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Insight of the Day: Freedom to choose makes consumers happy, and it's easy to attain

The freedom to choose plays a significant role in consumer satisfaction, according to new research from IESE Business School. This research, conducted by IESE professor Elena Reutskaja along with Barbara Fasolo of the London School of Economics and Raffaella Misuraca of the University of Palermo, highlights the importance of autonomy in enhancing motivation, well-being, and satisfaction for consumers.

In a world where choice overload can lead to consumer overwhelm, traditional solutions have often focused on reducing the number of options or highlighting specific offers, which may not always be effective. However, the research suggests that a simple "freedom cue" can transform the shopping experience and boost customer satisfaction.

The study conducted field experiments in a physical basketball supply store in Italy and an online e-commerce web shop selling face masks. In the physical store, signs reminding customers of their freedom to choose were placed around the space on some weeks but not others. Similarly, in the online setting, some users received a pop-up message emphasizing their freedom to browse and select as many products as they wished.

The results showed that customers who were reminded of their freedom to choose expressed higher satisfaction with their shopping experience. Furthermore, mouse tracking data from the online experiment revealed that users who received the "freedom cue" spent more time on the products they ultimately chose, indicating a higher level of engagement and preference.

This research underscores the importance of autonomy in consumer choice and suggests that simple interventions emphasizing freedom can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and overall experience. By understanding and addressing consumers' psychological needs for autonomy, retailers and service providers can differentiate their businesses, improve performance, and strengthen customer loyalty. Ultimately, reminding consumers that they are free to choose can be a win-win for both customers and businesses alike.

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