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Information Cascades and Tablets

Tablets are all the rage now in the technology world. There is constant innovation as companies try to one-up each other, thus newer, better models seem to be making debuts every month. As consumers, we try to wade through the onslaught of company ads and look to product reviews to determine our choices. Some people choose the online route, reading articles written by professional tech geeks, while others wait for their friends/family members to purchase a product. Even still, some people purchase the ‘next best thing’ without  a second thought (-ahem-, Apple fanboys/girls). The point is, information is distributed unevenly among consumers based on how consumers choose their information sources.

Online reviews are often a good source of information when it comes to buying electronics. Usually, one person will write an article about the pros and cons of a product, and sometimes compare two or more products for consumers to get a better idea of what to buy. A tech savvy person will look at an article and the specs for a product and compare their different options. In this way, an online review helps facilitate someone making their own decision. However, less informed people may skip straight to the end to see if the author recommends the product. In this way, people trust the information given by a ‘professional’ and make their decision by following the author’s recommendation. This person buys the product, and is happy regardless because they didn’t seek a better option.

Consumers also get their information from peers, be their peers well informed or not. If a friend whips out her Samsung Galaxy tab in the middle of lecture, chances are you’re going to like it for no particular reason. She’ll tout how the tablet is great for browsing the internet and takes good photos, and you’ll be hooked. She may not say anything about the processing or memory, but the exposure to the product and her approval will win you over. You think to yourself, she said it was a great tablet, so it must be good otherwise she wouldn’t have spent all that money.

The same can be said if a lot of people have the same device, be they peers or strangers. iPads are wildly popular, and it seems as though everyone’s got one. Following the information cascade model, you are more inclined to go with the popular model, even if others are less expensive and run better. The reasoning behind it is that everyone has one, so it must be worth the money.

As you purchase the product of your choice, you too become part of the information cascade. As the owner of a tablet, you both add to the existing population of users, and serve as a source of knowledge to your peers.Your decision may influence someone else in their decision to purchase a tablet.


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November 2012