PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
On Consumer Decision Strategies: New Approaches for Studying and Aiding Preferential Choices
Mast F., Hoffrage U.
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques
Quartier Dorigny Bâtiment Anthropole
This dissertation focuses on the strategies consumers use when making purchase decisions. It is organized in two main parts, one centering on descriptive and the other on applied decision making research. In the ﬁrst part, a new process tracing tool called InterActive Process Tracing (IAPT) is pre- sented, which I developed to investigate the nature of consumers' decision strategies. This tool is a combination of several process tracing techniques, namely Active Information Search, Mouselab, and retrospective verbal protocol. To validate IAPT, two experiments on mobile phone purchase de- cisions were conducted where participants ﬁrst repeatedly chose a mobile phone and then were asked to formalize their decision strategy so that it could be used to make choices for them. The choices made by the identiﬁed strategies correctly predicted the observed choices in 73% (Experiment 1) and 67% (Experiment 2) of the cases. Moreover, in Experiment 2, Mouselab and eye tracking were directly compared with respect to their impact on information search and strategy description. Only minor diﬀerences were found between these two methods. I conclude that IAPT is a useful research tool to identify choice strategies, and that using eye tracking technology did not increase its validity beyond that gained with Mouselab. In the second part, a prototype of a decision aid is introduced that was developed building in particular on the knowledge about consumers' decision strategies gained in Part I. This decision aid, which is called the InterActive Choice Aid (IACA), systematically assists consumers in their purchase decisions. To evaluate the prototype regarding its perceived utility, an experiment was conducted where IACA was compared to two other prototypes that were based on real-world consumer decision aids. All three prototypes diﬀered in the number and type of tools they provided to facilitate the process of choosing, ranging from low (Amazon) to medium (Sunrise/dpreview) to high functionality (IACA). Overall, participants slightly preferred the prototype of medium functionality and this prototype was also rated best on the dimensions of understandability and ease of use. IACA was rated best regarding the two dimensions of ease of elimination and ease of comparison of alternatives. Moreover, participants choices were more in line with the normatively oriented weighted additive strategy when they used IACA than when they used the medium functionality prototype. The low functionality prototype was the least preferred overall. It is concluded that consumers can and will beneﬁt from highly functional decision aids like IACA, but only when these systems are easy to understand and to use.
Decision strategies, process tracing, Mouselab, eye tracking, preferential choice, con- sumer decision making, decision aids, online marketing
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