Explore - Experience - Excel


Haritha S, Faculty ISME


In the current times, every individual is hurting for choices in his/her daily lives. Decision making has become more complex and time consuming as the number of alternatives to be evaluated before taking a decision have increased. There are certain people who use mental heuristics or thumb rules for quick decision making and save enough time. There are the other set of people who spend endless time on evaluating alternatives and may post pone their decision, they might look for information to reinforce their decisions, compare the chosen alternative with the unchosen alternative and end up regretting their decision.

Based on people’s approach towards decision making, psychologists have classified them into maximisers and satisficers. Maximisers are people who try to derive the maximum benefit from a choice, whereas satisficers try to find a solution based on a minimum criteria. The term satisficing was coined by Herbert Simon in the 1950s, it is an amalgamation of 2 terms “satisfy” and “suffice”, it indicates that even sub-optimal solutions satisfying the minimum requirements of an individual can suffice in many instances.

Satisficing can be applied across decision making in different contexts like certain organizations may strategize to meet the minimum expectations for revenue and profit set by the board of directors and other shareholders. In one of the studies conducted by Dar-Nimrod et al., (2009), it was observed that maximisers were willing to drive additional 20 minutes in order to choose from a wider product array than was available at the local store. The categorization of individuals as maximisers and satisficers has been applied in the context of team effectiveness (Peng, 2013), it was noticed that a homogenous team comprised only of maximisers would take higher time to come to a decision, it was also noticed that maximisers succumb more to the escalation of commitment, that is even when their action produces unfavourable results, the decision maker sticks to his losing decision, avoiding change. In one of the studies (Iyengar et al., 2006), students who were maximisers opted for jobs that paid 20% higher starting salaries than the satisficers, however it was noticed that the maximisers experienced more negative affect during and after the job process. As compared to satisficers maximisers achieve better results objectively but perceive them to be worse subjectively.  It has been observed by the researchers that maximisers generally end up being more dissatisfied, unhappy and have lower levels of self-esteem as compared to the satisficers. A pictorial representation differentiating maximisers and satisficers has been given in figure 1.

Maximisers and Satisficers in Online Shopping

A maximiser within the context of online shopping may look at a huge number of alternatives, constantly compare them and is more likely to experience “analysis paralysis” i.e. they either defer or avoid decision making due to the deluge of alternatives available.

A maximiser during the process of purchase in the website, may look at various properties available on the web page for example – product specifications, reviews or ratings, product comparisons, seller information, seller rating, product images, and videos of the products. A maximiser may spend more time per visit and this can be used as a metric to evaluate if the customer is a maximiser or satisficer. On tracking a maximiser or view his shopping history it can be seen that they often leave and revisit the product pages, their time for conversion may be much higher than a satisficer.

Figure 1: Comparison of Maximisers and Satisficers

According to Chaiken (1980) maximiser is considered to be a systematic processor of information, whereas a satisficer is considered to be a heuristic processor of information in the context of choice. In the context of online shopping one of the easiest ways to appease satisficers is to optimize search results and ensure that relevant top selling products appear in the first two rows of the search results. Satisficers may not look beyond 2-3 rows of products in a search page. Contents and title on the product page need to be precise, the primary image must be of clear and high resolution. Filters and product recommendations act as a good decision-making aids for satisficers.  

While designing a web page (online shopping) for satisficers some of the points to be included are 

  1. Navigation through the website should be relatively easy 
  2. Easy access to relevant information 
  3. Succinct and precise summaries 
  4. Inverted pyramid writing 
  5. Top selling/New products to be displayed on the top of the web page by default 
  6. Ensure that page load time doesn’t increase on applying multiple filters.
Source: Exeter blog (2014)

While designing a web page (online shopping) for maximisers some of the points to be included are

  1. To provide enriched content.
  2. Provide more than 1 image for the products.
  3. In case of higher priced products , videos and demos can be provided
  4. Product comparisons, reviews and ratings.
  5. Not just list the features , but also give a detailed explanation of the features
An example of content being enriched for maximisers is provided in the figure 2. One of the significant observation made by researchers is that maximising may work in the context of small choice set, whereas satisficing may work in the context of large choice set. As most of the online shopping portals provide a huge number of products, many of the consumers may prefer satisficing decision making methods in order to save time. However in product categories where the choice is limited and prices are high. An online shopper being categorized as a maximiser or satisficer may depend on several variables like. With age and increasing responsibilities, the chances of a maximiser converting to a satisficer would be higher.

  1. The time available 
  2. Demographics like – age, gender , income
  3. Number of choices available
  4. Importance or relevance of the product/Service/Decision
Advantages of satisficing

  1. Helps in saving time- Generally satisficers are more goal oriented, they wouldn’t waste much time and energy on things which are not important.
  2. In the context of business decision making , satisficing helps in achieving a consensus quickly
  3. Satisficing may produce most optimum results in shortest possible time.

Advantages of maximising

  1. Their decision making leads to maximum benefits or highest utility
  2. On assessing the outcomes of decisions objectively, maximisers tend to fare better than satisficers.


Online shopping portals need to ensure they gratify both the satisficers as well as maximisers through their website design, product offerings as well as the content. These portals can categorise customers basis metrics like time spent per visit , pages per session , clicks, number of visits to sale, cart abandonment etc. Dashboards can be created to view these in real time and take quick action to ensure quick action is taken in order to retain customers.

Iyengar, S. S. (2006). Doing Better but Feeling Worse Looking for the “Best” Job Undermines Satisfaction. Psychological Science, 17(2), 143-150.
Mosteller, J. R. (2007). Online Product Information Load: Impact on Maximisers and Satisficers within a choice Context. Georgia: Georgia State University.
Peng, S. (2013). Maximizing and Satisficing in Decision-Making. Pennsylvania: Wharton Research Scholars.
Chaiken, S. (1980).Heuristic versus Systematic Processing and the Use of Source versus Message Cues in Persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (39), 752-66.
Dar-Nimrod, I. (2009). The Maximisation Paradox: The costs of seeking alternatives. Personality and Individual Differences. 46(5-6), 631-635.