Herding mentality: Groupon effectively turns customers into sheep, the results of a study show.(Agencies)
We might like to think we're not influenced by other people, but a new study into the group-buying mechanisms - like those used on coupon sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial - reveals that telling buyers who come later to the offer how many have already signed up increases the number of purchasers.
Researchers at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management wanted to understand why group buying sites that have entered the market recently have enjoyed greater success than those operating a decade ago, such as Mercata and MobShop.
Earlier attempts typically left potential buyers waiting for days before confirming whether or not they had got the offer they had signed up for.
‘We think one of the reasons group-buying has been successful recently is because of the short time horizon,’ says Rotman Professor Ming Hu, who co-wrote the study with Professor Mengze Shi and PhD student Jiahua Wu. ‘It allows for a herding effect.’
Another reason is the use of an information structure that discloses to later arrivals how many have already signed onto the deal.
Researchers looked at two ways of designing the purchasing mechanism for a group buy: a simultaneous mechanism, where no one knows how many buyers have come before them, and a sequential mechanism, where a second group of buyers has the advantage of knowing the size of the first group.
The researchers' analytical model shows the most successful mechanism is the sequential one because it eliminates uncertainty for those coming later to the deal, and improves the confidence of those who sign on early, as they're able to track the numbers of those who come after them.
‘That boosts confidence,’ says Professor Hu, who teaches operations management. Deals for “luxury” services, versus everyday items, work better in a group buy scenario because they offer consumers a greater benefit.
(Read by Nelly Min. Nelly Min is a journalist at the China Daily Website.)
（中国日报网英语点津 Julie 编辑：陈丹妮）
time horizon: 时间期限，投资期
herding effect: 羊群效应