Purchasing for someone else in a B2B context: joint effects of accountability and choice overload

  • Einkäuferverhalten im B2B-Kontext: kombinierte Effekte von Accountability und Choice Overload

Schaffrath, Kathrin; Wentzel, Daniel (Thesis advisor); Steffenhagen, Hartwig (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2015)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2015


A considerable volume of research has investigated the positive, as well as negative, effects of large assortments from a consumer perspective. Despite Business-to-Business suppliers typically offering very large assortments though, similar inquiries have yet to be made in the context of professional purchase decisions. Thus, it is unclear if professional buyers suffer from the same negative effects (particularly choice overload), as consumers do, for example, reduced satisfaction when having to make a choice from a large assortment. The fact that a company’s buyer is accountable for a purchasing decision is especially salient in differentiating professional buyers from consumers. Obviously, because buyers have a certain job or, more specifically, a role located somewhere in the hierarchy of a company, they will typically have a boss evaluating their job performance and, thus, holding them officially accountable. Furthermore, research has long postulated that a typical Business-to-Business purchase decision involves more than one person, since such decisions are made in a so-called buying center. This means that people, who do not hold a higher position in the hierarchy than the buyer, may influence the buyer’s purchase decision. For instance, user preferences often play an important role because users will have to work with the product purchased by the buyer and, in many cases, have relevant knowledge gained from experiencing a certain product class. However, in most companies, these users do not have the hierarchical position to evaluate the buyer’s performance but can still have a strong influence on the buyer. As Doney and Armstrong (1996) postulate, "enough complaints from [the users] and a buyer may soon be out of a job" (p.58). This latter form of accountability is classified as informal.Having identified this gap in research, this dissertation seeks to offer a contribution to the field by investigating whether negative effects from large assortments, specifically choice overload, exist in a Business-to-Business context, with a particular focus on the joint effects of assortment size and accountability. In addition, this dissertation investigates the effects of color-coding, i.e., using a certain color as a code for a certain attribute characteristic regarding the most important attribute(s) of a product. This is applied as a possible means of reducing negative effects on buyer satisfaction which may exist in some circumstances when the buyer is choosing from a large assortment. To achieve these goals, a conceptual framework based on various research streams, e.g., on choice overload, the concept of the buying center and accountability, is developed and the effects investigated in three experimental studies. In detail, the conceptual framework postulates that informally accountable decision makers suffer from choice overload, with the result that satisfaction with their own decision process will decrease when they have to choose from large assortments. This effect is mediated by the justifiability of the decision, with informally accountable decision makers experiencing reduced justifiability of their decision when choosing form large assortments which, in turn, reduces their satisfaction. Moreover, this negative effect will be reduced when color-coding is applied to the assortment. These results have important implications for theory and practice regarding the ways assortments should be presented to decision makers in a Business-to-Business environment.


  • Chair of Marketing [812310]