No pain no gain. The beneficial role of consumer effort in decision making

The overarching goal of this dissertation is to study the role of consumer effort within the context of online decision-making. With the rise of online channels, consumers have the opportunity to access a great amount of sources before making a decision due to the reduced switching barriers. Online firms have introduced decision aids to assist consumers cope with information overload and reduce their effort. In such a way, firms improve their service efficiency by enhancing consumers’ decision quality and reducing their effort. Consumers are driven by the twofold goal of jointly maximizing the accuracy of their decisions and minimizing their required effort in order to achieve that level of decision quality. Consumers face various types of cost, such as for example the physical, cognitive, or financial cost. Effort is perceived as a form of cost for consumers and therefore they wish to minimize it (principle of least effort). However, by minimizing the effort in a task, users jeopardize the quality of their decisions. On the other hand, consumers consider effort as an investment in that it increases the likelihood of making a good decision. Based on 3 studies, we attempt to show that consumer effort may not be necessarily malevolent and that some sources and measures of greater consumer effort can even lead to beneficial outcomes. A better understanding of the role of consumer effort may help firms that need to evaluate their investments in reducing consumer effort and justify the cost associated with implementing such a strategy.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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