women. However, the product has not changed although the deodorant market has become fragmented with the introduction of antiperspirants, various product forms and applicators, and many different scents. As a result, Gillette slipped to third position in deodorant sales behind P & G and Colgate–Palmolive.

An even more embarrassing situation is Gillette’s foamy shaving cream, a natural fit with the razor business. S. C Johnson and Sons Edge Gel have supplanted that brand as the leading seller. These experiences created frustration at Gillette. Despite its preeminence in razors and blades, the company has been unable to sustain a leading position across the full range of toiletries.

Gillette is using its most recent success, the sensor razor, as a springboard for its new toiletries. The Sensor story provides the background necessary to understand the marketing of the Gillette Series, and also offers some insight into Gillette’s marketing prowess.

Sensor- a high technology cartridge razor- was a gamble for Gillette because it ran counter to consumers’ buying preferences. Disposable razors, which were produced by the French firm BIC in 1974, had gained control in nearly 80 % of the razor market by 1990. Gillette’s analysis showed that disposables provide a worse shave than a cartridge blade, cost more to make than a blade and are sold at a lower profit margin. Despite its disdain for the product, competitive pressure forced Gillette to introduce its own disposable, Good News.

As concern about the squeeze that disposables were putting on profit margins grew, Gillette began looking for a way to displace them. The company spent $ 300 million to develop a technology to significantly improve on the three attributes desired in shaving- closeness, comfort and safety. They came up with the Sensor, a razor with independently moving twin blades. The Sensor produces a superior shave, but it is also more expensive to produce than a disposable. So Gillette’s gamble was that a better shave would be enough to justify a premium price, and in the process, displace the successful but not a very comfortable disposable razor. In addition to the R & D investment, Gillette spent $ 110 in the first year to advertise Sensor. The strategy paid off. Estimated 1992 sales for the brand was $ 390 million, and equally important, the share of the market held by the disposables has gone down to 42%.

Gillette then moved to capitalize on the success of Sensor. The company had a line of toiletries in development, and the decision was made to tie them closely to sensor. The line consists of 14 items:

  • two shaving gels for sensitive and regular skin
  • two shaving creams
  • two concentrated shaving gels
  • a clear gel anti- perspirant
  • a clear gel deodorant
  • an anti- perspirant stick
  • a deodorant stick
  • An after- shave gel
  • An after-shave lotion
  • An anti- perspirant aerosol and a deodorant body spray available only in Europe.

The products in the Gillette series were developed over a three year period at a cost of $ 75 million. They were tested on 70000 consumers. An indication of their newness is the fact that Gillette has 20 patents pending with them. Consideration had been given to introducing the line in 1992, but the introduction was cancelled by Gillette’s CEO, Alfred Zeien. He insisted that the line not be launched until consumer tests showed that each of the 14 products was preferred to the best- performing brand in its category.

All the products have a common fragrance that Gillette calls Cool Wave. They come in silver and blue packages like the Sensor, and the black lines on the packages match the grooved sides of the Sensor Razor handle.

The items retail at $ 2.69 each, 10- 20 % higher than the prices of major competing items. As was the case with Sensor, Gillette hopes that the products’ innovation will convince men to switch brands and pay the higher prices.

During the Gillette Series first year, the company spent $ 60 million on a joint advertising campaign with Sensor. Just like Sensor, the line was to introduce in January with ads on the Super Bowl. The campaign uses the same theme as Sensor. “The Best a man can get”. Initial TV commercials were one minute in length. They started with 15 seconds on shaving gels, and cream, followed by 30 seconds on Sensor and 15 seconds on aftershaves. The deodorants are advertised separately.

The Gillette series faces two major problems:

  • Convincing consumers that the line is actually better and the higher price justified will be more difficult than with SENSOR. With the razor, Gillette had name recognition as the dominant firm in the industry. In addition, the design differences the sensor were visible, and a consumer can directly enjoy a closer shave. With the toiletries, Gillette does not have a strong position in the consumers’ minds, nor are the benefits provided by the products obvious. Furthermore, the men’s toiletries market is extremely competitive . Powerful firms with proven marketing skills have taken a greater interest un this category. P & G has acquired Old Spice and Noxzema; Colgate owns Mennen, and Unilever purchased Brut. It’s unlikely the rest of the firms in the market will sit back and ignore Gillette’s activity.
  • Gillette is tying, the new product line to the Sensor but using a different brand name. If consumers do not associate the Gillette Series with the innovativeness and success of Sensor, the new line may just be another brand in an already cluttered market.

According to a Gillette Vice President, one of the most compelling aspects of the Gillette series is its synergy with the company’s core business—razors. If the new line is successful, Gillette anticipates adding other men’s grooming products such as hair sprays and shampoos. The firm’s CEO, Zeien says, “ we’re already the worldwide leader in blades, Will we be the world leader in other (toiletries) or not? That’s our goal.”

  • How is the Gillette Series being positioned with respect to (a) competitors, (b) the target market, (c) the product class, (d) price and quality? What other positioning possibilities are there?
  • Is Gillette making the best use of the brand equity that has been created with Sensor?
  • What strategies do you propose to Gillette? Address the entire marketing mix.

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Consumer Behaviour Solved Case Study Matin Khan

Project/slides/presentation transcript.

These are Consumer behaviour solved case studies from matin khan`s consumer behaviour – CASE 1 & 4

Consumer Behaviour Solved Case Study Matin Khan  – Case I

Explanation of the case study:

Martin Incorporation was involved in the cosmetics and perfume business. The company was following the product concept of marketing and catered only to their existing customers, while paying no attention to the changing needs and demands of the consumers.

A marketing graduate, named Ash, joined the company and advised the company about necessary changes that must be made in the product on the basis of changing taste and preferences of consumers to successfully sell the company`s products.

Mr Ash modernised the products and spent about 30 lakhs on packaging etc. on the basis of relevant income and social factors that affect the consumers.

The product manager and assistant manager were not happy with the efforts made by Mr Ash as even after 6 months of implementation of suggested changes the company was not able to achieve effective growth in sales.

The product manager and Assistant manager were of the opinion that although some progress was made by Mr Ash, yet many important factors affecting consumer behaviour were also neglected by him.

Consumer behaviour Solved Case Study: 

Focus: New Product Development to increase sales of cosmetics and perfume products

Yes, I agree with the product manager and assistant manager that efforts were made in the right direction, but many factors affecting consumer behaviour were ignored. The reasons being the following:

The company was using the product concept of marketing which is out dated in today`s era as now producers manufacture products that match consumer`s demand, tastes and preferences. Therefore, Mr Ash should have focused on the Marketing concept to produce and market products accordingly.

The target audience was limited to the existing customers of the company. Various new markets must be explored to increase sales. Effective target marketing is essential to promote and position the product effectively in the market. For example:

  • Grooming products for men
  • Safe and chemical free cosmetics for babies
  • Organic and herbal cosmetics for women

The market for cosmetics was not effectively segmented by Mr Ash. Cosmetics market can be segmented effectively by dividing the market into groups which are homogenous within and heterogeneous among themselves on the basis of their age, gender, occupation etc. For e.g. Market can be segmented into:

  • Working women, Housewife, Teenage girls
  • Daily consumers, Beauty Parlours, Film Industry
  • Rich people, Middle class people, Low income group

While attention was paid to income and social factors many personal factors such as Age, Occupation, Lifestyle, personality of a consumer were neglected. For e.g.

  • Age: Working women, elderly women, Teenage girls all have different needs.
  • Income: The rich pay more attention to how they look than people with less income.
  • Occupation: A Housewife has simple beauty needs as she stays at home most of the time while a working lady has more intensive beauty needs as she goes out of the home every day and has to look presentable in the office.
  • Personality: Traditional women and Modern women both have different needs. Some prefer expensive perfumes while some use natural fragrances like ‘itra’.
  • Attitude: People have different attitude towards chemicals in beauty products. Some prefer it while some dislike it and prefer herbal and organic products.
  • Lifestyle: While urban people make use of deodorants and perfumes to smell good, rural population prefers use of soaps, sandalwood and itr to smell good.

Keeping the income factors in mind no changes were made in product quantities i.e. small units of previous products. Keeping in mind the social factors no efforts were made to use opinion leaders like celebrities or doctors which would have been more effective in influencing sales than change in product packaging.

Existing products were modernised while no attention was paid to new product development for new potential markets in cosmetics industries. For e.g. Grooming products for men

No efforts were made to advertise the products to targeted audience or re-position the brand according to the changing customer taste and preferences . No offers, discounts or sales promotion activities were carried out by Mr Ash to boost sales.  

Consumer behaviour Solved Case Study

Other Factors that should have been considered are:

Age – Babies, Teenagers, Middle aged people and elderly all have different needs and requirements related to cosmetics and beauty products. Therefore the target audience could have been segmented on the basis of age of consumers.

Occupation – Working ladies v/s Housewife, Clerical staff v/s Top management, Daily consumer v/s consumers from Fashion Industry

While a housewife, a normal clerk and daily consumer may have nominal needs and demand basic products, working ladies, Directors and CEO`s of a company, make-up artists, beauticians, film stars may have specific needs and high demand for beauty products. Products could have been designed and developed for one or few segments on the basis of their occupation.

Standard of Living – Rural v/s Urban People, Low income group v/s High income group

While rural people and low income groups may make use of soaps and traditional products, urban people and the high income group are more inclined towards expensive beauty products. Different products could have been developed for both the segments and different pricing strategies could have been followed.

Perception & Attitude – Chemicals v/s Organic/Herbal products

While some people perceive beauty products negatively due to chemical ingredients in them some people recommend them. Market share for both chemicals and organic products could have been analysed and the more profitable market could have been targeted.

Involvement – Normal consumers v/s Film Industry

Consumer segments like make-up artists, beauticians, film starts will have a high involvement in buying beauty products than normal consumers. Therefore depending upon the target market packaging and labelling strategies should have been made.

Culture – Due to different cultural norms regarding appearances laid down by different religions, men and women of a particular religion dress up and make use of specific cosmetic products. For e.g. Hindu, Jain and Bengali women use ‘sindoor’ and ‘Bindi’ while Muslim women do not, Sikh men don’t use shaving products as they are not allowed to cut hair, Many Jain men and women use white tikka.

Opinion Leaders – Celebrities and Doctors act as effective opinion leaders for cosmetics and beauty products which could have been used and their impact on the sales, brand value and price could have been analysed.

Personality and Self-concept – Alpha Males v/s Passive males, Feminine v/s Tomboyish girls

While alpha males and feminine girls may use and encourage use of beauty products while passive males and tomboyish girls may like to stay raw and refrain from using beauty products. 

This Consumer Behaviour solved Case Study has been taken from Consumer Behaviour solved Case Study – Matin Khan – Case I

Consumer Behaviour Solved Case Study Matin Khan  – Case IV

A company in the food industry wants to formulate an effective marketing strategy to attract health conscious consumers. For this purpose a survey was conducted as more and more consumers are becoming health conscious and prefer to consume foods that are healthy and nutritious. The goal of the survey was to collect information about food habits and attitude of the consumers towards different food items.

On the basis of the survey the consumers were divided into three categories:-

  • Old Consumers (elderly people)
  • Young Consumers (teenagers, unmarried, working singles)
  • Middle Aged Consumers (Big Families, Married Couples)

And the following information was found:

Old Consumers: They were health conscious, Brand loyal and highly involved in buying food items. This is due to their medical considerations, restricted choice of food and fixed eating schedules. They do not prefer to eat outside and are very cautious while buying new products.

Young Consumers: They are less health conscious and less brand loyal than older people and have less involvement in buying food items. They prefer food on-the-go and like convenience/fast food more than cooking for themselves. They are more influenced by product appeals than the brand name or price of the product.

Families and Households: They are moderately health conscious, moderate brand loyal and are very particular about their purchases of food items. They prefer to cook their own food and their purchases are restricted by a fixed budget. They focus more on the brand, quality, quantity and price of a product rather than product appeals. This segment usually consists of big families and married couples with kids who look for value of money products. 

Consumer behaviour Solved Case Study: Answer 1

Focus: Effective Marketing Strategy for Healthy food products

The following points can be inferred from the study:

  • Consumers are more aware now, they do not simply buy what is available but demand specific products
  • The user may not always be the buyer
  • Different consumers may perceive the same products differently
  • Different Consumers adopt the same product at different stages of product life-cycle

FACTS ABOUT ELDERLY CONSUMERS:

  • Older people are more health conscious due to medical and health considerations
  • They have a restricted diet and they do not change their taste and preference towards food frequently
  • They are more brand conscious and brand loyal than other segments
  • Older people have high involvement in buying food products as some food may be harmful to them therefore they check all product attributes before buying
  • They are regular consumers and will prefer home delivery than purchasing food from outside
  • They are Late Majority and Laggards in the product life-cycle stage, rarely try new products
  • They have a negative attitude towards canned/packed food and fast-food
  • The user may not be the actual buyer

FACTS ABOUT YOUNG CONSUMERS:

  • Young consumers are less health conscious than other segments and prefer outside food
  • They are less involved in buying food products as they have a hectic work schedule and dynamic lifestyle and like to try new products
  • They are early adopters therefore they can be used as innovators and opinion leaders to influence the early and late majority consumers
  • They prefer to eat outside and shop outside
  • They are impulsive buyers and buy at convenience, their purchase decision is highly influenced by attractiveness of the product
  • They are less brand loyal and focus more on product appeals than price or brand of the product
  • The user is the actual buyer

  FACTS ABOUT MIDDLE-AGED CONSUMERS:

  • They are less brand loyal but very health conscious
  • This segment usually consists of big families, Married people with kids
  • They too like elderly have a negative attitude towards canned/packed food and are sceptical towards outside food
  • They resort to traditional products and do not try new and innovative products
  • They lie in the late majority and laggards i.e. they only buy a product when it is successful in the market
  • Due to large number of end users (family members) they have a restricted budget and they like to store product in large quantities

Consumer behaviour Solved Case Study: Answer 2

The above information can be used in the following ways to formulate an effective marketing strategy –

  • On the basis of the above information Older and Middle aged segment can prove to be a better market than young consumers. Therefore marketing efforts must be directed towards elderly people, big and small families and married couples.
  • Health conscious consumers will prefer healthy products like fresh and toned milk, clean chicken, fresh vegetables, healthy oil rather than packed products which are healthy like healthy biscuits, healthy chocolates, canned energy drinks etc. as they like to cook their own food.
  • Consumers of Healthy food products will focus more on Brand name and Price of the product then fancy product appeals. Therefore efforts must be made to position the products as high performing and authentic food products.
  • Value for money pricing must be used to attract customers as both the elderly and middle aged people have a restricted budget. Most elderly people are either dependant on their children or live on their pension. The buyer for Big and small families has a limited budget due large number of end users. Therefore Value for money pricing must be used to attract customers as both the elderly and middle aged people have a restricted budget.
  • Consumers of Healthy food products are highly involved in buying food products. Therefore products attributes such as freshness, health benefits, high calorie, low fat, zero sugar, zero cholesterol etc. must be clearly showcased through efficient product packaging and labelling.
  • Celebrities and Doctors must be used for advertising to influence early purchases at the initial stage. Housewife and Head of the Family must be used as opinion leaders at the subsequent stages to influence the late majority and laggards.
  • As both the elderly and middle aged like to store products. Therefore discounts on bulk buying of products must be offered and sturdy and big containers must be used for packaging.
  • The products must be readily available at all small and big retail stored with a Home delivery option. Street vending must be avoided as it will have a negative impact on brand value of the product.
  • Free samples must be used to attract the elderly and middle aged as both customer segments are sceptical towards new products and rarely try them at early stages of its product lifecycle.
  • Elderly people may not frequently visit stored while middle aged usually shop at small and big retail stores. Therefore Door to Door sales for the elderly and Point of sale promotion efforts for the middle aged must be used.     

Consumer behaviour Solved Case Study: Answer 3

Information on the following points can be used to make an effective marketing strategy for healthy and nutritious food products:

Market Share and Market Size of each category/segment – Information about the market share and size of each segment namely older consumers, middle aged consumers and young consumers will help the marketer to streamline the target audience and select the most potential market for healthy products.

For e.g. Older and middle aged consumers are more health conscious than younger consumers and are therefore inclined towards buying healthy products. Therefore they are profitable segment and have more potential than young consumers in case of health products.

Perception and Attitude of different consumer segments towards existing and new proposed products of the company – Perception of different consumer segments towards existing and new products of the company will help the marketer to estimate the brand value and loyalty of customers towards company`s products and understand how consumers perceive their products. Consumer`s perceptions can be used to make improvements in the new products to be developed.

For e.g. Retaining existing consumers is easier than making new one. Therefore by understanding the needs of the existing customers and gathering their opinions on company`s products will provide valuable insights regarding what is to be made.

  Perception and Attitude towards competitor`s products – Understanding consumer`s perception and attitude towards competitor`s products will help a marketer to determine what is demanded in the market?, what products are successful? How do competitors tackle this demand and where their weaknesses lie? And what is liked and disliked by consumers. This information will help him to formulate effective strategies to tackle the competition and create synergies.

For e . g. Efforts must be made to fill the gap left by major players in the industry and develop unique selling points for the company`s products.

Type of Media each segment is susceptible to/influenced by – By understanding how different consumers respond to different media the marketer will be able to use an effective mix of print, radio, t.v., internet to target potential consumers and influence trials or purchases.  

For e.g. If consumers respond positively to opinion leaders such as celebrities and doctors, they must be used to promote the products. Ineffective media channels must be avoided and popular channels such as health blogs, T.V. ads with celebrities and doctors must be used.

Product attributes that health conscious people look for: Freshness, Health effects, calories – By understanding the product attributes that health conscious consumers look for the marketer will be able to develop better products and showcase the demanded product attributes through effective packaging and labelling techniques.

For e.g. Health conscious consumers can be influenced by boasting specific traits of the product such as freshness, health benefits, high calorie, Low fat, zero cholesterol etc.  

  Who buys, Where do they Buy and How much do they buy: Gym, Parks, Big or Small retail stores – These basic questions will help the marketer to formulate effective marketing strategies. The marketer will know who the actual buyer of the product is. By knowing where and how much do consumers buy, better packaging and distribution strategies can be formulated for the products.

For e.g. If the user is not the actual buyer marketing efforts must be directed towards the actual buyer. (Housewife in case of middle aged people)

Gyms, parks, fitness centres are the best places to attract health conscious consumers.

If product is purchased in huge quantities, sturdy and big containers must be used for packaging but if the product is purchased in small quantities, mini packs and easily disposable packaging options must be explored. 

What do health conscious people eat daily/frequently (eating habits of the consumers) – By knowing the eating habits of the consumers, new products suiting their daily needs can be produced. This will help the marketer to determine what is considered healthy by its target audience.

For e.g. While some people consider milk, chicken, fruits as healthy food, some consider healthy biscuits, healthy oil, fresh vegetables as healthy food. Both are different segments and demand differently.

This Consumer Behaviour solved Case Study has been taken from Consumer Behaviour solved Case Study – Matin Khan – Case IV

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Phys.org

Online brand advocacy and Gen Z consumer behavior

U nderstanding the dynamics of online brand advocacy is increasingly important in today's digital landscape, particularly for businesses targeting Generation Z (Gen Z) consumers. A study in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising surveyed 221 students intending to explore the factors influencing online brand advocacy behavior and its impact on purchase intentions and also examining the involvement of social media.

Generation Z usually refers to the demographic cohort succeeding the so-called Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. While there is no specific definition of Gen Z, it usually refers to individuals born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s, often stated as 1997 to 2012.

It is worth noting that the Millennials (born from 1981 to 1996) are often thought of as the original "digital natives" having been born after the invention of the World Wide Web and the emergence of ubiquitous computer technology. However, all subsequent generations have also grown up in an era characterized by rapid technological advancement, ubiquitous internet access, and widespread social media usage.

Gen Z exhibits distinctive characteristics and behavior shaped by what we might refer to as their digital upbringing. This technological environment influences their worldview, their approach to communication, and their preferences as consumers.

The work of Vivek Mishra of IIIT Bhubaneswar and Biswajit Das of the KIIT School of Management, also in Bhubaneswar, India offers several insights. First, it shows that brand-related factors such as brand social benefits, distinctiveness, prestige, and warmth significantly influence behavior among Gen Z individuals. Additionally, online brand advocacy correlates positively with purchase intent, indicating its role in driving actual purchasing decisions, with social media involvement having a moderating effect.

The findings highlight the evolving nature of consumer behavior showing how there has been a shift from traditional loyalty to advocacy. Moreover, they reveal how the latter represents an invaluable tool for companies to build trust and loyalty in a competitive market environment. Understanding and utilizing advocacy could improve the chances of long-term success for a brand.

More information: Biswajit Das et al, What drives Generation Z to Advocate for a Brand Online, International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising (2022). DOI: 10.1504/IJIMA.2022.10046942

Provided by Inderscience

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

ScienceDaily

If your TV spoke to you, would you buy it? Study finds people spend more on some 'talking products'

In the classic Disney film "Beauty and the Beast," Lumière, the candelabra character, famously sings with Mrs. Potts, a tea pot, "Be our guest, be our guest. Put our service to the test. Tie your napkin round your neck, Cherie, and we provide the rest."

When the 1991 Oscar-nominated song co-written by Indiana University alumnus Howard Ashman was released, it hardly seemed realistic that a product could sing its own praises and sell itself to consumers. But artificial intelligence today makes it possible and new research from the IU Kelley School of Business finds that it can be a winning retail strategy.

Alan Dennis, professor of information systems and the John T. Chambers Chair of Internet Systems at the Kelley School, believes that it won't long before products are selling themselves. Visual design technologies have rapidly improved over the past decade. Digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa and support chatbots have become ubiquitous.

"Companies have long used cartoon-like characters to sell products. We are familiar with the 'M&M spokescandies,' for example," Dennis said. "But adding human features to a product can be a powerful way to influence consumers' perceptions and decision making, because it can trigger anthromorphism.

"When we hear or see an inanimate object that has human features, our brain automatically ascribes human form to it even though we rationally know the object is not human. Anthromorphism changes how we think and behave toward an object, making us like it more," he added. "Initial evidence suggests that not all products can trigger this; people are more likely to anthromorphize complex products."

To test this idea, Dennis asked about 50 undergraduate students to assume the role of a new master's candidate and told them their program required them to purchase a laptop computer, a camera and a television. They were required to bid for the products in an eBay-style auction site.

The researchers used a two-minute video to deliver the "human" element of each product and participants couldn't bid until it was finished. They used a professional graphic to add human physical characteristics -- such as eyes, a mouth and nose -- human-like movements -- such as blinking and mouth movement while talking. Each product spoke in the first person.

In addition to tracking each person's willingness to pay, their cognitive processes were measured using an Emotiv EPOC EEG headset. Findings included:

  • People were willing to bid about 20 percent more for the more complex product -- the laptop -- when it was displayed with the human attributes, as compared with those who only learned about it through a static web page or with a video presenting just a slideshow.
  • In contrast, displaying the less complex products -- the television and camera -- in the same anthromorphic way had no effect on the amount bid.
  • The EEG data showed that presenting a product with the human elements and features triggered more cognition in the parietal lobe of the brain, which plays a key role in our understanding of the world around us. It also helps us understand where we are in relation to other things that your senses detect around us.
  • This recognition within brain was not a universal response. The data showed that ascribing human characteristics to the non-human products triggered different responses, depending the complexity of the product. Many respondents exerted more effort to suppress the "cartoon agent" as irrelevant in the case of the television and the camera.
  • The results suggest that people are more likely to amthromophize a product if it already has some human-like functionalities, such as the ability to respond and speak in a human voice, present some level of human knowledge, or have some autonomy in how it functions.

"Our research shows that there are important boundary conditions in the effects of displaying products in an anthromorphic form," Dennis said. "Our results show that anthromorphic displays lead to different cognition and different willingness to pay for more complex products, but not less complex products … Our results suggest that adding a face, movement and human speech are useful in designing the display of more complex products."

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Language Acquisition
  • Intelligence
  • Neuroscience
  • Psychosurgery
  • Social cognition
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Brain damage

Story Source:

Materials provided by Indiana University . Original written by George Vlahakis. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Lingyao (Ivy) Yuan, Alan R. Dennis. Selling myself: Anthropomorphic products in electronic commerce . Decision Support Systems , 2024; 177: 114101 DOI: 10.1016/j.dss.2023.114101

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Science News

Social media harms teens’ mental health, mounting evidence shows. what now.

Understanding what is going on in teens’ minds is necessary for targeted policy suggestions

A teen scrolls through social media alone on her phone.

Most teens use social media, often for hours on end. Some social scientists are confident that such use is harming their mental health. Now they want to pinpoint what explains the link.

Carol Yepes/Getty Images

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By Sujata Gupta

February 20, 2024 at 7:30 am

In January, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook’s parent company Meta, appeared at a congressional hearing to answer questions about how social media potentially harms children. Zuckerberg opened by saying: “The existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media and young people having worse mental health.”

But many social scientists would disagree with that statement. In recent years, studies have started to show a causal link between teen social media use and reduced well-being or mood disorders, chiefly depression and anxiety.

Ironically, one of the most cited studies into this link focused on Facebook.

Researchers delved into whether the platform’s introduction across college campuses in the mid 2000s increased symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. The answer was a clear yes , says MIT economist Alexey Makarin, a coauthor of the study, which appeared in the November 2022 American Economic Review . “There is still a lot to be explored,” Makarin says, but “[to say] there is no causal evidence that social media causes mental health issues, to that I definitely object.”

The concern, and the studies, come from statistics showing that social media use in teens ages 13 to 17 is now almost ubiquitous. Two-thirds of teens report using TikTok, and some 60 percent of teens report using Instagram or Snapchat, a 2022 survey found. (Only 30 percent said they used Facebook.) Another survey showed that girls, on average, allot roughly 3.4 hours per day to TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, compared with roughly 2.1 hours among boys. At the same time, more teens are showing signs of depression than ever, especially girls ( SN: 6/30/23 ).

As more studies show a strong link between these phenomena, some researchers are starting to shift their attention to possible mechanisms. Why does social media use seem to trigger mental health problems? Why are those effects unevenly distributed among different groups, such as girls or young adults? And can the positives of social media be teased out from the negatives to provide more targeted guidance to teens, their caregivers and policymakers?

“You can’t design good public policy if you don’t know why things are happening,” says Scott Cunningham, an economist at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Increasing rigor

Concerns over the effects of social media use in children have been circulating for years, resulting in a massive body of scientific literature. But those mostly correlational studies could not show if teen social media use was harming mental health or if teens with mental health problems were using more social media.

Moreover, the findings from such studies were often inconclusive, or the effects on mental health so small as to be inconsequential. In one study that received considerable media attention, psychologists Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski combined data from three surveys to see if they could find a link between technology use, including social media, and reduced well-being. The duo gauged the well-being of over 355,000 teenagers by focusing on questions around depression, suicidal thinking and self-esteem.

Digital technology use was associated with a slight decrease in adolescent well-being , Orben, now of the University of Cambridge, and Przybylski, of the University of Oxford, reported in 2019 in Nature Human Behaviour . But the duo downplayed that finding, noting that researchers have observed similar drops in adolescent well-being associated with drinking milk, going to the movies or eating potatoes.

Holes have begun to appear in that narrative thanks to newer, more rigorous studies.

In one longitudinal study, researchers — including Orben and Przybylski — used survey data on social media use and well-being from over 17,400 teens and young adults to look at how individuals’ responses to a question gauging life satisfaction changed between 2011 and 2018. And they dug into how the responses varied by gender, age and time spent on social media.

Social media use was associated with a drop in well-being among teens during certain developmental periods, chiefly puberty and young adulthood, the team reported in 2022 in Nature Communications . That translated to lower well-being scores around ages 11 to 13 for girls and ages 14 to 15 for boys. Both groups also reported a drop in well-being around age 19. Moreover, among the older teens, the team found evidence for the Goldilocks Hypothesis: the idea that both too much and too little time spent on social media can harm mental health.

“There’s hardly any effect if you look over everybody. But if you look at specific age groups, at particularly what [Orben] calls ‘windows of sensitivity’ … you see these clear effects,” says L.J. Shrum, a consumer psychologist at HEC Paris who was not involved with this research. His review of studies related to teen social media use and mental health is forthcoming in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Cause and effect

That longitudinal study hints at causation, researchers say. But one of the clearest ways to pin down cause and effect is through natural or quasi-experiments. For these in-the-wild experiments, researchers must identify situations where the rollout of a societal “treatment” is staggered across space and time. They can then compare outcomes among members of the group who received the treatment to those still in the queue — the control group.

That was the approach Makarin and his team used in their study of Facebook. The researchers homed in on the staggered rollout of Facebook across 775 college campuses from 2004 to 2006. They combined that rollout data with student responses to the National College Health Assessment, a widely used survey of college students’ mental and physical health.

The team then sought to understand if those survey questions captured diagnosable mental health problems. Specifically, they had roughly 500 undergraduate students respond to questions both in the National College Health Assessment and in validated screening tools for depression and anxiety. They found that mental health scores on the assessment predicted scores on the screenings. That suggested that a drop in well-being on the college survey was a good proxy for a corresponding increase in diagnosable mental health disorders. 

Compared with campuses that had not yet gained access to Facebook, college campuses with Facebook experienced a 2 percentage point increase in the number of students who met the diagnostic criteria for anxiety or depression, the team found.

When it comes to showing a causal link between social media use in teens and worse mental health, “that study really is the crown jewel right now,” says Cunningham, who was not involved in that research.

A need for nuance

The social media landscape today is vastly different than the landscape of 20 years ago. Facebook is now optimized for maximum addiction, Shrum says, and other newer platforms, such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, have since copied and built on those features. Paired with the ubiquity of social media in general, the negative effects on mental health may well be larger now.

Moreover, social media research tends to focus on young adults — an easier cohort to study than minors. That needs to change, Cunningham says. “Most of us are worried about our high school kids and younger.” 

And so, researchers must pivot accordingly. Crucially, simple comparisons of social media users and nonusers no longer make sense. As Orben and Przybylski’s 2022 work suggested, a teen not on social media might well feel worse than one who briefly logs on. 

Researchers must also dig into why, and under what circumstances, social media use can harm mental health, Cunningham says. Explanations for this link abound. For instance, social media is thought to crowd out other activities or increase people’s likelihood of comparing themselves unfavorably with others. But big data studies, with their reliance on existing surveys and statistical analyses, cannot address those deeper questions. “These kinds of papers, there’s nothing you can really ask … to find these plausible mechanisms,” Cunningham says.

One ongoing effort to understand social media use from this more nuanced vantage point is the SMART Schools project out of the University of Birmingham in England. Pedagogical expert Victoria Goodyear and her team are comparing mental and physical health outcomes among children who attend schools that have restricted cell phone use to those attending schools without such a policy. The researchers described the protocol of that study of 30 schools and over 1,000 students in the July BMJ Open.

Goodyear and colleagues are also combining that natural experiment with qualitative research. They met with 36 five-person focus groups each consisting of all students, all parents or all educators at six of those schools. The team hopes to learn how students use their phones during the day, how usage practices make students feel, and what the various parties think of restrictions on cell phone use during the school day.

Talking to teens and those in their orbit is the best way to get at the mechanisms by which social media influences well-being — for better or worse, Goodyear says. Moving beyond big data to this more personal approach, however, takes considerable time and effort. “Social media has increased in pace and momentum very, very quickly,” she says. “And research takes a long time to catch up with that process.”

Until that catch-up occurs, though, researchers cannot dole out much advice. “What guidance could we provide to young people, parents and schools to help maintain the positives of social media use?” Goodyear asks. “There’s not concrete evidence yet.”

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