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Shopping Habits with a Twist



People love to shop. It makes them feel good, right? However, feeling good might not always be the reason why people buy things. Why would they feel good about buying an inferior product? So why do they buy them? Is it just the price?


There is a myriad of motives that compel a consumer to make a purchase, but in one recent research project, self-verification and self-esteem are some of those reasons.


Self-view is a careful regard for one’s own interest, and that interplays with self-enhancement, which is when an individual feels good about themselves. Feeling good about who we are plays a role in how we shop, but self-verifying encourages what we shop for when it comes to high-end and low-end items.

This behavior stems from self-views, and even when they are negative, it is not entirely a bad thing when it comes to making a purchase because “verifying self-views bolsters perceptions of control” (Stuppy, Mead & Osselaer, 2020).

Without getting too wrapped up in psychological jargon; All these selves fall into line with self-esteem. If we have a pessimistic self-view, we tend to want to buy the generic Aldi product rather than buying the name brand so-called superior product. This motive indicates that it is more than being cheap that entices the consumer to purchase a so-called inferior product. Surprisingly, it may be the hallmark as to why so-called generic products fare so well.


If people with a pessimistic self-view gravitate towards products that do not carry a high-end label, it means that price may very well not be the only motivation. Twenty percent of store brand purchases were made in 2017 (Stuppy, Mead & Osselaer, 2020). Hence, a label matters in more ways than one.

According to this research, compensatory consumption is when people buy products based on their self-deficits, and those with low self-esteem do not use compensatory behavior. It also explains why people avoid hedonic consumption. All this boils down to is that people do not necessarily buy things to make themselves feel great.


If a person suffers from low self-esteem, they may be purchasing inferior products because it equates with how they think, and a third of the population suffers from low self-esteem, so these people may feel even more ostracized from the market place then they should (Stuppy, Mead & Osselaer, 2020).

People with low self-esteem perhaps do not want to identify themselves as elitist consumers who buy premium groceries. As a matter of fact, these people may become dissatisfied with the superior product if they buy one.


A way around this problem for the marketer is to “reposition the production in a way that ensures it confirms, rather than conflicts with the self-views of low-self-esteem customers” who say, this product “makes me feel like a phony” or it “does not fit the type of person who I am” (Stuppy, Mead & Osselaer, 2020).

Thus, clever marketing techniques may steer the low-self-esteem customer away from the inferior product. Using captions such as “customers similar to you also bought these products” instead of “other customers bought these products” might be a better way to market products because it might make superior products appear consistent with the inferior product.


This research project used five studies to draw their conclusions, and this peer-reviewed article makes an intelligent argument on how and why people shop.

Stuppy, A., Mead, N. L., & Osselaer, S. M. J. V. (2020). I Am, Therefore I Buy: Low Self-Esteem and the Pursuit of Self-Verifying Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research, 46(5), 956–973. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucz029


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