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Sleepy Consumers Seek Variety

Hal Conick

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A sleepy consumer tries to stay awake by finding something new. Often, this means buying more.

Sleepy consumer seek variety in their shopping pursuits, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

The authors of the study—titled The Sleepy Consumer and Variety Seeking—write that consumers seek arousal to stay awake. Looking for something new is effective in reducing their sleepiness, the authors found, even if by just a marginal amount.

People may expect sleepiness to decrease the desire for variety, the authors write, but five studies showed that this is likely not the case.

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In one study, the authors compared consumption data for candy and beer during the Sunday of Daylight Savings Time transition—when research shows cuts into sleep duration and increases sleepiness—with the previous three Sundays.

“[For] the number of candy bars bought on the purchase occasion and for time trend effects, people on average purchased .41 more UPCs of candy bars on the DST Sunday (e.g., when consumers typically felt sleepier) compared with the previous three weeks,” the authors write. “Such results suggest that the effect of sleepiness produced by [Daylight Savings Time] on variety seeking is not due to a mere increase in purchase quantity and is unlikely due to consumers seeking more energy.”

The authors say that more consumer research should be done on sleepiness. Sleepiness may result in less deliberative decision-making by consumers. It could also make consumers more sensitive to numerical marketing information and less sensitive to changes in things like discounts and product size.

Future consumer research could also look at whether sleepiness induced by activity such as bathing and physical exercise has similar effects.

“The current findings call for research on how sleep deprivation may influence consumption behavior,” the authors write.

Hal Conick is a freelance writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at halconick@gmail.com or on Twitter at @HalConick.