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Vulnerable Communities / Publication Abstract

Consumer Vulnerability

Mar 10, 2020

Ronald Paul Hill, Eesha Sharma

Vulnerable Communities


Consumer vulnerability affects billions of consumers worldwide, yet there is no consensus about what constitutes this state or about its consequences for consumers. Indeed, while consumer vulnerability is often invoked in consumer research, it is usually discussed informally, with little conceptual anchoring. The goal of the current work was to advance the field's understanding of consumer vulnerability by (a) reviewing and integrating existing research, (b) extracting common features to develop a comprehensive framework for the concept of consumer vulnerability, and (c) charting paths forward for future research. We begin by defining consumer vulnerability as a state in which consumers are subject to harm because their access to and control over resources are restricted in ways that significantly inhibit their ability to function in the marketplace. We then introduce two lenses through which to identify this state: experience and observation. Next, we delineate the antecedents and consequences of consumer vulnerability and discuss the merits of adopting a view of this state as more global and dynamic. Finally, we use our framework to offer future research considerations.

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