This summary is provided by the IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. As a result, governments implemented lockdown measures to reduce the spread of the virus. This study assessed the effect that COVID-19 had on consumer expenses by examining changes in spending levels. The study aimed to clarify the relationship between changes in spending levels and changes in consumer behavior. Researchers also focused on the psychological factors underlying changes in consumer behavior toward necessities vs. non-necessities. Necessities are described as essential goods and non-necessities are described as products for fun or entertainment. Understanding these needs is important for improving the market’s preparedness to face future pandemics and emergencies.

A survey of 3,833 Italian adults was conducted between April 1-20, 2020.  Researchers asked about spending levels and consumer behavior, both before the COVID-19 pandemic and during the first week of lockdown in Italy. Participants were asked about necessities and non-necessities separately. Researchers analyzed spending behaviors in connection with the Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism).

Key Findings
·      Personality traits were more relevant in consumer behavior toward non-necessities than necessities products.
o   Only openness had a role in predicting consumer behavior toward necessities.
o   Conscientiousness and openness predicted consumer behavior toward non-necessities.
·      There was an increased spending level for both necessities and non-necessities products during the first week of lockdown.
o   This suggests that during natural disasters or health crises, individuals might undergo behavior changes such as herd behavior, panic buying, and changes in purchasing habits.
·      Consumers with a high level of openness showed high scores in consumer behavior toward non-necessities but low scores in necessities products.
·      Consumers’ changes in spending levels were related to their attitudes and feelings toward specific products.

Di Crosta A, Ceccato I, Marchetti D, La Malva P, Maiella R, Cannito L, et al. (2021) Psychological factors and consumer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLoS ONE 16(8): e0256095.

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Brittany Alexander is a communications strategist. She develops public relations campaigns and media relations strategies and helps organizations raise their visibility on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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