Post-Purchase Remorse Happens With Food Too

Articles
May 18, 2010

Post-Purchase Remorse Happens With Food Too

Post-purchase remorse can understandably surface with big-ticket items like cars, houses and Manolo Bhlanik footwear—if it overwhelms the joy involved in the acquisition, it’s too bad, but it’s tolerable because it doesn’t happen often.

Post-purchase remorse can understandably surface with big-ticket items like cars, houses and Manolo Bhlanik footwear—if it overwhelms the joy involved in the acquisition, it’s too bad, but it’s tolerable because it doesn’t happen often.

New research coming out of Stanford University says post-purchase remorse can also arise in the daily buying of mundane food items if conditions are right.  This sounds to us at The Lempert Report as if some people can’t make a decision and let go—a release behavior that may be delayed and emotions amplified when every dollar counts in the recession.

We could understand if someone bought prepared foods for house guests, and it turned out badly. Or if they bought treats and really wanted to lose weight instead. Or if they bought the wrong ingredients for a recipe, or for a food allergy sufferer in their household. These would be obvious cases worthy of remorse, in our opinion.

However, researchers point to fundamental choices at the supermarket shelf that don’t seem to bear significant health or economic consequences. They say directly in their research, “Fragile Enhancements of Attitudes and Intentions Following Difficult Decisions,” forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, that “Difficult decisions lead to more extreme initial positivity toward chosen products, but also more vulnerability to subsequent attack….Making difficult decisions between similarly attractive options may motivate a bubble-like inflation of positivity, having some semblance of strength yet remaining highly prone to collapse.”

Co-authors Ab Litt, a doctoral candidate in marketing, and Zakary L. Tormala, associate professor of marketing, add, “Happy consumers are more likely to repeat purchase, generate favorable word-of-mouth, and so on. But what should be expected regarding the durability of such enhanced positivity following difficult decisions?”

Retailers and CPG need to address these sharp turns in shopper feelings because there are already so many distractions in store aisles, and so much choice within categories, that many shoppers already feel paralyzed when trying to decide on a purchase.  The last thing stores and brands want is a ‘no purchase’ decision, and probably the next to last thing they want is a shopper feeling badly about a product purchase decision made the night before.

Marketers understand the missions of shopping trips. Now they’re trying to grasp more of the emotional side of purchases and store visits, and studies like this add extra facets of insight that are useful.