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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of consumer information on brand sales : a field experiment with point-of purchase nutritional information loan Muller, Thomas Edward


The issue of requiring marketers to disclose objective product performance information to their customers has presented a problem to both policymakers and researchers. A major concern is that the potential usefulness of such information will be negated if consumers, trying to evaluate alternative products at the points of sale, are hindered by large amounts of such comparative data. Decision-making experiments in cognitive psychology indicate that, because of the capacity limitations of short-term memory, people provided with high input rates of information can experience "information overload," which reduces the quality of their decisions. However, consumer research performed, to date, in the laboratory has failed to resolve whether consumers in a naturalistic brand-choice making situation would also experience "information overload," if confronted with large amounts of product data on which to base their choices. A field experiment was performed to extend the findings of this laboratory research stream and to help resolve the controversy regarding consumer "information overload." A second objective of this experiment was to contribute to policy-oriented research on information-provision formats. The study examined the behavioural effects of displaying objective product performance cues at the point of purchase, easily accessible to consumers and organized in a format allowing direct comparisons of alternative brands. An input-output experimental design used point-of-sale signs to provide different amounts (loads) of nutritional information on the brands of several food products in two co-operating supermarkets. The outputs, or information effects, were measured by collecting brand-sales data via electronic checkout facilities to determine whether the information treatments were having the hypothesized effects on the shape of the brand-sales distribution. The findings do not appear to support the "information overload" hypothesis. In fact, information load did not emerge as an explanatory variable. With certain products, there is evidence that providing nutritional information, in an organized format at the point of sale, will lead to brand choices being made on the basis of such data. Also, the overall response to this data was significantly weaker in the second of two weeks during which they were made available to shoppers.

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