How Product Specifications Influence Consumer Preference

Abstract (Via UC)

We offer a framework about when and how specifications (e.g., megapixels of a camera and number of air bags in a massage chair) influence consumer preferences and report five studies that test the framework. Studies 1–3 show that even when consumers can directly experience the relevant products and the specifications carry little or no new information, their preference is still influenced by specifications, including specifications that are self-generated and by definition spurious and specifications that the respondents themselves deem uninformative. Studies 4 and 5 show that relative to choice, hedonic preference (liking) is more stable and less influenced by specifications.

Introduction (Via UC)

This article seeks to address a marketing-relevant yet largely under-studied topic—how quantitative specifications influence consumer preferences. Virtually all consumer products carry quantitative specifications—numbers that describe their underlying attributes. Examples include the ISO rating of print film, the resolution (pixel count) of a digital camera, the output wattage of an audio amplifier, the calorie count of a serving of cookies, the number of air bags in a massage chair, the contrast ratio of a computer monitor, the horsepower of a sports car, and so on. Such specification information is ubiquitous—it is printed on the box of a product or on the body of the product itself, it is circulated in advertisements, it is posted online, and it is communicated to us by our friends. Despite their widespread existence, however, we know little about how quantitative specifications affect consumer behavior. This article seeks to fill this gap.

Findings (Via UC)

Again, take the purchase of a digital camera for example. We recommend the following. First, the buyers should ignore megapixel ratings. Instead, they should try to acquire some representative photos from the cameras they are considering buying and “experience” these photos. Second, when experiencing these photos, the buyers should refrain from comparing them side by side. Instead, they should look at the set of photos taken by one camera and form an overall impression. Then, take a break and view the set of photos taken by another camera and form an overall impression. The buyer should then buy the camera that leaves the better overall impression.

Was Shakespeare wrong when he wrote, “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”? According to our research, the answer depends on what he meant by “as sweet.” If he meant that people will be equally inclined to buy roses if roses are called something else, then he seemed to be wrong. Our research suggests that decisions are susceptible to the influence of external descriptions. However, if he meant that people will equally enjoy roses if roses are called something else, which we suppose is indeed what he meant, then he was probably correct. Our research indicates that liking is more impervious to the influence of external descriptions. After all, it is hard to outsmart Shakespeare.

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About Miguel Barbosa

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18. December 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Behavioral Economics, Curated Readings | Leave a comment

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