Consumer Coping Strategy And Research

As consumers, we often face various challenges that make making informed decisions about products and services difficult. Whether dealing with information overload, coping with negative experiences, or navigating complex purchasing decisions, consumers need effective coping strategies to manage these challenges. This is where consumer coping research comes in - a field of study that aims to understand how consumers cope with various challenges and to develop strategies to help them make better choices.

State of Consumer Coping Research

The study of consumer coping strategies has been ongoing for several decades, with researchers investigating various aspects of coping, including the types of coping strategies used, the effectiveness of these strategies, and how they vary across different contexts. One of the most widely used frameworks in this area of research is the Lazarus and Folkman model, which posits that coping strategies fall into two broad categories: problem-focused and emotion-focused. Problem-focused coping involves tackling the problem head-on, such as seeking information or advice.

In contrast, emotion-focused coping involves managing the emotions that arise from the problem, such as seeking social support or engaging in distraction. Researchers have used this framework to investigate various aspects of consumer coping, such as how consumers cope with product failures, service failures, and negative feedback.

Consumer coping research has been a significant area of study for several decades. Early research focused on how consumers cope with negative experiences, such as product failures or service disruptions. This research identified a range of coping strategies, including seeking social support, taking action to address the problem, and avoiding the situation altogether.

More recent research has expanded the focus of consumer coping research to include a broader range of challenges consumers face. For example, researchers have examined consumer coping strategies to deal with information overload, uncertainty, and complexity. This research has identified coping strategies, such as seeking additional information, relying on heuristics, and simplifying decision-making processes. Despite the progress made in consumer coping research, there still needs to be significant gaps in our understanding of how consumers cope with various challenges. For example, research on information overload has primarily focused on using search engines and other online tools, leaving unanswered questions about how consumers cope with information overload in other contexts.

A Historical Context for Modern Coping Scholarship

One source of coping knowledge is the prominent writings of early psychoanalysts, arguably none more significant than Freud. Freud imagined a more extensive process of adaptation and motivation that included hidden subconscious processes, subsequently called defensive mechanisms. Although many of these subconscious processes mirror modern-day "coping techniques," Freud did not believe these processes to be volitionally performed. He did not hypothesize an emotional-cognitive evaluation network, the foundation of contemporary coping theories. Despite these modest beginnings, the psychoanalytic method has tremendously impacted the development of coping studies.

An alternative classical perspective on coping emerged from a humanistic psychology approach, best articulated by Maslow. Maslow recognized two types of human behavior: coping and expressing. Coping behaviors include all purposeful, motivated activities that respond to external environmental and cultural factors, whereas expressive behaviors are unmotivated, noninstrumental, and performed to reflect internal moods.

According to Maslow, the same activity might be classified as coping or expressive, depending on the individual's reasons. For example, a customer may shop for new clothes to meet demand, such as looking great at work or impressing others. Alternatively, if the same customer found such encounters pleasurable, their buying may be considered expressive.

Maslow's definition of coping contains many conceptual connections with contemporary coping theories that will be discussed shortly. Like the present transactional model, Maslow's concept of coping behaviors believes that such actions often originate from modifying need states and being effortful, aware, and learned. He defined coping behaviors as attempts to influence the world, automatic reactions humans use to exert control over their surroundings. On the other hand, he thought that expressive actions indicated something more profound about the one expressing them.

Maslow believes that expressive actions enable the identification of psychological events, whereas coping behaviors include worldly phenomena. He thought expressive acts revealed more about a person's character and psyche. Maslow advocated different theories and studies into expressive behaviors, notwithstanding his influential publications on coping.

Clinical psychology study on adaptation was the source of a second classic method that substantially influenced modern coping research. Adaptive activity in response to environmental stress was observed in all living species, according to this viewpoint. This comprehensive concept of stress included all environmental changes influencing the organism.

These adaptive processes were distinguished by the promotion of two basic stress orientations: one directed at impelling the organism towards a perceived source of stress (a vigilance or approach orientation) and one directed at impelling the organism away from a perceived source of stress (an aversive orientation). This traditional motivational difference can still be seen in current coping theories, and more will be said about it later.

Prospects of Consumer Coping Research

Consumer coping research has the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of consumer behavior. For example, by identifying the coping strategies that are most effective in particular contexts, researchers can develop interventions that help consumers cope with stress and uncertainty more effectively. Moreover, by investigating the antecedents and consequences of coping, researchers can identify the factors influencing coping and the outcomes resulting from effective and ineffective coping.

One promising area of research in consumer coping is the investigation of coping in the context of online shopping. As e-commerce grows in popularity, consumers are increasingly exposed to various stressors, such as uncertainty about product quality, security concerns, and delivery issues. Researchers have begun investigating how consumers cope with these stressors and have identified various coping strategies, such as seeking information from multiple sources, using third-party payment services, and engaging in online communities.

Prescriptions for Consumer Coping Research

To advance our understanding of consumer coping, researchers need to adopt a range of approaches, including both qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative methods, such as in-depth interviews and focus groups, can help researchers identify consumers' coping strategies and the factors that influence their coping. Quantitative methods, such as surveys and experiments, can help to test hypotheses and identify the relationships between coping and other variables.

Moreover, to ensure that research in this area is relevant and valuable, researchers should aim to collaborate with practitioners and policymakers. Researchers and practitioners can develop interventions that help consumers cope with stress and uncertainty more effectively by working together. Policymakers can use the insights generated by research to develop policies that support consumers in coping with consumption challenges.

There is tremendous potential for future research in the field of consumer coping. As consumer behavior becomes increasingly complex, the need for effective coping strategies will only continue to grow. Researchers can help address this need by developing new strategies to help consumers cope with various challenges. One promising area of research is using technology to help consumers cope with challenges.

For example, researchers have explored using chatbots to provide consumers with real-time support and guidance. This technology has the potential to help consumers navigate complex purchasing decisions, cope with negative experiences, and manage information overload. Another area of research with significant potential is using mindfulness techniques to help consumers cope with stress and anxiety related to consumer decision-making. Mindfulness-based interventions effectively reduce stress and anxiety in various contexts and could be adapted to help consumers cope with decision-making stress.

Prescriptions for Consumer Coping

While there is still much to learn about how consumers cope with various challenges, several strategies have already been shown to be effective. Consumers can use these strategies to improve their coping skills and make better decisions. One effective coping strategy is seeking social support. Consumers with a strong support network can better cope with negative experiences and make informed decisions. This support network can be made up of friends, family members, or online communities. Another effective coping strategy is seeking out additional information.

Consumers who take the time to research products and services before making a decision are more likely to make informed choices. This can involve reading reviews, comparing prices, and talking to experts. Simplifying decision-making processes is also an effective coping strategy. Consumers who break down complex decisions into smaller, more manageable steps can better cope with decision-making stress. This can involve creating a list of pros and cons, prioritizing decision criteria, and setting realistic goals.


Consumer coping research is an important area of study that has the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of consumer behavior. By investigating the coping strategies that consumers use, the factors that influence their coping, and the outcomes that result from effective and ineffective coping, researchers can develop interventions that help consumers cope with stress and uncertainty more effectively.

To achieve this, researchers need to adopt various approaches, collaborate with practitioners and policymakers, and continue to investigate emerging areas of interest, such as coping in online shopping. Consumer coping research is a critical field of study that can help consumers navigate the challenges of modern consumer behavior.

While there is still much to learn about how consumers cope with various challenges, researchers and consumers alike can use existing strategies to make better decisions and cope with the stress of decision-making by continuing to explore new coping strategies and technologies.

Updated on: 29-Mar-2023


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