Special Issue "How Consumer Behavior Patterns Change in a Pandemic Condition"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Mariella Nocenzi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Communication and Social Research, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Interests: sustainability; sustainable development; social diversity; inequalities; consumption behavior

Special Issue Information

The coronavirus pandemic is completely changing patterns of consumer behaviors across the world. This is already clear in the first outputs of surveys and analysis by scholars from social sciences that agree with the complexity of this health crisis for its magnitude and the number of its variables. The restoration of a consumer recovery is difficult to predict and unknown. The recent experiences of the 2009 global financial crisis and the September 11 terrorist attacks evoked the effects of the 1929 Great Depression and the possible exit strategies to adopt after an economic collapse, including the consumption containment. However, we do not know if they can be applied in this situation.

Looking at the consumers, as the infection spread from China to the bordering countries, and then to Europe soon after, a growing feeling of fear also spread. When people are afraid, they retreat into a “survival mode” of consumption. This fear, connected to anxiety for the loss of the sense of control, outlines an unknown condition for us. It is “less a one-time sharp shock to the system and more of a rolling source of anxiety”—a condition we have not experienced, since the last pandemics that killed millions of people happened many years ago. The panic has pushed consumers around the world in frenetic shopping for masks and hand sanitizer, in the hoarding of toilet paper rolls, as well as goods and services consumed at home and online, increasing as the contagion data increased. Consumer behavior is characterized by a renewed hierarchy of needs to be satisfied that, from a psychological perspective, is based on informational conformity: when people lack information and knowledge, they blindly conform their actions to the collective action, while they restore their habits as the panic gradually fades away. However, as people are resilient and are able to adapt to events over time, what could be their future experience of consumption? Could consumer behavior be permanently changed as a result of the pandemic? Might we discover that the new way suits us better? Or, might the economic implications of a dramatic economic recession favor strategies for getting people back to life as it was before, once the coronavirus is over?

This Special Issue focuses on original research and reviews regarding the consumption processes in a pandemic condition considering how social, cultural, and economic implications are intertwined among them. It could be interesting for the interpretation of the consumer behavior in an unknown scenario, in the emergence and in the post-emergence phases, enlightening persistence and changes compared to the natural transformations of the production–consumption system and the outline of a new sustainable model of production and consumption.

Dear Colleagues,

We invite you to contribute to a multidisciplinary social analysis of the transformations of the consumption patterns in the current global pandemic condition.

This Special Issue aims to identify the persistent and the new features of the consumption affected by feelings of fear, panic, uncertainty, and informational conformity. There seem to be radically changing patterns of consumer behavior across the world, and the dramatic economic predictions of a grave recession seem to become more likely as time goes on.

If the social sciences analyzed the implications of major economic and social crises such as the 1929 Great Depression or the 2009 global financial crisis, it is likely that only a fraction of the evidence from that research could help in the interpretation of this first phase of the global pandemic.

Thanks to the first outputs of research and surveys, this Special Issue on “How Consumer Behavior Patterns Change in a Pandemic Condition” aims at responding to the growing and urgent demand for publishing current thinking, research, and case studies on the matter.

This Special Issue focuses on papers that identify and analyze data, trends, and theoretical approaches to the transformations of consumption patterns, but also analytical tools, assessment models (for the production and consumption systems), case studies, and best practices analyses.

Contributors from different disciplines bring a broad perspective and wide-ranging approaches and discussions on how the pandemic is changing and will re-draft the consumption processes, and are welcomed here.

Prof. Mariella Nocenzi
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • consumption behavior
  • pandemic
  • economic crisis
  • sustainable production
  • sustainable consumption

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Article
Sharing and Sustainable Consumption in the Era of COVID-19
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1903; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13041903 - 10 Feb 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2498
Abstract
The pandemic triggered by the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had a major impact on numerous collective behaviors, while also changing individuals’ consumption choices. Thus, social researchers dealing with consumption patterns need to reflect on the changes of individual practices, [...] Read more.
The pandemic triggered by the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had a major impact on numerous collective behaviors, while also changing individuals’ consumption choices. Thus, social researchers dealing with consumption patterns need to reflect on the changes of individual practices, also in view of the growing centrality in the public debate of issues related to sustainability and responsible consumption. The presented paper takes its cue from a quantitative research project aiming at understanding the proneness of Italian people towards sustainable products in COVID-19 era, aiming to test whether and how the coronavirus pandemic has changed that attitude. Data have been collected through an online self-completion questionnaire from October to December 2020, using a snowball procedure to collect the purposive sample of approximately 500 questionnaires. Moreover, the second step of the research aimed to deepen the topic of collaborative consumption to verify how the pandemic is changing and how it will re-draft Italian consumers’ willingness to adopt specific forms of shared consumption such as car sharing or bike sharing. According to our data, respondents increased the frequency of purchase of certain products such as books and TV series, while reducing the frequency of purchase of others, such as beauty care and clothing items. Furthermore, we found a decrease in the use of public transport and ridesharing, since respondents prefer to avoid contact with strangers on shared transportations means. As for sustainability, our results highlight the commitment of our sample of young, educated women toward a more responsible attitude in consumption. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Consumer Behavior Patterns Change in a Pandemic Condition)
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Article
Impact of COVID-19 on the Customer End of Retail Supply Chains: A Big Data Analysis of Consumer Satisfaction
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1464; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13031464 - 30 Jan 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 4293
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest disruptive events of recent decades and has had a global effect on society and the economy. The political regulations resulting from COVID-19 also led to significant changes in physical grocery shopping. However, the specific [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest disruptive events of recent decades and has had a global effect on society and the economy. The political regulations resulting from COVID-19 also led to significant changes in physical grocery shopping. However, the specific impact of COVID-19 on consumer satisfaction at the customer end of retail supply chains, i.e., the point-of-sale (PoS), has not yet been addressed. By gathering and analyzing consumer satisfaction data (ratings) and sentiments (evaluation comments) available on the open web, the current study evaluates the impact of COVID-19 on consumer satisfaction at the PoS. Focusing on the five biggest retail chains in Austria, the results show that there was a general and significant decline in consumer satisfaction due to the pandemic. The results also show a high impact of political regulations on consumer satisfaction. Furthermore, the text-mining based analysis of evaluation comments indicate that store layout and facilities, as well as product availability and waiting time had a great impact on consumer satisfaction. In total, over 533,000 consumer satisfaction ratings and over 153,000 textual comments have been analyzed, providing the basis for a comprehensive and sound discussion of the impact of COVID-19 on consumer satisfaction and perceptions. Future research could focus on applying the used data analysis technique and the adapted consumer sentiment dimensions in different settings, such as countries other than Austria or smaller retail chains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Consumer Behavior Patterns Change in a Pandemic Condition)
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Article
Online Shopping Motives during the COVID-19 Pandemic—Lessons from the Crisis
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10247; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su122410247 - 08 Dec 2020
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 11218
Abstract
The investigation of established drivers of online purchase behavior is of great relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic, as companies must anticipate consumer behavior during this global crisis to maintain a competitive edge. This study investigates online shopping motives of generation Y and Z [...] Read more.
The investigation of established drivers of online purchase behavior is of great relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic, as companies must anticipate consumer behavior during this global crisis to maintain a competitive edge. This study investigates online shopping motives of generation Y and Z during the COVID-19 shutdown in April 2020. We use survey data from 451 German consumers to examine the relations between normative, utilitarian and hedonic motives, and purchase intentions employing structural equation modeling. The results show that normative determinants such as media reports on the economic situation are related to consumers’ purchase intentions, whereas the normative influence of close social networks is not. Furthermore, we find that hedonic motivation is a better predictor of purchase intentions than utilitarian motives and that individuals practicing social distancing, generation Z, and women show higher levels of hedonic motivation. We provide recommendations for e-commerce companies on ways to address consumers’ purchase motives and strategically harness normative influences. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Consumer Behavior Patterns Change in a Pandemic Condition)
Article
Relationship between Panic Buying and Per Capita Income during COVID-19
Sustainability 2020, 12(23), 9968; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12239968 - 28 Nov 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1827
Abstract
Panic buying and hoarding express common human behavior in times of crisis. Early in COVID-19, as the pandemic crisis intensified, toilet paper was one of the emblematic cases of panic buying. Using a Geographic Information System (GIS) to cross official per capita income [...] Read more.
Panic buying and hoarding express common human behavior in times of crisis. Early in COVID-19, as the pandemic crisis intensified, toilet paper was one of the emblematic cases of panic buying. Using a Geographic Information System (GIS) to cross official per capita income data and real toilet paper transactions obtained from groceries spread around the city of São Paulo (Brazil), this study compares sales levels during the period in which panic purchases took place to the sales levels off that period. As expected, that data disclose noticeable panic buying. Regression analysis reveals that there is a significant positive correlation between average income per capita and panic buying. The results also indicate that panic buying happens in every income class, including low-income ones and contribute to enhancing the understanding of demand behavior during periods of crisis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Consumer Behavior Patterns Change in a Pandemic Condition)
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Article
Grocery Shopping Preferences during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Sustainability 2020, 12(13), 5369; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12135369 - 02 Jul 2020
Cited by 54 | Viewed by 19788
Abstract
Considering the temporary closure of many food-away-from-home establishments, consumer expenditure on groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased. While grocery shopping is an essential activity, not much is known about the dynamic relationship of the COVID-19 pandemic to the behavior of grocery shoppers. [...] Read more.
Considering the temporary closure of many food-away-from-home establishments, consumer expenditure on groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased. While grocery shopping is an essential activity, not much is known about the dynamic relationship of the COVID-19 pandemic to the behavior of grocery shoppers. With an objective to inform variability in the behavior of grocery shoppers under various scenarios of the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted an online framed choice experiment to elicit preferences for purchasing methods, time windows, minimum order requirements, and fees. The manipulating factor relates to the trend in the COVID-19 pandemic, where we consider three scenarios: an increasing, decreasing, or constant number of new cases in the past two-week period. Using 32,400 choice decisions from a representative sample of 900 grocery shoppers in the United States, we conclude that the trend in the COVID-19 pandemic causes significant differences in grocery shopping preferences. In situations where COVID-19 is spreading at an increasing rate, consumers are generally less willing to shop inside the grocery store. When COVID-19 is spreading at a decreasing rate, the relative importance of the purchasing method attribute is lower in its entirety. We use our findings to inform recommendations for practitioners and policymakers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Consumer Behavior Patterns Change in a Pandemic Condition)
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