Journal of Consumer Behaviour

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Never truly alone, we always have our purchases: Loneliness and sex as predictors of purchase attachment and future purchase intentions

Abstract

The meaning of a purchase does not end at “buy.” Past purchases can become integral to consumers' self‐definition and communication of their “self” to others. Just as consumers display differential attachment tendencies for material purchases, so too should they exhibit differences in experiential purchase attachment propensities. This research examines this issue and contributes to the literature on purchase attachment by examining individual differences in material versus experiential attachment tendencies. Specifically, this work shows that loneliness increases attachment to purchases that affirm one's social self and restore a sense of connection to others; however, the type of purchase that best achieves this social affirmation goal varies as a function of the consumer's sex. Females (males) are more likely to think about their material (experiential) purchases as representative of their relationships with others; therefore, lonely females (males) are more likely to attach to material (experiential) purchases. Across 5 studies, we demonstrate this sex by loneliness interaction and investigate the perceived effectiveness of material/experiential purchases as social cues, as a mechanism underlying these effects. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these attachment patterns influence future purchase tendencies—material (experiential) attachment predicts continued spending of disposable income on material (experiential) purchases.

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