The less-is-better effect is a type of preference reversal that occurs when the lesser or smaller alternative of a proposition is preferred when evaluated separately, but not evaluated together.
When products are evaluated separately rather than jointly, shoppers focus less on attributes that are important and are influenced more by attributes that are easy to evaluate.
One study presented participants with two dinner set options. Option A included 40 pieces, nine of which were broken. Option B included 24 pieces, all of which were intact. Option A was superior, as it included 31 intact pieces.
When evaluated separately, individuals were willing to pay a higher price for set B. In a joint evaluation of both options, on the other hand, Option A resulted in higher willingness to pay (Hsee, 1998).
In-store, it is important to understand the context in which shoppers evaluate your brand.
- Choice management – Quite simply, shoppers have too much choice, as studies have shown reducing choice often increases sales (discounters explained!). Google the Sheena Iyengar Jam study.
- Bricks not walls – In large, hard to browse categories, split them into more manageable hunks. Not so much food to go, but separate displays of savoury, sweet and drink items.
- The default option – A good way to help shoppers choose which to buy, is to have a clearly labelled ‘default’ option. A safe bet and all-round answer to the needs the category fulfils.
Choice can no longer be used to justify a marketing strategy in and of itself. More isn’t always better, either for the customer or for the retailer.