Preference Dynamics in Sequential Consumer Choice with Defaults
Journal of Marketing Research , Volume 57 - Issue 6 p. 1096- 1112
This research examines the impact of defaults on product choice in sequential-decision settings. Whereas prior research has shown that a default can affect what consumers purchase by promoting choice of the preselected option, the influence of defaults is more nuanced when consumers make a series of related choices. In such a setting, consumer preferences may evolve across choices due to “spillover” effects from one choice to subsequent choices. The authors hypothesize that defaults systematically attenuate choice spillover effects because accepting a default is a more passive process than either choosing a nondefault option in the presence of a default or making a choice in the absence of a default. Three experiments and a field study provide compelling evidence for such default-induced changes in choice spillover effects. The findings show that firms’ setting of high-price defaults with the aim of influencing consumers to choose more expensive products can backfire through the attenuation of spillover. In addition to advancing the understanding of the interplay between defaults and preference dynamics, insights from this research have important practical implications for firms applying defaults in sequential choices.