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Dr. Daniel Ladik, Seton Hall University – Consumers and the Sisyphus Effect

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Daniel Ladik of Seton Hall University reveals why some consumers struggle with the same purchasing decision over and over again.

Professor Ladik is an associate professor of marketing in the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University. His main teaching and research interests include marketing strategy, personal selling and sales management, servant leadership and web 2.0/social media. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida.

About Dr. Ladik

Dr. Daniel Ladik – Consumers and the Sisyphus Effect

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned for eternity by Zeus to roll a boulder up a steep hill only to have it roll back down again as punishment for his betrayals. Often when a task is perpetual or repetitive, it is described as Sisyphean. Would you believe that certain consumers act just like Sisyphus when making a choice?

These consumers are called maximizers and maximizers strive to make the perfect choice.  Maximizers expend extensive time and energy making a decision, thinking about all possible options before finally settling a particular choice.  By contrast, satisficiers also expend time and energy making a decision but strive for “good enough” and move on without buyer’s remorse. Maximizers, however, typically second-guess their choices, are less satisfied and inherently believe a better choice still exists.

One could expect a maximizer to use knowledge from previous a shopping trip for future purchases. However, we found that maximizers ignore knowledge gained from past choice experiences. Results from two studies, including a national random sample, showed that maximizers’ intention to repurchase at a retail store was weaker than satsificers for the same purchase amount, hence, the Sisyphus Effect.  Furthermore, even with higher feelings of buyer’s remorse, these feelings have less impact on maximizers purchase intentions compared to satisficers, further emphasizing maximizers’ disregard past experiences. What this means to retailers is less repeat purchases from maximizing customers.

Retailers can help mitigate the maximizer customer problem by creating bounded categories such as “Good, Better, or Best.” Maximizers struggle when there are too many choices or in other words, too much information to process to make a perfect choice.  With the illusion of smaller choice, a maximizer might not examine all digital cameras in a Best Buy but rather, examine only one subset of cameras in their reduced consideration set.  And because satisficers make choices more easily, what is good for the maximizer will also be good for the satisficer.  

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