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Online Shopping Study: 'Best-Seller' For You, 'Limited Edition' For Me

Published: Friday, December 2, 2016 - 3:30pm
Updated: Friday, December 2, 2016 - 3:37pm
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Christina Estes /KJZZ
ASU research shows online shoppers are more likely to buy items labeled "best sellers" for others and "limited edition" for themselves.

In the world of online shopping, labels can make a big impact on what you buy for yourself and what you buy for others. Research from an Arizona State University marketing professor shows people are more likely to buy an item labeled “best-seller” for someone else.

For many shoppers, an item labeled “best-seller” is their best bet to get it right. 

“If I don’t know them real well, and the product’s labeled ‘best-seller,’ that implies a bunch of people have bought it, they probably liked it,” said Christopher Lee, a clinical assistant professor in the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. “It gives me kind of a sense of comfort that that product could be a good fit for them.”  

Lee and his colleague created four online surveys and polled hundreds of people across the country. In one study, they presented people with coffee mugs labeled either “best-seller” or “limited edition.” Participants most often chose best-sellers to buy for others and limited edition for themselves.  

“We all have this sense of, this need for belonging that we want to belong in our social circles, we want to belong at work and social environments,” Lee said. “But at the same time, we all have this sort of need for uniqueness. 

Lee said the “limited edition” label taps into that need for uniqueness.

The research also found price can negate the effect of labels. In one study, researchers found people were less likely to believe a $10 bottle of wine labeled "limited edition" was actually limited because it’s probably mass produced.

On the flip side, he says online shoppers are not likely to believe a $25 bottle of wine is a "best-seller" because it’s considered relatively expensive.