ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (2): 206-216.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00206

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The Moderating Effect of Product Type on the Shopping Momentum Effect

YAO Qing;CHEN Rong;DUAN Suhuan   

  1. (1 Dongling School of Economics and Management, University of Science and Technology Beijing, Beijing 100083, China) (2 School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China) (3 School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)
  • Received:2012-07-09 Published:2013-02-28 Online:2013-02-28
  • Contact: YAO Qing

Abstract: Recent research suggests that consumer purchase behavior can be systematically affected by their prior purchase. For example, Dhar, Huber and Khan (2007) show that buying an initial item can often increase the purchase likelihood of unintended and unrelated items, a phenomenon known as the shopping momentum effect. Despite acceptance of shopping momentum in consumer behavior, little is understood about the boundaries of the momentum effect and particular conditions under which it arises. The current research is an initial foray into investigating the antecedents and outcomes of such purchase acceleration. We propose a framework to examine when an initial purchase (Driver) makes it easier or harder to buy a second item (Target). We posit that whether a driver induces purchase momentum or not depends on whether the driver item is hedonic or utilitarian in nature (utilitarian items are sought for practical and functional purposes; hedonic items are desired for fun and fantasy; Strahilevitz & Myers, 1998; Dhar & Wertenbroch, 2000). Our prediction is based on research findings that hedonic items often induce feelings of guilt and can spontaneously activate long terms goals (Fishbach, Freidman, & Kruglanski, 2003). Guilt can in turn trigger a motivation to justify choices (Kivetz & Simonson, 2002). Thus, we posit that a hedonic driver can activate a justification mindset and make people more likely to focus on an option’s justifiability rather than its desirability. As a result, a hedonic (vs. a utilitarian) driver should reduce purchase momentum. Two experiments test these predictions. Study 1 varied the nature of the driver item and compared the daily sales of items except the driver product at a cosmetic and accessory shop in the marketplace. As predicted, a utilitarian driver significantly increased the purchase likelihood of other items compared to the hedonic driver. Study 2 replicated the results and provided support for the notion that a hedonic driver triggers a justification mindset in the laboratory. Participants were randomly assigned to hedonic, utilitarian or a no driver condition. Half of the participants in each condition were asked to indicate reasons for buying the target item before their decision. As predicted, compared to the control condition, purchase of the target was significantly higher after a utilitarian driver but significantly lower after a hedonic driver. Moreover, when the driver was utilitarian, significantly fewer participants bought the target when prompted to consider reason for their purchase compared to when reasons were not sought. However, when the driver was hedonic, asking participants to consider reasons for buying the target did not shift their likelihood to buy the target item. The findings systematically demonstrated that the shopping momentum effect is moderated by the product type of the driver item. The research enriches sequential choice studies by classifying different product nature of the prior choice. From the perspective of hedonic-utilitarian product paradigm, the results provide a new theoretical cue for examining how hedonic goods differ from utilitarian goods in affecting subsequent decisions. Finally, the findings have important managerial implications in successful display design of shelves in stores.

Key words: hedonic and utilitarian products, sequential choices, shopping momentum, justification, mindsets