The Cluttered Online Marketplace: Dealing with Confusion of Mobile App Buyers

The Cluttered Online Marketplace: Dealing with Confusion of Mobile App Buyers

Tathagata Ghosh (ICFAI Business School, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9787-4.ch065
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As companies strive to sustain in a hypercompetitive and cluttered market, they often bombard consumers with profuse product and brand information, which not only makes information processing a hectic cognitive exercise but also creates the risk of consumer confusion. The fact that consumers get confused while selecting a product among plethora of choices has been empirically reported in product markets such as detergent (Alarabi & Gronblad, 2012), eco-labeled brands (Brecard, 1997), healthcare services (Gebele, 2014), telecommunications (Turnbull, Leek & Ying, 2000), and financial services (Shukla, Banerjee & Adidam, 2010). Empirical studies also find that confused consumers are prone to make less rational buying decisions (Huffman & Kahn, 1998; Mitchell & Papavassiliou, 1999), exhibit less trust and satisfaction (Walsh & Mitchell, 2010), spread negative word of mouth (Turnbull et al., 2000), postpone buying decisions (Huffman & Kahn, 1998; Walsh, Hennig-Thurau & Mitchell, 2007), and display reduced brand loyalty (Walsh et al., 2007).

Undoubtedly, consumer confusion outcomes as mentioned above engender negative economic impacts on a business and seek salient remedial measures. Nonetheless, before one attempts to prescribe solutions for consumer confusion, what becomes even more fundamental is to unravel the consumer confusion process itself in multiple product settings and carefully re-examine the confusion-outcome links in the presence of moderating variables (Walsh et al, 2007). This is particularly suggestive given the fact that since Walsh et al (2007) defined and validated consumer confusion proneness as a multi-dimensional construct for the first time, very few studies have extended their research in other industries. The present study thus attempts to explore confusion-outcome relationship in a confusion prone product market and further investigate such an association in the light of a relevant moderating variable.

We identify mobile and smartphone applications (apps) as a product market which renders sufficient scope to capture consumer confusion and its effects on consumer behavior. According to a report by Portio Research (2013) approximately 1.2 billion people were using mobile phone apps by the end of 2012. This figure is expected to grow at a yearly rate of 29.8 percent to have 4.4 billion mobile app users worldwide by the end of 2017. Also, the cumulative number of Android1, iOS2, and Windows3 applications is close to a million (Bohmer et al., 2011), with Apple App Store and Google Play jointly having more that 800,000 apps a piece (Portio Research, 2013). These promising statistics may lead us to anticipate two marketing phenomena – first, heightening competition among application developers to gain consumers’ share of pocket, and second, development of confusion among consumers as to which app to buy among several available and equally meaningful alternatives. Eventually, it becomes increasingly important for app developers and smartphone manufacturers to explore the prevalence of consumer confusion and its influence on consumer buying decisions regarding smartphone applications.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Word of Mouth: The propensity of a consumer to cater positive or favorable information about a product or a brand to his or her acquaintances.

Buying Decision: The final verdict of the consumer related to any buying process for a product and its associated factors like brand name, price to be paid, place of buying, shape, size, color, etc.

Similarity Confusion Proneness: The propensity of a consumer to think that different products in a product category are visually and functionally similar.

Overload Confusion Proneness: Consumers’ difficulty when confronted with more product information and alternatives than they can process in order to get to know, to compare and to comprehend alternatives.

Need for Cognition: The tendency of an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking. Essentially, individuals with high need for cognition are occupied in more effortful information processing, and scrutinize communications more carefully as compared to individuals with low need for cognition.

Consumer Confusion: A consumer’s state of mind during a buying decision making process characterized by inability to finalize the choice of product or brand.

Ambiguity Confusion Proneness: Consumers’ tolerance for processing unclear, misleading, or ambiguous products, product-related information or advertisements.

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