Aner Sela

Mowing the lawn in those new running shoes? You may not be happy with them

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When it comes to how many different ways you use the things you buy, more may not necessarily be better.

According to a new study coauthored by University of Florida marketing professor Aner Sela, the more the consumer uses a product in different situations, the more likely the consumer will report the product to be unsatisfactory.

“The common intuition is that diversity is good, so a variety of experiences with a product should make people evaluate the product more favorably,” Sela said. “However, we show this is not necessarily true. At least in some situations, perceiving usage experiences as less – not more- varied improves post-purchase product evaluation.”

In the study, which will appear in the Journal of Marketing Research, Sela and Duke University business professor Jordan Etkin examined how experience variety influences product evaluation, customer satisfaction and the likelihood the product would be recommended by the customer.

The researchers found that consumers often use the same product in the same way in multiple situations, and these situations or experiences may differ in variety. For example, with a pair of sneakers, less-varied usage experiences might include walking the dog or walking to the grocery store. However, more-varied usage experiences might include walking the dog, flying on airplanes or conducting home improvement projects.

Their research found that lower-variety situations, like walking the dog and walking to the store, led the consumer to feel they were getting a lot of value from the product. Higher-variety situations, like flying on a plane, gave people a sense of less value because the product feels like it was used less often.

Sela’s findings may affect how companies market their products.

“For example, companies benefit from positive product reviews and often solicit post-purchase feedback by asking customers to reflect on prior usage situations,” Sela said. “Our findings suggest that in such cases, saying things like, ‘Think about various experiences you’ve had with the product’ may inadvertently lead consumers to perceive less frequent usage, and consequently recommend that product less.”