If Customers Ask for More Choice, Don’t Listen
In his provocative book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz’s warns that giving consumers more product choices actually lowers their purchase satisfaction. Schwartz reasons that having too many options makes us fear missing out, which causes anxiety, analysis paralysis and regret.
But many marketers have dismissed Schwartz’s warning, arguing that today’s consumers expect a wide range of options and have learned to filter greater amounts of information. Marketers’ own research usually backs this up. When asked, consumers in these studies almost always say they want more choice. And, in fact, one of the top reasons shoppers give for not making a purchase is “couldn’t find the right option.” Understandably, therefore, marketers are reluctant to cut back on SKUs for fear of disappointing consumers and losing sales. Instead, companies continue to develop a growing array of niche products to fit every imagined need and aggressively promote them.
This isn’t just a problem for consumers. Cognitive overload is bad for brands too. The harder consumers find it to make purchase decisions, the more likely they are to overthink the decision and repeatedly change their minds or give up on the purchase altogether. Smart brands reduce the effort of making choices without reducing the appearance of choice. Some progressive brands simplify product choice without reducing choice by helping consumers navigate and trust product information and weigh their options.