Consideration Sets Under Variety Seeking Conditions: an Experimental Investigation

Bharadhwaj Sivakumaran, University of Maryland
P. K. Kannan, University of Maryland
EXTENDED ABSTRACT - This research deals with consideration sets under variety seeking conditions i.e. when consumers choose from brands of a product category conducive to variety seeking and/or when need for variety is high. Prior research (Van Trijp et al. 1996) has empirically shown that different product categories have differential effects on variety seeking i.e. some product categories are more conducive to variety seeking than some others. Consumers’ variety seeking is also driven by their need for varietyBconsumers with a high need for variety are more prone to variety seeking than some others.
[ to cite ]:
Bharadhwaj Sivakumaran and P. K. Kannan (2002) ,"Consideration Sets Under Variety Seeking Conditions: an Experimental Investigation", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 209-210.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Pages 209-210

CONSIDERATION SETS UNDER VARIETY SEEKING CONDITIONS: AN EXPERIMENTAL INVESTIGATION

Bharadhwaj Sivakumaran, University of Maryland

P. K. Kannan, University of Maryland

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

This research deals with consideration sets under variety seeking conditions i.e. when consumers choose from brands of a product category conducive to variety seeking and/or when need for variety is high. Prior research (Van Trijp et al. 1996) has empirically shown that different product categories have differential effects on variety seeking i.e. some product categories are more conducive to variety seeking than some others. Consumers’ variety seeking is also driven by their need for varietyBconsumers with a high need for variety are more prone to variety seeking than some others.

Prior research has not examined the relationship between variety seeking behavior and consideration sets. Understanding consideration sets under variety seeking conditions is important since consideration is a critical aspect of choiceBtherefore, our research will contribute to the better understanding of variety seekers’ choices across purchase occasions.

Consideration is driven by search costs, opportunity costs and evaluation costs; consideration sets are also larger as variance of a brand’s utility over purchase occasions increases (Hauser and Wernerfelt 1990). Consideration set size is inversely related to strength of preference for a brand (Mitra and Lynch 1995). Variety seekers also get satiated with the same attribute and move from attribute to attribute across time (McAlister 1982). Variety seekers do not have a strong preference for any one brand (Van Trijp et al. 1996) i.e. the variance of a brand’s utility is high across occasions. Hence, we posit that consumers with a high need for variety have larger and more dynamic consideration sets. We also posit that when consumers choose brands from product categories that are conducive to variety seeking, their consideration sets are larger and more dynamic, relative to when they choose brands from those that are not conducive to variety seeking; we also posit a need for variety * product category interaction on consideration set size and changes over occasions. Since choice is a two-step process, consideration and choice (Manrai 1995), we posit that consideration set composition (size and changes across occasions) mediate the effect of product categories and need for variety n variety seeking behavior.

First, we utilize data from an experiment conducted (in a prior study) by Kannan and Chakravarti (2000). They measured consideration sets and choices for 85 subjects across 22 occasions. We found that high variety seekers had larger and more dynamic consideration sets relative to low variety seekers. Following a pretest, we also conducted an experiment where we obtained choices and consideration sets for 22 subjects across 10 occasions for two categories, candy (conducive to variety seekers) and cola (not conducive to variety seeking). Subjects had to choose one brand each from both product categories. We also elicited their consideration sets on all occasions. We measured subjects’ need for variety (using a modified version of Baumgartner and Steenkamp’s (1996) EAP scale) and performed a median split using this construct. We first weeded out extrinsically motivated switching (switching because of a specific reason like functional superiority of an alternative) and considered only intrinsically motivated switching (switching because "I felt like a change"). Thus, variety seeking was operationalized through not just switches across occasions but "true switches" across occasions.

We computed 1) Consideration set sizes for all subjects across occasions and 2) Changes in consideration set for all subjects across occasions. Through two ANOVAs, we found that as hypothesized, consideration sets for candy were larger and more dynamic for consumers choosing candy relative to cola. However, contrary to hypotheses, we found that consideration sets were not larger and more dynamic for high need for variety consumers, vis-a-vis low need for variety consumers. We also did not find the hypothesized need for variety * product category interaction on set size and changes in the consideration set.

We then adopted Baron and Kenny’s (1986) prescription to test for mediation. We found that changes in the consideration set partially mediate the effect between product categories and variety seeking. Thus, product categories appear to cause changes in choice across occasions (variety seeking) partially through changes in consideration.

We showed that product categories conducive to variety seeking in part, lead to larger and more dynamic consideration sets; this in turn leads to variety seeking. We have thus identified the mechanism through which product categories appear to cause variety seeking. We also defined and operationalized "true" variety seeking in an experimental settingBfor the first time, to the best of our knowledge.

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