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posted on 28.04.2021, 14:24 by Claudia Vogrincic-Haselbacher, Joachim I. Krueger, Brigitta Lurger, Isabelle Dinslaken, Julian Anslinger, Florian Caks, Arnd Florack, Hilmar Brohmer, Ursula Athenstaedt

When deciding on an online purchase, consumers often face a plethora of information. Yet, individuals consumers differ greatly in the amount of information they are willing and able to acquire and process before making purchasing decisions. Extensively processing all available information does not necessarily promote good decisions. Instead, the empirical evidence suggests that reviewing too much information or too many choice alternatives can impair decision quality. Using simulated contract conclusion scenarios, we identify distinctive types of information processing styles and find that certain search and selection strategies predict the quality of the final choice. Participants (N = 363) chose a cellular service contract in a web-based environment that closely resembled actual online settings in the country of study. Using information processing data obtained with tracking software, we identify three consumer segments differing along two dimensions – the extent dimension, referring to the overall effort invested in information processing, and the focus dimension, referring to the degree to which someone focuses on the best available options. The three subgroups of respondents can be characterized as follows: (1) consumers with a low-effort and low-focus information processing strategy (n = 137); (2) consumers with a moderate-effort and high-focus information processing strategy (n = 124); and (3) consumers with high-effort and low-focus information processing strategy (n = 102). The three groups differed not only in their information processing but also in the quality of their decisions. In line with the assumption of ecological rationality, most successful search strategies were not exhaustive, but instead involved the focused selection and processing of a medium amount of information. Implications for effective consumer information are provided.

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