The discriminating consumer: Product proliferation and willingness to pay for quality

Marco Bertini, Luc Wathieu, Sheena S. Iyengar

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The authors propose that a crowded product space motivates consumers to better discriminate between options of different quality. Specifically, this article reports evidence from three controlled experiments and one natural experiment that people are prepared to pay more for high-quality products and less for low-quality products when they are considered in the context of a dense, as opposed to a sparse, set of alternatives. To explain this effect, the authors argue that consumers uncertain about the importance of quality learn from observing market outcomes. Product proliferation reveals that other consumers care to discriminate among similar alternatives, and in turn, this inference raises the importance of quality in decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Assortment size
  • Consumer inference
  • Product proliferation
  • Vertical differentiation
  • Willingness to pay


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