Filling in the blanks: Consumers want complete information to make choices

October 14, 2008

Most people don't like to make a purchase without complete information about the product they're buying. For example, if someone comparing wireless plans doesn't know the coverage area, she may be more likely to walk away from the purchase.

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research examines the way consumers behave when information about a purchase is incomplete. Authors Kunter Gunasti and William T. Ross, Jr. (Pennsylvania State University) suggest that there are ways for marketers to reduce the number of customers who leave empty handed.

According to the authors, shoppers need to learn to make inferences about missing information. "This research demonstrates that both explicitly and implicitly prompting consumers to make inferences about the missing attributes reduces the tendency to defer choices and increases the likelihood that consumers will make a purchase decision," the authors explain. "In parallel, consumers who generate spontaneous inferences are also more likely to make a purchase decision."

In a series of studies, the researchers asked participants to make choices among health clubs, wireless service providers, and laptops. Some participants had complete information and others did not have access to certain attributes of the options, like the fees or contract areas for wireless plans. A striking 31 percent of people chose a "no-choice" option when information was missing. In subsequent studies, researchers asked some participants to fill in the blanks of missing attributes. Fewer of the people asked to make inferences selected "no choice."

"Marketers can easily apply these methods in many purchase contexts. For instance, when shopping in retail stores, consumers can be covertly prompted to make inferences by sales people or in-store displays, and this may decrease the probability that they leave the store without making a purchase decision," the authors conclude.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Enjoyment motivates people to participate in the sharing economy

Related Stories

Improved farm animal welfare – added value or a necessity?

August 10, 2015

Several years ago I started to study an economic issue related to farm animal welfare. Quite soon I realized that this issue can trigger an intensive discussion and receive attention among citizens and in the media. Almost ...

Recommended for you

X-rays reveal fossil secrets

September 3, 2015

A sophisticated imaging technique has allowed scientists to virtually peer inside a 10-million-year-old sea urchin, uncovering a treasure trove of hidden fossils.

Early human diet explains our eating habits

August 31, 2015

Much attention is being given to what people ate in the distant past as a guide to what we should eat today. Advocates of the claimed palaeodiet recommend that we should avoid carbohydrates and load our plates with red meat ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.