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Shopping makes you live longer…or not

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Category : Blogs

A consumer research study reported last week demonstrated a relationship between shopping and longevity, suggesting that people who shop more live longer. The logic of the study’s conclusion is that if you change your behaviour and become a regular shopper, you increase your chances of living longer.

From a consumer psychology point of view, this study made for an interesting read, but it does not stand up to logic or science. Let’s consider the problems with the findings…

People who shop more and, according to the study, live longer also have more disposable income (which is how they can afford all the shopping). So, if you have the money for shopping, you also have the money for healthcare, which suggests that you’re healthier and able to do more shopping. It’s reasonable to conclude that in fact it’s people who are wealthier that live longer. All this study is doing is highlighting the connection of longevity and wealth from another angle.

Presumably the study is useful for retailers interested in consumer psychology in that it highlights the potential value of older people who are more likely to shop regularly… But this group is already highly desirable as a segment because they have a high disposable income. The research also demonstrates that retailers should target wealthier people because they may spend more in the long run… But isn’t this point already obvious? ‘Companies should target people with more money’ is not the sort of headline newspapers would allow, thought it is one element of the study’s conclusion.

There’s also the problem with what we mean by ‘shopping’ for the purpose of this consumer research. The concept of going to the shops is still the common understanding of the word, bringing with it a potential argument that shopping aids health by acting as exercise… But, nowadays, that’s not how many of us shop. Online shopping is an increasingly important part of retail and we don’t even have to leave our living room to do that.

The study has fallen into the trap of researching something that doesn’t actually tell us anything new. It doesn’t answer the ‘so what?’ question, the fundamental criteria for research – and our byword at Station10!

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