Do consumers evaluate cell phones differently if the warranty is expressed in years or days?

November 13, 2012

Different units can be used to describe product features, but what may seem a rather arbitrary choice may have profound consequences for consumer product evaluations, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Consumers find it easier to process information expressed in default units and attribute the positive feeling associated with easier understanding to the product itself," write authors Christophe Lembregts and Mario Pandelaere (both Ghent University).

Would you evaluate a differently if its warranty was expressed in days instead of years? Most consumers are more accustomed to seeing warranty information described in years rather than in days. So consumers find it is easier to process the information when a warranty is described in years instead of days, resulting in a more positive evaluation of the product. But why do consumers prefer standard units?

In a series of studies, the authors found that switching from standard to alternative units may negatively impact how consumers evaluate products. For example, a product with a warranty of 731 days was rated more negatively than a product with a warranty of 2 years, despite the fact that these warranties are equivalent.

However, this mainly occurred when a product was shown in isolation. When multiple products were compared, consumers focused more on the numerical difference between features. For instance, a of 731 days may appear strange when you see it alone in an advertisement. But if you were to compare this product to others with warranties of 550 or 365 days, your focus would shift to the numerical difference between warranties.

" prefer to receive product information in small numbers, but also want this information to provide sufficient distinction between products. Default units strike an optimal balance between both needs by providing specific product information in rather small but accurate numbers. Because default units best serve these two purposes, they are more frequently used than alternative units," the authors conclude.

Explore further: Test-drive: Using a product before buying it changes what you want

More information: Christophe Lembregts and Mario Pandelaere. "Are All Units Created Equal? The Effect of Default Units on Product Evaluations." Journal of Consumer Research: April 2013.

Related Stories

Early product launches: How will consumers respond?

April 19, 2011

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research explains why consumers often indicate they are willing to pay more for a product that is not yet available—but are reluctant to pay that price when the product is ultimately ...

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

How experienced buyers can mitigate economic bubbles

November 19, 2015

(—Over the last decade, many people got a tough primer on the effects of economic bubbles, as the bursting of the 2007-2008 housing bubble sent shockwaves through most of the major world economies. But property ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.


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.