Marketers seeking to understand the evolution of buying habits under lockdown may benefit from mapping these behaviours against Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”, an iconic psychological model of motivations.

Sarah Hofstetter, the president of Profitero, a digital retail analytics company, discussed this subject on a webinar held by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

“Week over week, you can see what has become important to people,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Updating Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” for the lockdown age.)

Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs has five levels, starting with the physiological, and then climbing through safety, social, esteem and self-actualisation needs.

In modifying this framework based on e-commerce habits during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hofstetter pointed to various stages of purchasing by the “quarantined consumer”.

What Maslow identified as “physiological needs”, for example, becomes a desire for “survival”, as evidenced by surging demand for disinfectant wipes, and then “pantry panic” and a focus on items like canned food.

When a sense of control begins, and consumers accept the concept of isolation and “embrace quarantine”, new trends emerge.

“You move up into the cabin fever,” explained Hofstetter, and manifestations that run from acquiring jigsaw puzzles to beer and wine, and even to updating outdoor spaces.

The next stage is “pimping the office” – the search for a better webcam or an improved computer monitor, for instance, or even people looking for a “bed desk”.

With the basic elements for play and work survival in place, “in-sourcing” ensues – a trend demonstrated by upticks in baking (and increased online purchases of bread makers).

The need to make the best out of a difficult experience is characterised by new aspects of Maslow’s “self-actualisation”, or what Hofstetter termed “making the most out of a crisis”.

“Power nesting” is one embodiment of this activity, as people transform their living space. Similarly, a “fitness freak-out” has led many people to acquire new, at-home workout equipment.

Sourced from WARC