The psychology of bulk buying explained

March 20 2020

The reason we are panic buying due to the imminent threat of COVID-19 is because survival mode overrides any rational decision making, according to new analysis from Nyenrode Business University. According to Dr. Ali Fenwick, behavioural scientist at Nyenrode Business University, there are four core reasons that we are bulk buying:

Survival mode

According to Dr Fenwick when we put in a threatening situation, we fall back on survival mode, this means are rational thinking is effectively out the window, and it means we buy more.

Although the government has stated there will be no disruption to the global supply chain, we don’t know if this will happen for sure and we prefer a less risky option which is to buy more food.

The scarcity effects

When products become scarce, people perceive them as more valuable. We are more willing to go out and buy, and even pay more, for scare products. Scarcity drives buying behaviours, even for products we might not actually want.Which explains why we buy more food than we need to haveor why so many people are currently on the run for toilet paper. 

Herd behaviour

Although you might not bulk buy yourself, when you see others do it, you tend to follow people like you. So, if your friend or colleague is bulk buying you feel you should do the same.

Sense of control

The global pandemic is a cause for a lot of uncertainty in the world and has resulted in many countries closing their borders and imposing self-isolation. These external constraints create an internal need to exert personal control as way to feel safe. Being able to buy things provides us with a sense of control over our surroundings, which also leads to us buying more than we need to have.

According to Dr Fenwick, “In summary, bulk buying is caused by various psychological and environmental cues which throw rational-thinking out of the window. When in survival mode, we let mainly our emotions drive decisions and are more susceptible to social influences. So, we will rush out and buy more because we believe others are doing the same”.

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