Shoppers who use ‘Best of the Best’ strategies for purchases are savvy ‘maximizers’

TORONTO — Planning on a big purchase in the near future? A new study finds the more time you put into researching and comparing product options, the more likely you’ll be to use your new purchase more frequently — and be happy with your choice. In other words, careful consumers use their items more often.

Whether shopping for a new laptop, couch, or a new set of kitchen cutlery, consumers have never had more potential options at their fingertips. Marketing scientists typically place modern shoppers into one of two categories: “maximizers,” or those who carefully compare and contrast all their options before finally settling on a purchase, and “satisfiers,” or people who just want to settle for something that is “good enough” as soon as possible.

In fact, StudyFinds’ “Best of the Best” section was created for the maximizers out there. Each and every product list is carefully curated as our writers look through multiple reviews to pick out the items that are most frequently praised and listed by other top reviewers. That’s because our very own Editor-in-Chief is a maximizer who insists on reading review after review to research the very best items on his shopping list.

Now, new research from the University of Toronto investigated which of the two shopping approaches actually leads to a more satisfied consumer and/or longer-lasting use of said product. Besides the practical benefits of this work, study authors posit their findings hold environmental implications to boot. If consumers use the products they buy more often and for longer periods, it will theoretically help curb the global problem of overconsumption and all of the unnecessary pollution it generates.

Maximizing shopping behavior was been framed as negative in the past because such shoppers tend to feel less satisfied with their choice in the long run. Why? After researching so many different options, many can’t help but wonder if they made the wrong choice. Maximizers spend “too much mental time traveling the road not taken,” explains Sam Maglio, an associate professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, in a press release.

In collaboration with Evan Polman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Prof. Maglio analyzed how maximizers feel about their shopping choices: how happy are they with their purchases over time? And, how often do they actually use said products?

Two experiments were conducted for this study, published in Personality and Individual Differences. The first, involving 110 subjects, asked participants to choose between one-month-long membership plans for two distinct online trivia services. Each subject was evaluated to determine if they were a maximizer or satisfier, as well as how much time they spent deliberating between the two options. Sure enough, those deemed maximizers tended to spend much more time deciding, but they also used their memberships more often than non-maximizers.

The second experiment was somewhat similar; participants were provided with various options for a month-long membership to a daily joke website. This time, however, each subject had six plan options to choose from. Study authors took special care to separate those who displayed maximizing preferences centered on finding the best possible choice or those who were trying to use the best strategy for making said choice.

The results of this experiment were more nuanced. Maximizers who emphasized the best possible outcome logged into their chosen joke website less often than other maximizers who were more concerned with strategy. The strategists, meanwhile, spent much more time making their decision, but were ultimately less satisfied with their choices.

“Apparently, liking what you choose and using what you choose might not have as much to do with each other as you’d expect,” says Prof. Maglio. “Instead, maybe the effort-focused maximizers realize how much time they spent on making their choice, which makes them want to get the most out of it.”

Prof. Maglio adds that maximizers’ tendency to use their choices more often could prove useful in fighting and reducing environmentally damaging consumption trends like fast fashion.

“It gives us insight into how to encourage people to get more mileage out of their stuff,” Prof. Maglio concludes. “The phrase ‘buy less, buy luxury,’ or related campaigns that encourage people to accumulate fewer goods and use them longer might start to make a lot of sense because they are subtly steering you towards being more of a maximizer.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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