Consumption vs. de-consumption: 2 different motivations shaping shopping behavior

October 25, 2021

When it comes to consumption and making purchases, there are two groups of consumers who are on opposite ends of the spectrum. On one hand, there’s a cohort who finds great joy in making purchases—discovering the latest and greatest products, almost as a form of self-expression. On the opposite end of the spectrum are consumers who are seeking to buy less. They’re re-evaluating their needs and buying with more intention.

This year, Amazon Ads commissioned a survey with Environics Research, a firm that studies the social values that shape consumer trends and behavior. Our goal was to learn about what’s important to today’s consumers, and what they’re seeking from brands. Through our recent Environics Research survey, we learned more about these two consumer groups, the social values that drive them, and how brands can meaningfully connect with each group.

Joyful consumers: aligning purchases with personality

There’s a certain joy that comes with making a purchase, especially for a much-anticipated product—like when a gadget lover purchases the latest smartphone. Or when a makeup enthusiast finds the perfect color palette for a new look. In this respect, purchases are intertwined with consumers’ identities. Their shopping is geared toward self-realization, personal expression, and uniqueness. And when they buy a product or service that reflects a part of them, they experience great joy. In fact, 56% of U.S. consumers and 48% of European consumers agreed with the statement: “To spend money, to buy myself something new, is one of the greatest pleasures in my life.”1

56% of U.S. consumers and 48% of European consumers agreed with the statement: “To spend money, to buy myself something new, is one of the greatest pleasures in my life.”

Advertiser takeaways

Shoppers who find joy in consumption are very receptive to advertising and marketing messages. Six in ten consumers say that they are always on the lookout for new products and services because they like to be among the first ones to try new things (60% U.S., 62% Europe).2 Eight in ten consumers agree that there are specific areas of interest that encourage them to spend (81% U.S., 79% Europe).3 With that in mind, brands should focus on reaching these consumers across channels to meet them at each stage of their shopping journeys. Highlight what’s unique and exciting about your products and services—this group is often seeking to learn how your offerings align with or complement their personalities.

Many conscious consumers are making intentional buying decisions

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s another group of consumers who are seeking to buy less. They’re evaluating their purchases through a lens of ethical consumerism and conscious consumption, asking themselves: “Do I really need this?” “Will this product enhance my life?” “What impact does this purchase have on the planet?”

The social values of consumers driven by conscious consumption

These conscious consumers practice ethical consumerism. They’re willing to base buying decisions on the perceived ethics of the company making the product. These shoppers have a global consciousness, considering themselves "citizens of the world" first and foremost, over "citizens of one's community and country." Similarly, they embrace multiculturalism—they are passionate about the diverse cultures and communities that make up their countries. Conscious consumers often live an ecological lifestyle, evaluating environmental concerns as part of their purchasing criteria. This cohort also has enthusiasm for new technology, and they seek information about the latest products and innovations.

Advertiser takeaways

When conscious consumers make a purchase, they’re doing so with intention. They’re discerning and selective in their shopping, often seeking ethically sourced and produced products: Eight in ten consumers in the U.S. and Europe agree that they are increasingly re-evaluating their needs in order to shop more effectively (79% U.S., 80% Europe).4 Three-quarters have recently modified their way of life to concentrate more on things that are of value (75% U.S., 76% Europe), with four in ten feeling they need to scale back on what they do and buy (45% U.S., 43% Europe).5 In addition, six in ten would rather spend money and time on experiences over products (64% U.S., 59% Europe).6 Given their discernment, conscious consumers may not be the most receptive to marketing messages. However, brands may be able to break through and resonate with these shoppers when they lead with their values (e.g., sustainability and multiculturalism and inclusion).

Whether reaching consumers who thrive on the joys on consumption, or conscious consumers who are seeking to pare down their purchases, brands must authentically and consistently represent themselves in their marketing and advertising. Shoppers on both ends of the spectrum are seeking to purchase from brands that align with their lifestyles, personalities, and values. By telling their stories consistently across channels, brands can make meaningful connections with shoppers from both cohorts.

To gain more insights on connecting with your audiences through values, read our guide, “Higher Impact.


1-6 Environics Research, “Amazon Advertising | Social Values Global Consumer Themes,” U.S., U.K., Spain, France, Germany, Italy, 2021.