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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (10) : 1211-1218     DOI:
The Impact of Effort on Consumers’ Purchase Decisions
TONG Lu-Qiong;ZHENG Yu-Huang;ZHAO Ping
School of Economic & Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
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Abstract  Consumers often face various self-control problems in their everyday life. Without good justifications, engaging in self-gratification may evoke guilt, consequently consumers only allow themselves to relax their self-control when they have compelling justifications. Past research has shown that there are several kinds of justifications (e.g., effort, excellence, virtuous behavior, self-control goal progress, etc.) which lead to self-gratification. In this study, we attempt to investigate the impact of effort on consumers’ purchase decisions, especially, their purchase decisions related to self-control.
In three studies, we tested the hypothesis that high versus low effort would lead individuals to relax their self-control, which is, more willing to purchase and higher willingness to pay (WTP), and this effect is driven by the change in the guilt of consumption. Furthermore, compared to utilitarian products, this effect is more significant for hedonic products.
In study1 and study 2, we aimed to test the basic influence of effort on consumers’ purchase decisions. The studies adopted a 2-condition (high effort versus. low effort) between-subject design. Though all participants were required to finish the same amount of work (constructing nine sentences), we manipulated the comparative effort (the work given to other participants) to change their relative effort perception. After they finished the sentence-construction task, they were asked to make purchase decisions for a box of chocolate (Study 1)/a purse (Study 2). We then examined their feeling of guilt after they gave their WTP, willingness to purchase, purchase possibility and time preferred to purchase. The results indicated that high versus low effort perception caused lower guilt, and then led participants more likely to purchase and give a higher WTP for the given product.
In study 3, we examined the moderating effect of product category. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions in a 2 (effort level: high vs. low) × 2 (product category: hedonic vs. utilitarian) full-factorial design. The target product in this study was identical in all conditions; except that we changed participants’ consumption goal (study vs. entertainment) to manipulate the perceive product category (utilitarian vs. hedonic). The results support our hypothesis, which is, the positive effect of effort on consumers’ WTP is more significant when participants were considering purchasing the same product for a hedonic consumption goal than for a utilitarian consumption goal.
Our findings provide significant insights for the research on self-control. Especially, when past research on consumers’ justification for indulgence mainly discuss the product choice between different categories, our research examines the impact of effort in a much more relevant marketing domain – purchase decisions. Besides demonstrating the basic effect, our research also sheds lights on the underlying mechanism, which may benefit future research on consumers’ self-gratification process. It also provides practical implications for companies’ pricing strategy and consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Keywords effort      self-control      purchase decisions      hedonic products      utilitarian products     
Corresponding Authors: TONG Lu-Qiong   
Issue Date: 30 October 2011
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TONG Lu-Qiong,ZHENG Yu-Huang,ZHAO Ping. The Impact of Effort on Consumers’ Purchase Decisions[J]. ,2011, 43(10): 1211-1218.
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