Sustainable by default – how determining the default option in mass customization fosters sustainable product choices

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How important is the design of a mass customization toolkit for the outcome of the process? Mass Customization (MC) allows participants to design a tailored product by offering various categories and options from which the customer can choose. Theories of customer decision making state that the way options are presented can influence the customers’ choice. Politicians and companies have used this knowledge to address societal problems like organ donation or obesity by nudging customers toward a desired behavior. This study investigated if the design of the MC can be used to foster the consumption of sustainable products as sustainable consumption is one mayor remedy to address environmental problems. The researcher argued that the way a sustainable option is presented in an MC configurator increases the likelihood that this option is chosen. More precisely, the paper tested if the placement of a sustainable option on the right side in an MC tool and setting it as the default option increased the likelihood that the participants chose this option. Furthermore, the researcher checked the impact of the participants' affinity toward sustainability on this relationship. An online experiment was used to test four different conditions on four sample groups. In total, 139 participants took part in the research. The analysis revealed that the difference between the four conditions was not significant, hence, placing the sustainable option on the right side or setting it as default did not significantly increase the choice for the sustainable option. However, the results indicated that the participants' affinity towards sustainability had a positive influence on the preference for a sustainable product option. Thus, it is advised that managers provide sustainable product information in their MC toolkit to increase the production and consumption of sustainable products.
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