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Online Shoppers Still Feel Embarrassment
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Let’s set the scene: You are a regular consumer who just had a wild night of partying. You wake up in an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar person.


You know what kind of consequences you could come under, so you decide that getting a test kit is the right way to go.

Except — do you go in person to get it? What if you’re waiting in line and a person you know from church sees you?

So you search for the test kit online. Perfect!

Or is it?

A new study out of Indiana University suggests that consumers who purchase personal products online feel almost as much embarrassment when at home as they would if purchasing that same product in public. The implications are interesting, for this study could make marketers rethink how they promote these sensitive products.

Yes, the study went out to see if embarrassment can be felt in a private setting, or if it is solely a reaction in a social setting. It suggests that we feel embarrassed when we are alone because we are judging ourselves, rather than thinking others are judging us in the public setting.

What does this mean? It means that those consumers who are too embarrassed to buy certain products in the store (medical & personal hygiene products) would be too embarrassed to buy them online. Yes, the experience is still uncomfortable. How interesting!

What can marketers do? The study suggests that marketers must shift the cultural and social norms to make the purchases less embarrassing. If the marketing can add social proof to it, then the experience will be less painful (or embarrassing, in this case), making the purchase more likely.

Obviously, easier said than done.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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