Sold-out Products Influence Consumer Choice:

An empty store shelf tempts shoppers to buy the next best thing, according to a new study from the University of Alberta.

“Sold-out products create a sense of immediacy for customers; they feel that if one product is gone, the next item could also sell out,” said Paul Messinger, a professor at the U of A’s School of Business who studied the sale of numerous items including ski passes and wine.

“Our research shows there’s also an information cascade, where people infer that if a product is sold out, it must have been good and therefore a similar available product will also be desirable,” he said.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Retailing, found 61 per cent of shoppers would buy a particular five-hour ski pass for $20, but that figure rose to 91 per cent when they thought a 10-hour ski pass for the same mountain slope for $40 had sold out.

A similar study of merlot wines found 49 per cent of consumers would buy a bottle if they had one choice, but when they thought a similar wine had sold out next to it on the shelf, nearly twice the number of shoppers would take home the available bottle.

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