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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01257

Forgo or Go for One? The Unavailable Effect in Non-Comparable Choice Sets

 Jing Tian1*, Rong Chen1 and Feng He2
  • 1Tsinghua University, China
  • 2University of Science and Technology Beijing, China

This research aimed to explore how consumers’ purchase behavior varies when they are faced with unavailable options in a non-comparable choice set. We investigated the unavailable effect based on goal-related mindsets theory, and found that consumers with an activated which-to-buy mindset show higher purchase intention for the remaining options, relative to those who have a whether-to-buy mindset. Four between-subject experiments were undertaken. Study 1 (including 2 experiments, both 2 groups) depicted the relationship between the mindset and consumer purchase choice. Study 2 examined the construal level as the underlying mechanism. Two further studies enabled two methods: shopping cart state and payment type, to activate different mindsets; and found the boundary conditions of each method. Study 3 found that empty cart (vs. non-empty cart) activate whether-to-buy mindset restraining purchase intention, while the habitual (vs. non-habitual) initial purchase moderated the shopping cart effect. Study 4 found that paying by gift cards (vs. gifted cash) primed which-to-buy mindset increasing purchase intention, while the payment effect declined when the product was high in feasibility (vs. desirability). The insights gained from this research can guide both online and offline retailers in how to strategically manage consumer mindsets under unavailable circumstances. Optimal presenting timing and method of unavailable information may activate a different mindset, and help boost sales of the remaining options at the same time.

Keywords: unavailable effect, non-comparable choice set, which-to-buy mindset, whether-to-buy mindset, construal level

Received: 07 Sep 2018; Accepted: 13 May 2019.

Edited by:

Liat Levontin, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Israel

Reviewed by:

Danit Ein-Gar, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Dikla Perez, Bar-Ilan University, Israel  

Copyright: © 2019 Tian, Chen and He. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jing Tian, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, tianj.13@sem.tsinghua.edu.cn