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(Not) Near & Dear

November 5, 2021
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To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives would be an understatement. Researchers at UofL’s College of Business – professors Michael Barone, Mina Kwon, and Andrew Manikas – have studied how COVID-19 influences consumers’ preferences for products and services that internet searches identify as being available “near” them or in more geographically distant retail locations.

Though various interventions (stay-at-home orders, social distancing measures) are designed to stem the movement of individuals to reduce COVID-19 transmission, can the social isolation and loneliness associated with these interventions affect how consumers evaluate “near” and “not near” products? According to a recent paper published by these authors in the Journal for the Association of Consumer Research, while consumers typically prefer “near me” offerings that provide greater convenience, COVID-19-induced isolation and loneliness heighten one’s need for social connection, increasing the attractiveness of “not near” offerings.

These results offer important policy implications for decision-makers to consider in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, these findings suggest that the isolation associated with COVID-19 can lead to unintended consequences of consumers seeking out “not near” offerings that can make them more, rather than less, geographically mobile – behaviors that run counter to those encouraged by these policies.

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