Moving Through Time: How Past and Future Connections Impact Consumer Decisions
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Moving Through Time: How Past and Future Connections Impact Consumer Decisions

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Abstract

Consumers often fail to save at the rate they say they want to, and my research looks at this problem from a persuasive messaging standpoint. In Chapter 1, I examine time-based behavioral appeals to help consumers reach their long-term financial goals. I test a novel intervention: instead of going forward to the future, try going back to the present. Our research suggests that where participants start their trip through time affects the financial decisions they make. To test these ideas in the field, I conducted two large-scale field studies with FinTech companies. Our partners used this research in their marketing efforts. While Chapter 1, goes back to the present, with the goal of connecting the future self to the present self, Chapter 2 goes further back in time: to the past, with the goal of exploring the connecting between the present self and the collective past. In this chapter, I examine the role of the past in consumers’ trading decisions. Specifically, I investigate how heritage – a connection to a shared past – drives consumer valuations in market transactions between buyers and sellers. In an incentive-compatible study, I find that sellers have a lower willingness-to-accept (WTA) for heritage goods when selling to buyers with a shared heritage connection relative to buyers without heritage connection (i.e., a heritage discount). Further, I find that this heritage discount holds after controlling for buyer’s usage and cannot be explained by a pre-existing relationship between buyer and seller. This heritage discount leads to a WTA/WTP asymmetry where sellers have a lower WTA for connected buyers, while perceiving that connected buyers have a higher valuation and a high willingness-to-pay (WTP) for their good. Finally, in an incentive-compatible study, I find that heritage loss (the difference in heritage connection between seller and buyer) fully mediates the discount connected buyers receive. an incentive-compatible study using real goods. Overall, this research contributes to the financial decision-making literature, the sharing literature, and the literature on the endowment effect. My findings have marketing implications for both financial savings products and for consumer goods (e.g., collectibles) that derive product value by connecting consumers to history and to traditions that matter. The goal of this stream of research is to go beyond exploring atomized connection between the present and the future and the present and the past to reach a broader understanding of how we as human beings connect to ourselves across time. The past and the future are not disconnected realms of memory and imagination. They are inextricably linked. Our imagination of the world to come and our own individual futures builds on our memory of both our individual past and to our psychological connection to a longer, collective past that extends far beyond the self.

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This item is under embargo until December 14, 2023.