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The role of social media to generate social proof as engaged society for stockpiling behaviour of customers during Covid-19 pandemic

Muhammad Naeem (Worcester Business School, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 26 October 2020

Issue publication date: 3 August 2021

5891

Abstract

Purpose

The use of social media and information exchange increased during Covid-19 pandemic because people are isolated and working from home. The use of social media enhances information exchange in a global society, therefore customers are uncertain and not in a better position to take decisions before the situation goes worst everywhere in the world. The current study helps to understand how social media facilitate social and global engagement and information exchange which ultimately leads to the development of the customer psychology of stockpiling. This study aims to develop a research framework which helps to understand the customer psychology of stockpiling during a global pandemic.

Design/methodology/approach

This study opted for a social constructionist approach because it can help to understand both individual and social subjective realities with respect to stockpiling behaviour due to the fear and risk of Covid-19 pandemic. For this purpose, the researcher collected data from 40 customers of UK retail stores who actively use social media. The data were collected during telephonic interviews and thematic analysis was used for data analysis.

Findings

Results highlighted that institutional communication and social public interpretation of uncertainties and risk enhanced misinformation and sensationalism through social media platforms; therefore, stockpiling behaviour increased during Covid-19 pandemic. The fear of items being out of stock, illness, misinformation, family fear and going out were some of the possible causes that led to the development of panic stockpiling behaviour. The global uncertainty proof, as well as a public social consensus for staying at home and protecting the future also increased customers’ intention to buy in bulk for their future. Although social media played an important role in transferring relevant and timely information, it also increased uncertainty and social proof which may have led to stockpiling of retail products.

Research limitations/implications

The results of this study are beneficial for understanding how Covid-19 creates and enhances uncertainties and risks at both global and national level which developed into customer panic stockpiling behaviour, even when there is no promotional scheme or decrease in prices. This study helps marketers understand the psychology of customer stockpiling during a global pandemic. This study also helps to understand the role of social media, which promotes social interpretations of uncertainties and risk which ultimately enhance panic stockpiling among customers.

Originality/value

Limited research is available which provides an understanding of how social media can play a role in socially generated uncertainties and risks, which enhance misinformation and sensationalism, as well as the development of stockpiling behaviour. This study provided a stockpiling behaviour model based on the theory of uncertainty and social proof. The results of this study are unique as there is limited literature available which connects social media, uncertainties and risk, Covid-19 pandemic and stockpiling behaviour among educated people.

Keywords

Citation

Naeem, M. (2021), "The role of social media to generate social proof as engaged society for stockpiling behaviour of customers during Covid-19 pandemic", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 281-301. https://doi.org/10.1108/QMR-04-2020-0050

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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