How often do you release information about your meeting or event by piecemeal? Or do you wait until everything is ready before letting attendees know the details?
If you're in the piecemeal category, you could be doing yourself—and your event—a disservice. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers may be less satisfied with the choices they make if their options are presented one at a time rather than all at once.
“Sequentially presented choices create uncertainty. Consumers know that alternatives will become available in the future, but not what those alternatives will be. So there is always the possibility that a better option could later be available,” wrote authors Cassie Mogilner (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), Baba Shiv (Stanford University) and Sheena Iyengar (Columbia University).
Many decisions—such as a book at a store, an entrée at a restaurant or a pair of shoes—involve choosing from options presented all at once. However, many important decisions—such as choosing a job, a home or even who to marry—involve options presented one at a time.
In a series of experiments, consumers presented with options one at a time ended up less satisfied with, and ultimately less committed to, their choices than those presented with their options all at once. Consumers presented with their options all at once tended to remain focused on the current set of options and focused on comparing them against each other, whereas those presented with their options one at a time tended to imagine a better option, hoping it would eventually become available. This feeling of hope undermined how they later experienced their choice, resulting in lower satisfaction and commitment levels.
“The primary difference between sequentially and simultaneously presented options is the presence of alternatives," the authors wrote. "Consumer satisfaction with a chosen option depends less on its objective merits, and more on how it compares to alternatives—real or imagined. Enjoying the most satisfaction from our choices might require being willing to give up the eternal quest for the best."
What are your thoughts about the way options are presented and overall satisfaction?
(Story materials from The University of Chicago Press.)