Purchase Justification and Product Neglect

Cheryl Winokur Munk argues in The Wall Street Journal that, when a new model of a smartphone is mainly about how the product looks, we’re more likely to be careless than when a model offers technological improvements:

When new models of a phone are released, consumers are likely to become more careless with their current device—perhaps unconsciously so—because if it were to break, that would give them a good reason to lay out the money for a new one.

People need justification to act. A study says new technology doesn’t seem as wasteful to consumers and so it gives them a defensible reason to buy the new one—and, thus, less incentive to be careless with their old one. Similarly, the study found that when an upgrade is mainly about how the product looks, consumers are more likely to be careless, because the consumer has a more difficult time justifying spending on a new model.

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