Negative Choice Consequences of Assortments

Assortments, or the variety of products and services available to consumers, are an essential aspect of retail strategy. Companies often attempt to increase their product offerings to cater to consumer preferences and boost sales. Assortments can benefit consumers, such as increased convenience, more choices, and competitive prices. However, assortments can also have negative consequences that affect consumer choice.

Assortments of Consumer Choice

Product assortment begins with selecting the product lines that the business wants to sell and the breadth, depth, and length of each product line within which particular goods are offered. The term "product line" refers to a discrete product category with variants inside it, each with its own set of things. The width denotes the number of product lines/categories carried by the store; the depth denotes the number of goods within each line or category; and the length denotes the overall number of products available.

The Negative Consequences of Assortments on Consumer Choice

These are −

Choice Overload

Assortments can lead to choose overload, a phenomenon where consumers are overwhelmed by the number of options available, resulting in decision paralysis. When consumers are faced with too many options, they may experience decision fatigue and struggle to decide, leading them to abandon their purchase or opt for the default option. Research has shown that choice overload can lead to negative emotions, lower satisfaction with the chosen option, and a decreased likelihood of making a future purchase.

Decision Complexity

Assortments can also make decisions more complex by introducing new factors to consider, such as product attributes, features, and prices. Consumers may need help to compare and evaluate the various options available, making it harder to make an informed decision. This complexity can lead to frustration, confusion, and a higher likelihood of choosing a suboptimal option. Moreover, decision complexity can be exacerbated when consumers need more prior experience or knowledge of the products, leading them to rely on subjective factors like brand familiarity or packaging design.

Decision Regret

Assortments can also lead to regret, which occurs when consumers experience negative emotions after purchasing. Decision regret can arise from the perception that the chosen option was suboptimal or that a better option was available among the assortment. This regret can lead to negative word-of-mouth, decreased satisfaction, and a lower likelihood of repurchasing from the same brand. Research has shown that consumers are more likely to experience regret when faced with large assortments, suggesting that reducing the number of options available may be a viable solution.

Reduced Perceived Value

Assortments can also reduce consumers' perceived value of a product or service by comparing options. When consumers are faced with multiple options with varying prices, they may question whether they are getting a good deal or if they could have purchased the same product elsewhere for a lower price. This reduced perceived value can lead to a lower willingness to pay, lower satisfaction with the chosen option, and a lower likelihood of repurchasing.

Unintended Outcomes

Assortments can also have unintended outcomes that negatively affect consumer choice. For example, assortments can increase product returns, as consumers may purchase multiple options and return the ones they do not prefer. This can lead to increased costs for the retailer, as well as a negative impact on the environment. Additionally, assortments can lead to product cannibalization, where different products in the assortment compete with each other, resulting in decreased sales and profits for the retailer.


Retailers and marketers can implement various solutions to mitigate the negative consequences of assortments. One solution is reducing the number of options available, as research has shown that too many options can lead to choice overload and regret. Another solution is to improve how options are presented to consumers, such as grouping similar options or providing clear product descriptions and attributes.

Cognitive Aspects of Choice Consequences of Assortments

These are −

Assortments and Decision Quality

One of the negative consequences of assortments is that they can lead to lower decision quality. This is because too many choices can lead to decision paralysis, which means that consumers are unable to make a decision at all. Additionally, consumers might make a decision they later regret, leading to dissatisfaction and lower overall satisfaction with the product or service. This can negatively affect the retailer, as consumers might be less likely to return to the store or make a repeat purchase.

Assortments and Decision Time

Another negative consequence of assortments is that they can lead to longer decision times. When consumers are presented with a wide range of choices, they need more time to evaluate each option and decide. This can be frustrating for consumers who need more time or who value convenience and can lead to a negative shopping experience. Additionally, longer decision times can lead to increased opportunity costs, as consumers spend time evaluating options rather than engaging in other activities they might value more highly.

Assortments and Post-Purchase Regret

Post-purchase regret is a common phenomenon that occurs when consumers regret a purchase that they have made. This can occur for several reasons, such as the product failing to meet their expectations or the consumer feeling like they made the wrong choice. Assortments can increase the likelihood of post-purchase regret, as consumers might feel they made the wrong choice out of many options. Additionally, consumers may have yet to choose other options they did not choose, leading to dissatisfaction with the chosen product.

Assortments and Cognitive Load

Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort that is required to complete a task. Assortments can increase cognitive load, as consumers need to evaluate a large number of options and weigh the pros and cons of each one. This can be incredibly challenging for consumers who need to become more familiar with the product category or need more knowledge of the available options. Additionally, increased cognitive load can lead to decision fatigue and reduced decision quality as consumers become overwhelmed by the choices presented to them.

Assortments and Information Overload

Information overload is related to cognitive load and refers to the idea that too much information can lead to negative consequences. Assortments can lead to information overload, as consumers are presented with much information about each option. This can make it harder for consumers to decide, as they need to sift through the information to determine which options are most relevant to their needs. Additionally, information overload can lead to decision fatigue and lower overall satisfaction with the shopping experience.


Assortments are a common feature of modern retailing but negatively affect consumers. These negative consequences include lower decision quality, longer decision times, post-purchase regret, increased cognitive load, and information overload. Retailers should be aware of these negative consequences and take steps to mitigate them, such as offering clear and concise information.

Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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