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Too Much Variety Can Hurt the Value of a Product

Researchers suggest marketers should avoid asking consumers to "think of their 'various experiences' with a product." It may lead to negative reviews.

Consumers like a product that can give them everything in one package. Value they call it. Take smartphones, for example: It’s a camera, computer, phone — we use it for work and for play, and people seem to love their smartphones. But a new study in the Journal of Marketing Research indicates that certain kinds of variety may be bad for business, leading consumers to be unsatisfied with a product.

Authors Jordan Etkin and Aner Sela write:

“Consumers often use the same product in the same way in multiple situations, and these situations may differ in variety. Across many different products and usage scenarios, we found the same result: When people perceived more variety among a product’s usage situations, they liked the product less.”

The researchers conducted an experiment asking participants to fill out a product evaluation relating to their shoes. They inquired what they did while wearing their shoes — did they use them just for walking (not much variety) or did they wear them while walking, hiking, completing home improvement projects (high variety)?

A pattern emerged: Consumers like a product less when they use them to complete a wide variety of tasks. Low-variety scenarios (e.g., walking the dog, walking to work, and walking to the grocery store) made the consumer feel they were getting a lot of value out of their product. Whereas a high variety (e.g., walking the dog, flying on airplanes, and doing home improvement projects) made them feel they weren’t getting much use out of their shoes.

This research has implications for how marketers may choose to word customer feedback surveys or rating systems. They write:

“For example, asking consumers to think of their ‘various experiences’ with a product may accidentally lead consumers to remember a wide variety of different usage situations, feel they had used the product less often, and consequently give it a lower rating. And contrary to what might be expected, advertising that portrays usage as more repetitive may lead current customers to feel that they are getting more use from the product, which should increase loyalty and repeat purchases.”

Read more at Science Daily.

Photo credit: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/ Getty Images


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