We've got your number: Consumers choose products with more technical specs

December 15, 2008

Many products have numbers attached: megapixels for cameras, wattage ratings for stereos, cotton counts for sheets. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that consumers are heavily influenced by quantitative specifications, even meaningless ones.

"We find that even when buyers can directly experience the underlying attributes and the specifications carry little or no additional information, they are still heavily influenced by the specifications," write authors Christopher K. Hsee (University of Chicago), Yang Yang, Yangjie Gu, and Jie Chen (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China).

In the five related studies, researchers asked participants to choose between two options of digital cameras, towels, sesame oil, cell phones, and potato chips. In every study, participants preferred the products with the most specifications.

"The tendency to seek specifications is tested and confirmed in several studies involving different product categories. In one of the studies, for example, we asked participants themselves to generate specifications on the basis of their experiences," write the authors. "Hence, by design, the specifications carried no additional information beyond what the experience conveyed."

While the participants clearly chose products with more specifications, they didn't necessarily like the products more after they chose them.

"This research yields both theoretical implications for how preferences are formed, and practical implications for how marketers can use specifications to influence consumer choice and how consumers can resist such influences," the authors conclude.
-end-
Christopher K. Hsee, Yang Yang, Yangjie Gu, and Jie Chen. "Specification Seeking: How Product Specifications Influence Consumer Preference." Journal of Consumer Research: April 2009.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Consumers Articles from Brightsurf:

When consumers trust AI recommendations--or resist them
The key factor in deciding how to incorporate AI recommenders is whether consumers are focused on the functional and practical aspects of a product (its utilitarian value) or on the experiential and sensory aspects of a product (its hedonic value).

Do consumers enjoy events more when commenting on them?
Generating content increases people's enjoyment of positive experiences.

Why consumers think pretty food is healthier
People tend to think that pretty-looking food is healthier (e.g., more nutrients, less fat) and more natural (e.g., purer, less processed) than ugly-looking versions of the same food.

How consumers responded to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for laying out the different threats that consumers face, and that consumers must prepare themselves for a constantly shifting landscape moving forward.

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.

In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.

Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.

Read More: Consumers News and Consumers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.