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Identifying consumer decision‐making strategies using alternative methods

Eva Zellman (Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU ), Lincoln University, Lincoln, New Zealand)
William Kaye‐Blake (Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU ), Lincoln University, Lincoln, New Zealand)
Walt Abell (Applied Computing Group, Lincoln University, Lincoln, New Zealand)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 15 June 2010




The research aims to investigate consumer decision‐making strategies using quantitative and qualitative methods. Two decision theories are contrasted: neoclassical theory proposes compensatory and optimising strategies with complete information, whilst bounded rationality theory suggests simplified and non‐compensatory strategies. The research assesses whether these theories will explain consumers' decision‐making strategies when completing a survey, and the extent to which qualitative and quantitative methods provide convergent validity of the explanations.


A computer‐based choice survey was administered to university students and staff. The choice task was to select a preferred potato from sets of potatoes with different attributes. Information for each attribute was initially hidden by a “card”; respondents had to reveal the information by clicking on the card with the computer mouse. The survey recorded the order of mouse clicks, providing quantitative data on decision strategies. Some respondents were also interviewed about their decision processes, which provided qualitative data on strategies.


Respondents left over one‐fifth of the cards unopened. Interview findings confirmed that respondents generally did not obtain all available information and used simplified strategies. The qualitative data were generally validated by the quantitative data and provided improved descriptions of decision strategies.

Research limitations/implications

Some qualitative data can not be verified with quantitative data, and the convenience sample of university students and staff may limit the generalisability of the findings.


The paper suggests that consumers may not use all available information when making choices. The neoclassical assumption of full information may therefore not hold. It also indicates that probing decision strategies with qualitative questioning provides accurate data and better details than could be obtained quantitatively.



Zellman, E., Kaye‐Blake, W. and Abell, W. (2010), "Identifying consumer decision‐making strategies using alternative methods", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 271-286.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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