Consumer and retailer strategies when choosing from large assortments

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Goodman, Joseph K., 1978-

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Consumers are attracted to large assortments, but they experience negative consequences when they ultimately must make a choice form these large assortments. In Essay 1, four experiments examine whether a common retailer strategy--the use of recommendations such as "best seller" signs--attenuates or exacerbates these negative consequences. Results show that best seller signs can exacerbate decision difficulty and regret as consumers engage in a more extensive consideration of options, and these larger consideration sets are partly due to the increase consideration of non-signed options. The extent to which consumers have developed preferences is a key moderator of the effect of best seller signage on choice from large assortments. For consumers possessing more (less) developed preferences, best seller signage in large assortments increases (decreases) the size of consumer consideration sets and exacerbates (attenuates) decision difficulty and regret. The resultant choice outcome is that best seller signage is more likely to increase the overall quantity purchased when consumers have more compared to less developed preferences. Essay 2 investigates consideration set construction strategies consumers use to narrow down assortments into a more manageable consideration set, particularly when faced with large assortments. Past research proposes that consumers use two strategies to narrow down an assortment: include and exclude. Four experiments show that consumers are more likely to use an include strategy when faced with a large compared to a small assortment. It is argued that this preference for an include consideration set strategy is due to the decrease in relative effort required by an include strategy as the number of options in the set increases. The essay shows that compared to using an exclude strategy, the use of an include strategy leads consumers to (1) form smaller consideration sets, (2) express more (less) positive (negative) thoughts, (3) increase (decrease) the weighting of positive (negative) attributes, and (4) elaborate more on options in the consideration set and less on options not in the consideration set. The implications of using an include versus exclude strategy on final choice are explored and directions for future research are discussed.