The global population of ageing or elderly citizens (aged 60 and over) was around 800 million in 2012 (UNFPA and HelpAge International, 2012) and accounted for 12% of the global population. The same figure was expected to grow beyond 1 billion by 2020 and the elderly citizens (EC) would constitute an increasingly important segment of world population in the next ten years. Among various research areas concerning the elderly citizens, consumer vulnerability is a recent and important construct for marketers and policy makers to understand the consumption behavior of the elderly citizens. Even though the concept of consumer vulnerability has been discussed as important for understanding the EC behavior (Griffiths and Harmon, 2011), it has not been explored empirically to the best of our knowledge.
In the present study, we try to explore the Perceived Consumption Vulnerability (PCV) construct using an interpretive approach based on empirical data from India. Based on 50 in-depth interviews and 6 focus group discussions of ECs conducted in two large Indian cities, we used a grounded theory methodology to understand the Perceived Consumption Vulnerability (PCV) construct.
The results suggested a five dimensional formative structure for PCV with the dimensions being Physical, Financial, Social, Technological and Service Vulnerability contributing to PCV. Our findings suggest PCV as a formative construct with the five dimensions being its causes. The findings also suggested effect of PCV on consumption variables such as search cost, choice evaluation, consumption and overall satisfaction. Life stage was found to moderate the effect of PCV on search costs and choice evaluation.
The major contribution of the present study is the exploration of the Perceived Consumer Vulnerability (PCV) construct for the Elderly Citizens and its dimensions. The propositions developed in the study could be tested in future studies using a quantitative approach. The findings call for compassion from the marketers while dealing with the ECs and a separate service strategy that addresses the specific needs of the ECs. The findings also call for public policy action to protect the consumption rights of the ECs to reduce their consumption vulnerability. The present study has scope for further research in various aspects of EC consumer behavior.
Keywords: Perceived Consumption Vulnerability (PCV), Elderly Citizens, Qualitative Research, Conceptual Model, India.