When Two Rights Make a Wrong: Searching Too Much in Ordered Environments
Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 42, No. 3, August 2005
11 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2006
In electronic shopping, screening tools are used to sort through many options, assess their fit with a consumer's utility function, and recommend options in a list ordered from predicted best to worst. When the most promising options are at the beginning of the list, even seemingly advantageous factors (e.g., lower search cost, greater selection) that prompt consideration of more options degrade choice quality by (1) lowering the average quality of considered options and (2) lowering customers' selectivity in focusing attention on the more mediocre rather than the better options from the actively considered set. Study 1 shows that lowering search costs diminishes choice quality in an ordered environment. Study 2 shows that presenting consumers with the top 50 rather than the top 15 recommendations has the same effect. Study 3 shows that greater accuracy motivation in combination with lower search cost diminishes choice quality because consumers are encouraged to consider a wider range of options (lower-quality consideration sets), which ultimately leads to worse choices.
Keywords: search cost, choice quality, consumer utility, assortment, selection, selectivity
JEL Classification: D12, D83, M31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation