buyers-remorse

What Is Buyer’s Remorse? Buyer’s Remorse In A Nutshell

Buyer’s remorse normally occurs after a sizeable purchase has been made. These purchases include expensive items such as cars, homes, shoes, electronics, and exercise equipment. However, the phenomenon can also be observed after smaller purchases involving supermarket groceries, cosmetic items, and kitchen gadgets. Buyer’s remorse, therefore, is a feeling of regret or anxiety that occurs after a purchase is made.

Understanding buyer’s remorse

The negative feelings that arise after such a purchase are caused by cognitive dissonance. This is a form of mental discomfort that arises when the individual holds beliefs, values, or attitudes that conflict with one another.

In the context of consumer psychology, dissonance occurs when the individual wants to do whatever makes them happy in the moment while simultaneously understanding that the purchase comes with inherent risks and consequences. After a purchase is made, a feeling of regret can then take hold as the individual considers alternate courses of action.

The severity of regret – and by extension, buyer’s remorse – is caused by three core factors:

  • Responsibility – regret may intensify when the individual realizes there is no one to blame but themselves.
  • Effort – or the amount of time or money used in the purchase decision, and
  • Commitment – whether real or imagined, the individual can feel remorse if they believe they must live with the product or service for a long time.

What causes buyer’s remorse?

According to business information company The Hustle, the five most prevalent reasons (with multiple answers accepted) for buyer’s remorse across more than 2,000 study participants included:

  1. A product that didn’t meet expectations (58%), perhaps in terms of quality or performance.
  2. A product the consumer didn’t ultimately use (30%).
  3. A product the consumer felt they spend too much money on (20%).
  4. The subsequent discovery of a product that represented a better deal (15%), and
  5. A product the consumer didn’t ultimately need (15%).

How to avoid buyer’s remorse

To avoid buyer’s remorse, there are multiple strategies:

  • Purchase experiences over material products – experiences such as vacations, concerts, and skydiving tend to result in less buyer’s remorse. This is because it is more difficult to compare one experience to another, reducing the likelihood that an individual will feel regret over a course of action not taken. Research has also shown that experiences create sustainable memories that eclipse the short-term boost in happiness that a material item tends to produce.
  • Err on the side of caution – if there is even the slightest hint of doubt in a purchasing decision, then it is better not to purchase. Why? Because the regret associated with not purchasing a product tends to be less severe than the regret that occurs after a purchase has been made.
  • Avoid sales – sales often cause impulse buying which then leads to regret. Promotional events make it easy to justify a purchase at the time, but no amount of discount can compensate for a product that is unwanted or unneeded. 
  • Give to others – for individuals who consider themselves shopaholics, a good way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to simply purchase gifts for others.
  • Focus on personal development – in one study of millennial consumers and financial regret, researchers found that participants were most satisfied with purchases that enriched their own lives, whether that be related to community, arts, healthcare, or education.

Key takeaways:

  • Buyer’s remorse is a feeling of regret or anxiety that occurs after a purchase is made. The feeling itself arises due to cognitive dissonance.
  • Buyer’s remorse is caused by a product that didn’t meet expectations or by one that was deemed too expensive or not ultimately used or needed. The presence of a more suitable alternative is also a contributor.
  • Buyer’s remorse can be avoided by purchasing experiences over material items, ignoring sales promotions, buying gifts for others, and focusing on personal development.

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