How Product Specifications Influence Consumer Preference

Interesting study addressing a marketing-relevant yet largely under-studied topic of how quantitative specifications influence consumer preferences. In many situations, quantitative specifications provide useful information. If you're buying a laptop online, it helps to know if the laptop is 3 pounds or 5 pounds. Under this scenario the quantitative information is highly informative and should be used to guide decisions. In other situations, however, we can immediately and directly experience “the consequences of using the products under consideration, and at the same time (we) are unfamiliar with the provided specifications and do not know how to translate these numbers to their consumption experience.” In these situations, the specifications carry little or no additional useful information.

Consider purchasing a stereo system in an audio store: we can turn the stereo on and listen yet few of us have the knowledge of how specifications such as “an output power of 200 watts” or “a distortion rate of 0.08%” relate to the listening experience. In this scenario specifications convey little or no additional information to help the purchaser “predict their future consumption experience beyond what they have already known by directly trying the product.” So it seems reasonable that in these situations buyers should base their purchase on their direct experiences rather than on the quantitative specifications. But that's not what we do:

We offer a framework about when and how specifications (e.g., megapixels of a camera and number of air bags in a massage chair) influence consumer preferences and report five studies that test the framework. Studies 1-3 show that even when consumers can directly experience the relevant products and the specifications carry little or no new information, their preference is still influenced by specifications, including specifications that are self-generated and by definition spurious and specifications that the respondents themselves deem uninformative. Studies 4 and 5 show that relative to choice, hedonic preference (liking) is more stable and less influenced by specifications.

Related: Do seductive details interfere with your comprehension?

Source: Specification Seeking: How Product Specifications Influence Consumer Preference