Marketing Research Proposal Essay Paper on Confusion in Marketing

Confusion in Marketing


Consumers have encountered an unparalleled expansion of alternatives with respect to products, brands, and lifestyle to mention a few in the past two decades. This expansion encompasses such things as countless television stations and ever mounting brands of soda. The rising freedom of choice is normally linked to a higher living standard. Consumers are attaining power and this fashionable improvement is referred to as consumer democracy (Shukla, Banerjee, & Adidam, 2010). Psychological theory and study has repeatedly illustrated a correlation between the stipulation of variety and growing intrinsic driving force, higher recognized control, improved task execution, and better life pleasure. Retailers do not establish what consumers purchase any more since consumers do it themselves. However, most consumers have turned out to be terrible selectors. Since the freedom of choice is attached to ditching traditions and behaviours, consumers are obliged to get concerned with the single offers in a mounting variety pool. For instance, buying a Coke in the past was not a challenge but currently, consumers have to select among different varieties such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Sprite. The tyranny of choice, the occurrence of ever-increasing varieties and freedom of choice, has led to consumer confusion and consumers are not in a position of choosing competently anymore.                   

Problem Statement

The growing alternatives are not the only sources of consumer confusion but every stimuli created by marketing tools. The lack of quality references, common price alterations, or intricate signs of product constitutions are store environment stimuli that could bring about consumer confusion. Certainly, consumers are capable of adapting to any surroundings but retailers are thus faced with negative outcomes. Consumers have challenges managing intricate varieties. As numerous varieties turn pleasing, consumers endure conflict and confusion. To manage, consumers turn to reduction policies that endeavor to simplify choices significantly. They can consist of the making of choice through just a few decisive factors, depending on judgment heuristics like inclination, taking fewer options into account, selecting the cheapest items, designating the variety and gathering more information. In worse occurrences, the difficulty of selection could make consumers reschedule the whole purchase decision, or in the worst occurrences, ditch the purchase in total.

Justification of the Study

            There is an evident need for research on consumer confusion in that while the design of pleasant retail environment is certainly a pertinent marketing objective, it could be as well helpful to learn the bad side of the marketing experience and attempt to discover the environmental factors that create negative consumer sentiments in the course of shopping. This study will seek to pursue the direction for future research. Anchored in a qualitative study, the analysis of consumer confusion will be done. This study will act as a foundation for future study by examining interrelations between dissimilar kinds of consumers or different products and giving manufacturers and retailers the knowledge that could be used to study present triggers of consumer confusion. Through the identification of the critical factors, manufacturers and retailers acquire direction for their policy development and accordingly for profiling their products and stores and consumers will be careful in their shopping.

Research Questions

  • What are the factors that lead to consumer confusion?
  • What is the effect of confusion on behavioural constructs like satisfaction and purchase choice?

Literature Review

            The internationalization inclination is supplemented by a reinforced individualization drift. On this note, consumers become progressively demanding, preferring not just a broader variety of products, but as well enhanced convenience. Such an occurrence is consistent with the microeconomic theory that postulates that the provision of variety permits the maximization of substitute. The postulation is in as well anchored in the rational action theory that affirms that consumers hold stable, priority-based inclinations, which are regardless of contextual aspects. Rational action theory asserts that customers get through existence with every one of their choices displayed ahead of them, as though on a buffet table (Walsh, Hennig-Thurau, & Mitchell, 2007). Herewith, consumers have adequate information concerning the costs and advantages of every alternative and compare each on a single scale of inclination, worth, or utility. If such were the reality then, under constant terms of extent of trade, rational judgment makers, who are faced with selection of different product options, will enhance their utility through the selection of the alternative that best suits their predetermined tastes. Therefore, it could be ascertained that customer wellbeing rises with the level of alternative conditions and the degree of different choices available.

The trimming down of the available choices is interested with the decrease of selection options and qualities well thought-out with the purpose of decreasing information burden (Clancy & Trout, 2002). The Cognitive Miser Theory indicates the reality that the principal aim of a consumer is to decrease the consideration period, or the cognitive working ability, essential to create decisions. Consequently, careful consideration is a significant component in the reduction of stimuli to a controllable set with the aim of meeting the restrictions of people’s limited consideration period. One means of doing this is giving up the attempts to compare choices and in its place make an unprompted purchase (DeRosia, Lee, & Christensen, 2011). Moreover, consumers employ selective decision criteria, for instance, brand name, cost, labels, or cachets to shorten the exploration and assessment procedure.

            Consumer confusion as an occurrence of its own is yet to be considered in well-established consumer behavior studies. However, consumer confusion triggers have formed discussions in the marketing text for an extremely lengthy period, though either in a different concern or in an exceedingly segregated way (Wang & Shukla, 2013). Violation of brand name called for research endeavors regarding the physical likeness of original product and imitated brands. Since consumers reassign qualities (for instance functionality, value) from the original product to imitational brands when likeness is offered, producers of original brands have a powerful interest to restrict imitators (Balabanis & Craven, 1997). The protection of rights facilitates the settlement of disputes between producers in the court of law (Wang & Shukla, 2013). Such imitations lead to brand confusion (Mitchell & Kearney, 2002). Whilst studies on brand confusion entirely centers on the physical resemblance of brands, studies on consumer confusion diversify this study concern through seizing the store location multi-dimensionality. Whereas brand confusion predominantly pertains to legal matters between producers, consumer confusion starts at the store and entails the behavior of retailers in addition to that of consumers.

            With the recognition that a store location does not have a significant impact on shopping (and particularly preference) behavior, there is a need to center on consumer confusion triggers instead of only brand appearance (Matzler, Stieger, & Füller, 2011). Consequently, in retail administration, researchers handle amid other aspects the impact of fragrance, music, light, and colors. There is inadequate comprehension of which component in the retail field is the most salient to consumers when generating an approach-prevention assessment. Nonetheless, in the creation of triumphant marketing actions, it is vital to comprehend what (grouping of) factors lead to an orienting or confusing environment that consequently brings about an approach or prevention behavior. Moreover, consumers do not recognize an environmental aspect (for instance, fragrance) in a secluded manner while getting into a store (Howard, Kerin, & Gengler, 2000). The discernment is influenced by resourceful interrelating elements.  To successfully examine the possibility of a store to confuse consumers, concentration has to be placed on the environment (encompassing apprehensible pointers of every marketing tool).

            Researchers have found a holistic reflection of consumer confusion by broadening the research concern from the rather tight perspective of brand name violation to a more holistic argument encompassing further triggers of consumer confusion in a store setting (Srivastava, 2011). On this note, the researchers talk of brand, promotional confusion, and price. The aspects stimuli likeness, stimuli burden, and stimuli uncertainty highlight just the appearance of confusion because of attributes of recognized variety in a store (for instance, resemblance or diversity of brands). Thus, according to Brécard (2014), a conceptual and practical examination of every possible consumer confusion trigger in a store setting is yet to be carried out. This affirmation appears in particular vital since the rising level of competition has made many retailers and manufacturers to strengthen their marketing endeavors devoid of comprehending its (possibly negative) effect on consumers (for example, because of irregularity or unreliability of the endeavors). For example, the majority of retailers in the UK attempted to satisfy the emerging consumer demand for environment friendly brands. To offer orientation to consumers, the retailers initiated new brand tags. Certainly, labeling the brands improves psychological convenience but because every retailer used many similar labels for dissimilar brands employing even dissimilar evaluation standards, the marketing endeavor lost integrity and led to consumer confusion.

            The emphasis on consumer confusion experience is meant to sensitize the retail sector to choose marketing efforts wisely and according to their policy. In this regard, retailers require excellent comprehension of consumer confusion to facilitate the examination of the influence of (newly initiated) marketing efforts. To build on the knowledge of consumer confusion, the occurrence is described on account of surpassing a personal capability threshold for engaging and working on environment stimuli. Consistent with Smithers (2011), consumer confusion is the psychological condition that makes it hard for consumers to choose and construe stimuli. The lack of suitable knowledge brings about lesser selection quality or effectiveness. Taking into consideration the optimal stimulation level theory, consumers progressively loose direction the moment a person’s critical threshold (through stimuli force) is surpassed. Since the threshold is personal and fairly stable, consumers become confused at dissimilar rates of stimuli force.

            Up to the maximum stimulation intensity, consumers are essentially in the hunt for unforeseen or dynamic stimuli (for instance, promotions or new brands) (Langer, Eisend, & KuB, 2008). With the surpassing of critical threshold, consumers become increasingly confused. The specification of the stimuli that triggers the rate consumer confusion assists in the development of the knowledge necessary to control the stimuli strength in a retail setting. The evaluation of stimuli is vital considering that consumers recognize confusion as an unconstructive psychological condition. Nevertheless, via particular behavior frameworks (for instance, selective discernment), consumers are capable of regaining a favorable stimulation intensity. Nevertheless, this involves a cringing consumer reserve (because of a mounting loss of stimulation to face strange stimuli), which is evident in stagnating or decreasing sales. To be precise, stimulation is positive up to a given level. Past that level, the identified stimulation rate turns consecutively into consumer confusion and signs of consumption weariness.          


Though studies have been carried out with respect to consumer confusion, none has encompassed all environmental stimuli. Most studies have focused on brands (for instance, similarity or overselection) and information concerning brands but consumer confusion triggers emanating from other marketing tools (for instance, price) are frequently not taken into consideration. This study will seek to discover specific triggers of consumer confusion in retail environment. To portray the intricacy of consumer confusion occurrence, the study will achieve a conceptual examination.           

Research Design and Variables

            This study will employ the primary method of data collection where the data will be acquired from consumers at Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. The research design will be qualitative, ethnographic research; this is since the research design will collect extensive narrative data founded on dissimilar variables in a natural condition within a particular structure. The dependent variable will be consumer confusion while the independent variable will be environment stimuli (confusion triggers), and the demographic variables will be family size, age, and gender. A survey will be utilized to present the provision of a thorough knowledge of the occurrences backing the study.

Sampling and Participants

The non-random sampling system that will be utilized in this study is convenience sampling as it will purely entail contributors that are the mostly available and simply selected to participate in the study. The population for the study will be the customers of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. A written appeal for collection of data via questionnaires and interviews will initially be sent to the management of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. To begin with, the data for this study will be gathered through unofficial talks with staff of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. prior to seeking to interview some consumers. Unofficial talks will also be carried out with the consumers at large. The mode of getting linked to suitable participants will be hashed out with the management who will then launch a request of participation by the participants while ascertaining a representative sample of the consumers.

The participants will be selected with respect to consumer demographics (attained through analysis of the loyalty card data base of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., more than eighty percent of the sales volume is made through loyalty cards) of the regional supermarket chain with respect to family size, age, and gender. The ultimate sample will encompass 12 female and 6 male consumers, ranging from 20 to 65 years of age. 9 consumers will be selected from family households, 5 from single households, and 4 from cohousing communities. In general, it could be assumed that most of the participants in age between 20 and 30 are either student, people that have obtained a university degree, or employed. Overrepresentation in the demographic distribution will possibly lead to limitations of the study with regard to the generalization of the outcomes.

Data Collection and Materials

After the choice of the contributors, open-ended survey questions will be utilized since they will draw out responses that the interviewer cannot anticipate and are usually lengthier with a description of the occurrence of concern in a summed up and brief nature. This will let the interviewees act in response to the questions in an essay arrangement thus presenting a lot of information devoid of any constraint. The survey means of data collection will be triumphant since essential concerns regarding consumer confusion experiences will be talked about. Prior to every interview, the researcher will present an enlightenment on the basis of the interview, the type of the questions, the discretion of the collective information, the freedom to contribute, and then permit the participants to make inquiries concerning where they will require further explanation prior to embarking on responding to the questions.

The questions of the survey will have dissimilar kinds of enquiries for the independent variable, dependent variable, as well as demographic variables; at least three different questions for every variable. The period of every interview will be about an hour. Approval will be requested from every participant for the use of a tape recorder to increase the accuracy of data and ensure an enduring record. The data captured in the tape recorder will be transcribed after the study to create a reliable source for reference and substantiation. To enhance a successful response rate along with the convenience sampling technique, a raffle will be offered to the participants who will give their email address with a chance to win 40 US dollars. The approach acted as a motivation to begin and successfully complete the questionnaire.    


             As the mediator of the interviews between the researcher and the participants, an open-ended questionnaire will be employed. Initially, the participants will be given a concise introduction to the research questions and objectives. To give them a hint before embarking on answering the questions, the participants will be told to mull over sources of consumer confusion in a retail setting. Participants were consequently asked to recollect their shopping experiences. The researcher will then choose to ask follow-up questions to make sure that possible confusion triggers will be recognized unequivocally and all interviews will be recorded and transcribed. Consequently, every participant will be requested to answer the open-ended questions of the questionnaire, which were the same for all the participants. A total of 10 questions will be issued, examining the most important effects of the model (dependent variable) in addition to the controlling aspects (independent and demographic variables).

            Every question in the questionnaire was compulsory since it was advisable to answer a given question before progressing to the next. At the start of the questionnaire, the participants were requested to give their electronic mail addresses if they would wish to take part in the 40 US dollars lottery. After submitting the questionnaire, the participants will be thanked and offered any other information that they will ask or will be deemed fit. The Appendix shows the entire questions of the questionnaire. The initial section of the questionnaire will consist of evaluation of consumer confusion. Other questions will inquire the participants’ satisfaction with their selection, their degree of interest with the grocery products, and their grocery products purchase rate. Consequently, the participants will be asked concerning their psychological experience in the course of their choice judgment and a number of questions to evaluate their favorable stimulation intensity. The final section will be about the demographics of the participants, especially their age and gender.                  


            Though this study will offer significant insights, it will not be devoid of its limitations. To start with, the research will be carried out with the use of convenience sampling. Although this ought not to compromise the internal validness of the outcomes, generalizing the outcomes to other sections of the population requires being carried out with care. This is supported by the fact that participants of the different income classes and education levels may not be evenly distributed across the selected sample. Wealthy, young, and educated consumers might be evidently overrepresented. It is evident that such types of consumers are more probable of finding it easy to handle high levels of stimuli and, hence, they rarely suffer confusion (Brengman, Geuens, & Pelsmacker, 2001). Such uneven distribution in the sample could lead to biased outcomes so that no direct or reasonable influence of personal attributes could be confirmed.          

It will be an ethical matter for the researcher to inquire from the participants that feel a great loss after their shopping experiences concerning consumer confusion occurrences. This is due to the fear that such questions from the researcher will generate a recollection of such painful experiences in the course of the early stages of recovery and arouse the failure to successfully respond or answer the questions with the aim of trying to ignore such memories. It will also appear disreputable questioning consumers concerning their confusion, how it has affected them, and steps to take among other related issues as it could appear as overindulgence. On the other hand, the failure to determine consumer confusion from the sample could lead to ineffective outcomes of the study. Hence, the researcher will center on past and present consumer confusion as a habitual part of history-taking for the participants.

Results, Findings, and Data Analysis

The data analysis method relies on the research technique and kind of data employed and a qualitative technique of data analysis will be used for this study. The qualitative analysis of the nominal data for the study will be descriptive and will play a key role in the comprehension of consumer confusion and its impact on choice satisfaction with the intention of offering knowledge that will enhance positive orientation, sentiments and choice satisfaction.


Consumers have difficulties managing complicated varieties. As many varieties turn pleasing, consumers suffer conflict and confusion. Through the recognition of the critical aspects, this study will help manufacturers and retailers get direction for their policy development and consequently for profiling their products and stores and consumers will be cautious in their purchase.


Balabanis, G., & Craven, S. (1997). Consumer confusion from own brand lookalikes: an exploratory investigation. Journal of Marketing Management, 13(4), 299-313.

Brécard, D. (2014). Consumer confusion over the profusion of eco-labels: lessons from a double differentiation model. Resource and Energy Economics, 37(1), 64-84.

Brengman, M., Geuens, M., & Pelsmacker, P. D. (2001). The impact of consumer characteristics and campaign related factors on brand confusion in print advertising. Journal of Marketing Communications, 7(4), 231-243.

Clancy, K. J., & Trout, J. (2002). Brand confusion. Harvard Business Review, 80(3), 22-34.

DeRosia, E., Lee, T., & Christensen, G. (2011). Sophisticated but confused. Psychology & Marketing, 28, 457-78.

Howard, D., Kerin, R., &Gengler, C. (2000). The effects of brand name similarity on brand source confusion. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 19, 250-64.

Langer, A., Eisend, M., & KuB, A. (2008). The impact of eco-labels on consumers: Less information, more confusion. European Advances in Consumer Research, 8, 338-339.

Matzler, K., Stieger, D., & Füller, J. (2011). Consumer confusion in internet-based mass customization: Testing a network of antecedents and consequences. Journal of Consumer Policy, 34(2), 231-247.

Mitchell, V. & Kearney, I. (2002). A critique of legal measures of brand confusion. Journal of Product and Brand Management, 11, 357-77.

Shukla, P., Banerjee, M., & Adidam, P. T. (2010). Antecedents and consequences of consumer confusion: Analysis of the financial services industry. Advances in Consumer Research, 39, 292-297.

Smithers, R. (2011). Supermarkets ‘confuse’ consumers with product pricing. Retrieved from

Srivastava, R. (2011). Understanding brand identity confusion. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 29, 340-52.

Walsh, G., Hennig-Thurau, T., & Mitchell, V. W. (2007). Consumer confusion proneness: scale development, validation, and application. Journal of Marketing Management, 23(7-8), 697-721.

Wang, Q., & Shukla, P. (2013). Linking sources of consumer confusion to decision satisfaction: The role of choice goals. Psychology & Marketing, 30(4), 295-304.



Dear Participant,

This questionnaire is meant for a research based on consumer confusion (consumer’s shopping behaviour). For the success of this research, I rely on your support and your personal view matters. The information you give will be treated with great confidentiality and the choice to start or complete this questionnaire is anchored in your freewill. The completion of the questionnaire will take 20-30 minutes. Kindly give your email address at the end of the questionnaire for a chance to win 40 US dollars.

Personal details

Your age…….

Your gender……

Section 1

  1. According to your shopping experience at Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., explain some of the factors that create consumer confusion.
  2. Are you at all times satisfied with your choice of products at Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.? Explain why or why not.
  3. Give some instances where you have been a victim of consumer confusion?
  4.  What advice would you give to the management of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., other retailers, and consumers concerning consumer confusion with the purpose of avoiding negative effects of confusion?

Section 2

  1. Explain your stand concerning new products at Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. and their impact on consumer confusion.
  2. How are promotions of some products able to cause consumer confusion?
  3. Explain how the prices of similar products could create consumer confusion?

Section 3

  1. Explain which gender you think falls victim of consumer confusion mostly.
  2. Does age influence consumer confusion? Discuss
  3. How often are you a victim of consumer confusion at Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.?

Your e-mail address…………………

Thank you for your participation and great support!