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Small Quantity? Then I Expect Quality.

September 30, 2009  

As we approach the holiday season, wary merchants may be limiting their inventories so as not to be left with huge amounts of unsold product in the new year.

The challenge for marketers: How do you make a more limited array of product options still draw customers in? New research says the answer lies in touting product quality.

In a series of experiments, these researchers investigated how consumer choice among retailers offering various-sized assortments is influenced by the attractiveness of the options in those assortments. In other words, which counts most: quantity or quality?

In one test, seminar participants were given the choice of ordering a sandwich from one of two sandwich shops at lunchtime. The "Black Forest" shop offered just 9 different sandwiches, while the "Prairie Moon" shop offered 38. One group was told that both shops received a high consumer rating; another group was told that both shops received a relatively low rating. Results:

  • 13.3% of participants selected the smaller assortment when choosing between sandwich shops offering "less attractive" options.
  • 40% selected the smaller assortment when choosing between shops offering "more attractive" options.

The researchers conducted other quantity/quality choice experiments with products such as jam, CDs, even designer water. Across the board, their results showed that:

  • Smaller assortments tend to be preferred when the overall attractiveness of the options in the choice set is relatively high. (Think boutique.)
  • Larger assortments tend to be preferred when they comprise relatively less-attractive options. (Think dollar store.)

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