The Impact of Varying Size of Assortment on Consumer Behavior: A Meta-Analysis

By Estrella-Ramón, Antonia | Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Varying Size of Assortment on Consumer Behavior: A Meta-Analysis


Estrella-Ramón, Antonia, Academy of Marketing Studies Journal


(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

INTRODUCTION

Product assortment optimization has been a strategy of many retailers during last years, which has provoked the interest of researchers and marketers. This issue is not especially novel, but it has been enhanced recently as a consequence of the global crisis and subsequent downturn in retail sales in many countries. Specifically, the issue of assortment size has become a topical subject in retail studies (e.g., Boatwright & Nunes, 2001; Chemev & Hamilton, 2009; Chowdbhury, Ratneshwar & Mohanty 2009; Oppewall & Koelemeijer, 2005).

Many retailers have been forced to lower their prices to retain customers (Nielsen, 2010), it was achieved by limiting the variety of their offerings and focusing on more basic products, thus imitating the discount retailers who have achieved great success in recent years (Steenkamp, 2009). This task is in accordance with a strategy of so-called 'SKU rationalization'. According to Krum (1994), such a strategy can increase sales volume and revenue while simultaneously reducing inventory costs. Some conventional retailers, such as 'Wal-Mart', have adapted this assortment strategy offering fewer stock-keeping units (SKUs), but selling higher volumes of them. So, 'Wal-Mart' recorded a 6.8% increase in its annual sales in the United States in fiscal year 2008, while reducing its inventory by 1.2% (Banker, 2009). In contrast, some European retailers (such as 'Auchan' and 'Carrefour') have chosen to offer a wider assortment of SKUs with a view to enhancing consumer choice and meeting the needs of all customers.

The fact that different assortment strategies have been adopted indicates that there is an unresolved issue with regard to retailer's offerings: What is the best size of assortment, wide or narrow? As Broniarczyk (2008) has noted, large assortments seduce and attract consumers, but they also present customers with a difficult choice in selecting a product from a wide range of options. White & Hoffrage (2009 p. 281) have referred to this phenomenon as 'the allure of more choice [versus] the tyranny of too much choice'.

The existing research in this area has provided no clear guidance with regard to the impact of assortment size on consumer behavior. Some studies have suggested that large assortments offer definite benefits to customers (e.g., Berger, Draganska & Simonson, 2007; Broniarczyk, Hoyer & McAlister, 1998; Chemev, 2003 a; Chowdhury, Ratneshwar & Mohanty, 2009; Dhar, 1997; Haynes, 2009; Kahn & Wansink, 2004; Koelemeijer & Oppewal, 1999; Sagi & Friedland, 2007; Lenton, Fasolo & Todd, 2008), whereas others have reported that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages (e.g., Chemev 2005, 2006; Fasolo, Carmeci & Misuraca, 2009; Jacoby, Speller & Kohn, 1974).

Various factors have been investigated in analyzing consumer behavior in terms of the size of the assortment offered by retailers. Among these factors included in this study were such variables as brand choice (Berger, Draganska & Simonson, 2007), assortment choice (Chemev & Hamilton, 2009), and product/service choice (Dhar, 1997). In addition, some authors have investigated whether various moderating variables influence the relationship between the size of the assortment and consumer behavior (Chemev, 2003b; Chemev & Hamilton, 2009; Gourville & Soman, 2005; Sela, Berger & Liu, 2009).

Despite the widespread use of assortment strategies in marketing practice and the equivocal research findings, there has been no systematic attempt to review the existing research to determine the nature of the relationship between the size of assortment and consumer behavior (DelVecchio, Henard & Freiing, 2006). This study addresses the gap in the literature by reviewing twenty studies (published between 1974 and 2009) of the effect of assortment size on consumer behavior and the moderating role of certain variables on this relationship. …

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