WSJ Article Review

Published 03 Oct 2017

From McClelland’s theory of learned needs we know that in their choice of products and services consumers seek affiliation, power, and achievement. Consumers who seek affiliation are more prone to search for harmonious relationships with other people or social groups. In this context, Liew (2009) provides an interesting review of motivational factors that stand behind consumers” desire to buy virtual goods.

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For Liew (2009), people buy digital goods for the three distinct reasons: to be able to do more, to build relationships, and to establish their identity. First, by purchasing digital goods, consumers try to establish themselves as more functional members of society; ‘just as I might buy special virtual tires for my virtual car so that it too can corner better’ (Liew 2009). As long as customers strive to acquire more individual and decision-making power, they are more likely to seek self-realization through purchasing virtual goods, due to the simple fact that everyone wants to win (Liew 2009). Furthermore, customers are likely to use digital purchases as the instrument of building relationships. Liew (2009) discusses the two bright examples of Facebook and MeetMe dating websites, where consumers are offered $1 virtual birthday gifts. In this situation, both the gifts receiver and the gifts sender look forward to establishing closer relationships with each other, and the customer sincerely believes that making a purchase will help him (her) stand out of the crowd (Liew 2009).

Finally, and Liew (2009) pays special attention to this aspect of consumer behavior, virtual goods are used as the tools of establishing one”s identity. In other words, people spend more time in virtual worlds and games searching to affiliate themselves with well known brands or virtual personalities. ‘The reasons that people buy things don”t change. However, as they spend more time online, they spend more money in online venues’ (Liew 2009). In this context, online purchases are made for the same reasons for which real world purchases are: to give us power, to build strong affiliation ties, and to establish the sense of individuality and identity among the grey mass of other consumers (Liew 2009).


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