CLEMSON, South Carolina — Consumers with materialistic tendencies struggle with major life transitions and should refrain from online shopping and steer clear of the mall as a means of coping with those life-altering events, according to Clemson University marketing researchers.

Anastasia Thyroff

Anastasia Thyroff

The research on consumers’ responses to major life changes was conducted by Anastasia Thyroff and Jennifer Siemens, assistant professors of marketing at Clemson and Brandon McAlexander, University of Arkansas marketing researcher.

“Our research found that the more reliant a consumer is on material goods to provide them happiness, the less control they have during times of major life transitions,” said Thyroff. “Consequently, they should be discouraged from shopping to help them cope with these life changes and be wary of marketers that are looking to increase purchases by this group.”

The research involved nearly 275 respondents who had recently experienced major life changes considered negative and positive in the past year. Some recently married, had a baby, graduated from college, experienced a death of a family member, divorced, lost a job or started a new job.

“The materialistic are the most vulnerable during these life-changing events because they think through buying more the transition will go better,” Thyroff added. “In reality, materialistic people find these life transitions especially troublesome.”

Thyroff said the less reliant a consumer is on material goods for positive transitions, the better off they are.

“For instance, the less they buy for their wedding, baby and new job, the happier the materialistic consumers will be. A bride/groom or mother-to-be will feel happier and more in control of their wedding or birth of a child if they do not have an emphasis on consuming material goods. However, if the bride/groom or mother-to-be are material-reliant, they may feel less in control and ultimately less happy with their transition.”

Research also shows consumer expectations play a significant role in these transitions.

‘“Positive life transitions are often times more stressful than the negative ones. Those experiencing positive transitions tend to underestimate the strain of the experience. However, when life changes are considered to be negative, the experience generally turns out to be better than anticipated,” Thyroff said.