Psychographics and Shopping Motivation

by Vlad Ungureanu

Mar 2020

Key takeaways from this article!


While people use both hedonistic and utilitarian motivation when deciding a purchase, they tend to favour one or the other.

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Hedonistic motivation describes the willingness to move towards a goal based on aesthetics and emotional feeling.

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Utilitarian motivation describes the willingness to move towards a goal based on the rational, logical reasoning.

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Impulsive buying is described as the sudden need or desire to make a purchase. Some personality types are more prone to impulse buying than others.

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Shopping motivation

Shopping motivation defines what makes people want to buy your products or services. In terms of motivation, shopping is either hedonistic (referring to the way the purchase and the process of acquisition makes us feel) and utilitarian (referring to paying a fair amount for solving a known, specific problem).

Adamant Links - Hedonistic vs Utilitarian Shopping Motivation

Adamant Links - Hedonistic vs Utilitarian Shopping Motivation

Hedonic Shopping Value

Hedonic motivation (as define by Wikipedia) refers to the influence of a person's pleasure and pain receptors on their willingness to move towards a goal or away from a threat. This is linked to the classic motivational principle that people approach pleasure and avoid pain, and is gained from acting on certain behaviours that resulted from aesthetic and emotional feelings such as: love, hate, fear, joy, etc. According to the hedonic principle, our emotional experience can be thought of as a gauge that ranges from bad to good and our primary motivation is to keep the needle on the gauge as close to good as possible.

Hedonic consumption is defined as "those facets of consumer behaviour that relate to the multisensory, fantasy and emotive aspects of one’s experience with products." Basically, these values are unstructured, mentally, affective and experience-based stimuli driven, pleasant and fun. People with higher hedonic values cannot be satisfied with utilitarian or functional aspects of buying behaviours but enjoyable and pleasurable aspects of them and they regard emotional and psychological values of the shopping experience. Hedonic values are assumed to be associated with gratification through fun, fantasy, playfulness and enjoyment. Hedonic value derived from the shopping experience reflects the emotional or psychological worth of the purchase. Sources of hedonic value could include the joy and/or the excitement of shopping, or the escape from everyday activities that is provided by the experience.

Hedonic goods may also refer to luxury goods, which are seen as desirable objects that allow the consumer to feel pleasure, fun, and enjoyment from buying the product, both in terms of personal achievement (of being able to afford that product) or in terms of social recognition and self-representation in social groups. Because of this, the consumer is generally willing to spend more on luxury hedonic items because they can rationalize that these items are more enjoyable, and won't be purchased very frequently, which allows the buyer to be less price sensitive towards these items. Hedonic goods could constitute anything from pedicures to art to furniture to new power tools to fine chocolate; basically, anything that a consumer enjoys on less than a regular basis.

Guilt also has a tendency to be associated with hedonic purchases. This is due to these items being bought for means that are associated with pleasure and excess, not items that are necessary for daily life and are therefore not as easy to justify buying as utilitarian items. Increasing the frequency of hedonic shopping leads to a decrease in the enjoyment and stimulation of the purchase. This behaviour leads to an increase in the need to buy more expensive, diverse or more uncommon goods and services in order to reach the higher level of excitement of novelty. It is less common for people that usually manifest hedonic motivation to switch their shopping motivation to utilitarian.

In terms of marketing, people Open to Experience are likely to manifest hedonic motivation if the product has a higher degree of aesthetics and novelty or a unique design. They usually describe such products as "something they need to have". As such, they respond to campaigns that focus on novelty and originality and that have an explicit call to action (for example: "Don’t miss out!" or "Try it now!"). People high in Extroversion manifest hedonic motivation for purchases that reflect they desired social status. They are more likely to purchase luxury brands that are very well known as they are perceived to ensure the extrovert will be in the centre of attention. They do not see the benefits of purchasing a luxurious, expensive but unknown brand which would not get any social recognition and cannot reflect their desired social status. Neurotic people are likely to manifest hedonic motivation, when the Volatility and Depression traits of the personality dimension are stronger. Hedonic motivation serves as a mechanism to reduce stress and negative emotional states by immediate gratification and the excitement of the purchase. They usually avoid luxury brands as they fear judgement from others for their expensive purchases, unless they are achievement driven, in which case they act as Extroverts in report to luxury brands.

Utilitarian Shopping Values

Utilitarian motivation (as define by Wikipedia) refers to the decision to purchase something that serves a specific purpose, that directly solves a problem or satisfies a need. It also incorporates the concepts of price, value, durability and reusability and equity.

Utilitarian value reflects shopping with a work mentality. Consumers seek utilitarian value in a task-oriented, rational manner.

Utilitarian motivation does not refer to the purchase of utility goods, which are items that are purchased frequently and are a regular part of the consumer's life, which allows the consumer to be more price sensitive towards these goods because they are purchased and used frequently (for example: cleaning fluid, laundry detergent, hygiene products, or other items that consumers use regularly).

Utilitarian consumer behaviour has been described as task related and rational. As a result, the utilitarian perspective stresses functional and product-centric thinking. Consumption is understood as a mean to accomplish some predefined end. This does not exclude the pleasure of satisfaction of the purchase or brand preferences, but these things are always secondary to the equity of the purchase. For example, people might choose a well-known brand for their consistent high-quality products even if the price is higher than other products of the same type produced by other less reliable perceived companies but only if the value of the purchase is justified. As such, utilitarian motivation is often associated with thorough investigation of the specifications, requirements and technical reviews of the product while less little importance is placed on the aesthetics or associated feelings.

It is common for people that manifest utilitarian motivation to plan their purchases in order to have better control on their finances and spending, making sure that they actually need the product and not just want it. It is common (especially for low price purchases) that people who usually manifest utilitarian shopping motivation to switch to hedonic motivation, for self-indulgence purchases.

In terms of marketing Conscientious people tend to manifest the highest degree of utilitarian motivation. They tend to keep a well-organized household, plan their purchases and even plan around their purchases in order to maximize their effectiveness. People high in Conscientiousness focus on how well a product or service can solve a specific problem and if the value that is offered has a fair price. They usually prefer brands they are very familiar with and tend to return to those brands if they prove to be consistent in their product quality and services. When faced with lower value than expected (for products or services) they start to avoid that specific brands and tend to find it very difficult to trust that brand again. If they are not familiar with a brand and product they try to learn about the product, especially from highly authoritative sources (scientific reviews, technical reviews, major trusted publications and so on).

Agreeable people are also more likely to be utilitarian in their shopping. They value fairness of the purchase and quality of service above other factors and also tend to show the same preference for familiar brands. A major difference between Agreeable people and Conscientious people is the fact that highly agreeable people are less interested in technical aspects and are more likely to value social opinion, family preferences, environmental impact, the perceived brand personality and other less specific criteria when evaluating a purchase.

Impulsive Buying

Impulsive buying has been defined as the spontaneous or sudden desire to buy something, and when compared to more contemplative approaches to decision-making, it considered emotional, reactive, and "prone to occur with diminished regard" for the consequences. Impulse buying occurs when a consumer experiences a sudden, often powerful and persistent urge to buy something immediately.

Impulse buying generates over $4 billion in annual sales volume in the United States. With the growth of e-commerce and television shopping channels, consumers have easy access to impulse purchasing opportunities.

Impulse buying is often described as a mechanism to escape higher levels of stress or emotionally uncomfortable situations as it allows the person to rapidly switch to a positive stated given by the joy and satisfaction of the purchase. Recent research on impulse buying behaviour indicates that individual consumers did not view their specific purchases as wrong and indeed retrospectively reported a favourable evaluation of their behaviour. This is because of the perceived positive outcome of this behaviour.

In terms of personality, people Open to Experience and Neurotics are more likely to manifest this behaviour as they prefer to focus on positive stimuli and they tend to favour positive experiences which lead to immediate or quick gratification.

In some rare cases, Extroverts are also prone to impulsive buying, when the specific purchase is meant to represent their desired social status and they perceive the purchase as a bargain or a good deal.


  • "Hedonic Motivation", Lukasz D. Kaczmarek, 2018
  • "Personality Traits as Predictors of Shopping Motivations and Behaviors: A Canonical Correlation Analysis", Ali Gohary and Kambiz Heidarzadeh Hanzaee, 2014
  • "Shopping Motives, Big Five Factors, and the Hedonic/Utilitarian Shopping Value: an Integration and Factorial Study", Gianluigi Guido, 2006
  • "In Pursuit of Happiness: Empirical Answers to Philosophical Questions", Pelin Kesebir and Ed Diener, 2009
  • "Switching intention model development: Role of service performances, customer satisfaction, and switching barriers in the hotel industry", Heesup Hana, Wansoo Kima and Sunghyup Sean Hyun, 2017
  • "Exploring the impact of personality traits on online shopping behavior", Wen-Chin Tsaoand Hung-Ru Chang, 2010

Comming soon:
Psychographics and Social Media - Part 1


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