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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Effect of Sample Representativeness on Consumer Responses to Target Products

  • Author(s): Li, Yuanrui
  • Advisor(s): Kramer, Thomas
  • et al.

Marketers often give consumers samples of products before consumers make decisions. However, in the marketplace, samples can be offered in many different forms. For example, to promote a cake, marketers could provide a slice of the cake or a mini version of the cake. To advocate for a software package, marketers could provide either a trial version with full features but for a limited time only, or a trial version with limited features but for a longer time period. Are all samples created equal? While previous literature has mainly focused on the general effect of samples, in this dissertation I examine how different types of sampling experiences influence consumer responses to target products. Particularly, I focus on how representative samples are of their target products, as it relates to how fundamentally consumers recognize and understand products. Normatively, high representative samples (e.g., a mini cake) should be more effective than low representative samples (e.g., a slice of a cake) in promoting target products, as high representativeness eases perceived uncertainty about target products. However, counter-intuitively, across a series of online and field experiments, I find that low representative samples actually lead to more favorable responses to target products as compared to high representative samples. The effect of sample representativeness on consumer responses to target products is driven by a differential level of satiation – high representative samples lead to a higher level of satiation. Moreover, I find that the effect of sample representativeness on consumer responses to target products is strengthened when need for cognition is low.

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