We think of shopping in terms of what we buy. But the reason we spend money goes beyond just acquiring things. Shopping, like almost everything we do, is the meeting of deep emotional needs. Some summarise it as part of our daily search for happiness.
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman thinks there is a problem with the word happiness. He believes that the word really has two meanings relative to our well-being, each describing a different source of happiness. One is momentary pleasure—for example, the happiness someone might experience every time they wear a new outfit. The other is life satisfaction. If someone has had the goal for a long time to always be on the cutting edge of technology, owning an iPhone 11 will bring satisfaction-driven happiness.
Wanting what you have vs. having what you want
Researchers at two U.S. universities conducted studies into the happiness associated with Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). The research framed happiness in terms of "wanting what you have" versus"having what you want." The findings support Kahneman’s belief in these two dimensions:
Happiness from “wanting what you have” implies that it is derived from consuming, creating happiness in the moment. Happiness results from experiencing what you have bought. People who want what they have more than others do tend to be happier.
“Having what you want” implies that a goal preceded the acquisition. Happiness results from satisfaction derived from accomplishing the goal. People who have more of what they want than others do also tend to be happier.
In summary, happiness does not come specifically from the objects we buy. It is an emotion associated with our motivations for making those purchases.
For every shopper, one or several motivations will likely have greater importance than others. Positive emotions result from the level to which the purchase satisfies these primary motives and fulfils expectations.
Yet in spite of overwhelming evidence that shopper behaviour is driven toward positive emotions evoked by satisfying motivations, brands continue to focus advertising and promoting their products’ features. They would be more successful if they shifted their perspective and looked at their products through the emotional mind of the shopper.