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Path to Purpose? How Online Customer Journeys Differ for Hedonic versus Utilitarian Purchases

Path to Purpose? How Online Customer Journeys Differ for Hedonic versus Utilitarian Purchases

Jingjing Li, Ahmed Abbasi, Amar Cheema and Linda Abraham

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The data reveal that, when making hedonic purchases (such as toys), consumers employ social media and on-site product pages as early as two weeks before the final purchase. By contrast, for utilitarian purchases (such as office supplies), consumers utilize third-party reviews up to two weeks before the final purchase and make relatively greater usage of search engines, deals, and competitors’ product pages closer to the time of purchase. Importantly, channel usage is different for sessions where no purchase is made, indicating that consumers’ information channel choices vary significantly with the H/U characteristics of purchases.

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Related Marketing Courses: ​
Brand Management; Digital Marketing; Marketing Analytics; Marketing Communications; Marketing Strategy;​​​​ ​​​​Consumer Behavior; Social Media Marketing

Full Citation: ​
Li, Jingjing, Ahmed Abbasi, Amar Cheema, and Linda Abraham (2020), “Path to Purpose? How Online Customer Journeys Differ for Hedonic versus Utilitarian Purchases,” Journal of Marketing, 84(4), 127-146.

Article Abstract
The authors examine consumers’ information channel usage during the customer journey by employing a hedonic and utilitarian (H/U) perspective, an important categorization of consumption purpose. Taking a retailer-category viewpoint to measure the H/U characteristics of 20 product categories at 40 different retailers, this study combines large-scale secondary clickstream and primary survey data to offer actionable insights for retailers in a competitive landscape. The data reveal that, when making hedonic purchases (such as toys), consumers employ social media and on-site product pages as early as two weeks before the final purchase. By contrast, for utilitarian purchases (such as office supplies), consumers utilize third-party reviews up to two weeks before the final purchase and make relatively greater usage of search engines, deals, and competitors’ product pages closer to the time of purchase. Importantly, channel usage is different for sessions where no purchase is made, indicating that consumers’ information channel choices vary significantly with the H/U characteristics of purchases. The significant implications for managing customer touchpoints are extensively discussed.

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Special thanks to Kelley Gullo and Holly Howe, Ph.D. candidates at Duke University, for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program.

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Jingjing Li is Assistant Professor of Commerce, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia.

Ahmed Abbasi is Professor of Commerce and Murray Research Professor, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia.

Amar Cheema is Professor of Marketing and William F. O’Dell Professor of Commerce, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia.