With holiday shopping in full swing, researchers are always curious as to what drives a consumer’s purchase decisions. Why do we sometimes seem to go overboard when we go shopping?
It seems to start when we make a decision to buy name-brand, designer or luxury goods rather than less expensive, non-designer things.
Once we get the designer good home, it appears to look out-of-place next to all of our other, lesser possessions.
Ordinarily, you might think we would just live with the mismatch. But researchers find that these salient design elements that set a designer good apart — such as a unique pattern or interesting color scheme — doesn’t encourage us to return the item to the store or “just live with it.”
Instead, consumers who were surveyed said they would make more purchases in an effort to try to surround their designer purchase with other luxury items and restore aesthetic harmony. This finding is according to marketing professors Vanessa Patrick of the University of Houston and Henrik Hagtvedt of Boston College, whose study is forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research.
In fact, this additional string of purchases may represent a far larger expenditure than the initial purchase
What is driving these consumers? Emotions play a role in whether or not the buyer will return the item, Patrick and Hagtvedt found in a set of experiments and field studies involving hundreds of men and women.
Usually, when a new purchase fails to fit in with existing possessions, consumers regret the purchase and return it to the store. But when the mismatch involves a design item, consumers surveyed by Hagtvedt and Patrick said they experienced less regret and greater frustration. This led them to actively seek out ways to successfully incorporate the new purchase among their other possessions, often by making a string of new, additional purchases to match the item, a phenomenon the researchers dub aesthetic incongruity resolution.
“When we buy something with unique design elements and it doesn’t fit, it frustrates us,” said Hagtvedt. “This is because design has intrinsic value. So rather than returning the item, we actively seek ways to make the item fit, often by making complementary purchases. This has financial implications that may have been entirely unforeseen when the consumer made the initial purchase.”
“In talking to people, it turns out that this is a pretty common occurrence,” said Patrick. “We buy something we really like – after all, what could be so wrong in purchasing a cute purple sweater or a unique little side table for the hallway? But, we take it home and that’s when it happens… And before we know it, we have purchased matching necklaces, shoes and bags, to go with the purple sweater or paintings, new wallpaper and new lighting to accommodate the unique side table.”
For starry-eyed holiday shoppers, the researchers advise them to think twice. Ask yourself: Is it pretty? If yes, ask yourself: Does it match what I already own? Only then, consider buying.
Source: Boston College