Purpose: This study aims to examine gender differences in the impact of imagining product use on purchase decisions. The authors argue that while imagination can enhance purchase intention for female consumers, it can be detrimental to male consumers. This study explores the conditions under which imagination can be turned into a positive device for male consumers. Design/methodology/approach: Three experimental studies were conducted. The first two studies illustrate the differential effects of imagination on males vs females. Given the negative effect found among males, the third study focused exclusively on male consumers to identify conditions under which the negative impact of imagination on these consumers can be alleviated. Findings: Studies 1 and 2 show that while an imagination tactic has positive or no effect on female consumers, a generic imagination request lowers male consumers’ purchase intention. Focusing on potential ways of alleviating this negative effect, Study 3 shows that for males without prior brand ownership experience, imagining product use in a less-typical context can increase purchase intention. Research limitations/implications: The results provide evidence that gender impacts the effectiveness of imagination in improving product evaluation. Furthermore, the context of imagination and previous brand experience can be used together to determine how male consumers respond to imagination. Practical implications: The study’s findings warn against the blind use of imagination tactics. Instead, retailers need to customize imagination tactics based on gender, previous brand experience and product usage context. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the first papers to examine the impact of gender on the influence of imagination on product evaluation.
- E-commerce/internet retailing
- Mental simulation
- Retail consumer behavior