Have consumers escaped from COVID-19 restrictions by seeking variety? A Machine Learning approach analyzing wine purchase behavior in the United States
The COVID-19 pandemic itself constitutes an environment for people to experience the potential loss of control and freedom due to social distancing measures and other government orders. Variety-seeking has been treated as a mechanism to regain a sense of self-control. Using Machine Learning model and household-level data with a focus on the wine market in the United States, this study showcases the changing variety-seeking behavior over the pandemic year of 2020, in which people’s perception of the status of restriction measures influences the degree of their use of variety-seeking behavior as a coping strategy. It is the shopping pattern and store environments that drive the behavioral responses in wine purchases to freedom-limited circumstances. Coupon use is associated with a lower variety-seeking tendency at the beginning of the stay-at-home order, but the variety level resumes when more time has passed in the restriction periods. Variety-seeking tendency increases with shopping frequency at the beginning of the social distancing measure but decreases to a level lower than all the non-restriction periods.