Feasible versus desirable market offerings: the role of choice set size

Publication Name

European Journal of Marketing


Purpose: This paper aims to find out what product features become salient when consumers are exposed to many market offerings, demonstrating how choice set size influences construal mindset, which then affects the type of product consumers choose. Design/methodology/approach: Experiment 1 provides preliminary evidence that being exposed to a large (vs small) choice set may drive people to focus more on the feasibility (i.e. a secondary feature) of a product and less on the desirability (i.e. a primary feature) when making a choice. Experiment 2 unveils the serial mediating roles of construal level and importance of price/design. Findings: Consumers are more likely to select feasible (i.e. affordable) market offerings and not desirable (i.e. well-designed) ones when choosing from a large (vs small) choice set. This effect is serially mediated by mental construals and by the importance of price or design. Choosing from a large (vs small) choice set leads to low-level mental construals, which increase the importance of price (a feasibility attribute) while decreasing the importance of design (a desirability attribute), resulting in choice of feasible (affordable) market offerings over well-designed ones. Research limitations/implications: Although consumers generally focus on the desirability of a choice or an action, choosing from large choice sets makes them focus more on the feasibility of market offerings because of low-level mental construals. Practical implications: In today’s era of e-commerce, as consumers are exposed to too many product offerings, retailers should emphasize the feasibility of their market offerings (e.g. affordability) to increase the chance that consumers purchase their products. This research shows that people rely very much on product price to make selections when provided with a large choice set. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this research is the first to show that large choice sets make consumers choose affordable products over well-designed ones and introduces the serial mediation effect of construal level and importance of price/design. Accordingly, this research establishes that large choice sets activate low-level mental construals, which associate with a feasibility mindset that ultimately makes consumers choose an affordable product instead of a well-designed one. It adds to the literature on choice overload by showing that the importance of price overshadows the importance of design (aesthetics) when people are exposed to large choice sets.

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