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To choose or not to choose. A matter of assortment complexity? - A study about the influence of assortment complexity on choice overload and the role of counterfactual thinking and shopping orientation.

Nomden, Chantal (2013) To choose or not to choose. A matter of assortment complexity? - A study about the influence of assortment complexity on choice overload and the role of counterfactual thinking and shopping orientation.

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Abstract:The offered amount of products in supermarkets and drug stores is still expanding as retailers believe ‘the more choice is the better’. This results in more and more complex assortments. When the assortment complexity is high, consumers might experience difficulties in making the right product choice. It is called choice overload when decision making from complex assortments leads to negative consequences like regret and choice deferral and subsequently results in low satisfaction with the chosen product. Several researchers argue that choice overload will only occur when consumers are uncertain about their preference. The aim of this study was to confirm this finding and to investigate how two personal characteristics (i.e. counterfactual thinking and shopping orientation) were involved in the choice overload effect. After conducting a preliminary focus group study to determine the product group to do research in, 258 females participated in an online 2x3 experiment. In this experiment variety (2) and size (3) of the hairstyling assortment were manipulated resulting in six different conditions to which participants were randomly assigned. Results of the current study show that high assortment complexity leads to greater expectations, positive consequences and higher satisfaction until pref erence uncertainty is taken into account. When participants are uncertain about their preference, complex assortments lead to lower satisfaction and more negative consequences compared to participants who do have a strong preference. In line with previous studies, complex assortments lead in this case indeed to lower satisfaction. However, this study shows that the lowered satisfaction obtained from complex assortments, while experiencing preference uncertainty, is still higher than satisfaction obtained from less complex assortments. Moreover, the study shows that satisfaction obtained from less complex assortments is also decreasing when preference uncertainty is experienced. This might suggest that personal characteristics are more important than thought. Shopping orientation and counterfactual thinking showed to interact between the assortment complexity and satisfaction with the chosen product. Consumers who often look back at their choices and regret them (counterfactual thinking) or consumers who do not enjoy shopping (utilitarian shopping orientation) experience more choice difficulty and negative consequences than others. Therefore, personality seems to be more important in explaining the choice overload effect than assortment complexity. For future research it is therefore recommended to focus on the role of personal characteristics in the decision making process rather than the assortment complexity.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/63462
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