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Product choice: When are consumers most satisfied?

Date:
November 14, 2012
Source:
Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.
Summary:
Consumers may be less satisfied with the choices they make if their options are presented one at a time rather than all at once, according to a new study.

Consumers may be less satisfied with the choices they make if their options are presented one at a time rather than all at once, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Sequentially presented choices create uncertainty. Consumers know that alternatives will become available in the future, but not what those alternatives will be. So there is always the possibility that a better option could later be available," write authors Cassie Mogilner (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), Baba Shiv (Stanford University), and Sheena Iyengar (Columbia University).

Many decisions -- selecting a bar of soap at the drugstore, an entrιe at a restaurant, or a pair of shoes from Zappos -- involve choosing from options presented all at once. However, many important decisions -- choosing a job, a home, or even who to marry -- involve options presented one at a time. Does the way options are presented affect consumer satisfaction?

In a series of experiments, consumers presented with options one at a time ended up less satisfied with, and ultimately less committed to, their choices than those presented with their options all at once. Consumers presented with their options all at once tended to remain focused on the current set of options and focused on comparing them against each other, whereas those presented with their options one at a time tended to imagine a better option, hoping it would eventually become available. This feeling of hope undermined how they later experienced their choice, resulting in lower satisfaction and commitment levels.

"The primary difference between sequentially and simultaneously presented options is the presence of alternatives. Consumer satisfaction with a chosen option depends less on its objective merits, and more on how it compares to alternatives -- real or imagined. Enjoying the most satisfaction from our choices might require being willing to give up the eternal quest for the best," the authors conclude.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cassie Mogilner, Baba Shiv, and Sheena Iyengar. Eternal Quest for the Best: Sequential (vs. Simultaneous) Option Presentation Undermines Choice Commitment. Journal of Consumer Research, April 2013 [link]

Cite This Page:

Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.. "Product choice: When are consumers most satisfied?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113316.htm>.
Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.. (2012, November 14). Product choice: When are consumers most satisfied?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113316.htm
Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.. "Product choice: When are consumers most satisfied?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113316.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

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