Recent research suggests that consumer behavior is evolving when it comes to consumption. Two of the study's authors, Deborah Small (marketing professor at Wharton/University of Pennsylvania) and Carey Morewedge (marketing professor at Questrom School of Business/Boston University) were interviewed in a podcast for Knowledge@Wharton. They identify two important changes in consumer behavior: the change from legal ownership to legal access of goods, and material possession is being replaced with experiences. According to Professor Small:
"[Access-based consumption is cheaper for consumers.] It’s less of a commitment, they can try out different things without the big expensive purchase. There’s a lot of freedom there for consumers, but they also lose a lot of control over the good because it’s not just theirs anymore. It’s also very temporary and short-lived, so they are less prone to develop psychological attachments and feel connections to their goods. These are critical aspects of psychological ownership — the ability to control things, the development of a relationship over time.
"The feeling that something is mine is a function of believing I am in control and expect to maintain something for a long time. That’s the first dimension — legal ownership to legal access. The second is this shift from more material consumption to more experiential consumption. We’re moving away from physical goods in many categories, to things that we merely experience, or that are digital or ephemeral in some way. The key threat to psychological ownership here is the lack of tangibility. Tangibility is a signature marker of a possession. Consider the case of purchasing a DVD for your movie collection. We don’t do that anymore. We purchase access to consume music."
For more, listen to the podcast or read the transcript here:
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