Paradox of Choice– More is Less– Customers Want Choices But Only So Much: It’s Complete Hogwash– More is More…

Paradox of Choice essentially says ‘more is less’ and ‘less is more’… customers like choice but only up to a point– then past a certain number of choices we become overwhelmed and unable to easily make decisions; it’s ‘analysis paralysis’– we become so overwhelmed with the decision that it paralyzes us from actually making a choice; we get stuck in the analysis phase… Decision-making is central to business success, but yet it’s littered with hazards…

According to Linden Wilcock; increased choices result in: 1. Paralysis and 2. Regret… So, how should you apply this to your marketing strategy? Don’t overwhelm your customers with too many– product line, price options… Don’t promise the world and risk under-delivering… create a situation where the customer is more than pleasantly surprised… According to Michal Piasecki and Sean Hanna; paradox of choice has been recognized as one of the major sources of confusion… It’s the lack of meaningful choice, rather than an overwhelming amount of choice, which can cause customer’s feelings of malcontent, less satisfaction, paralysis… The challenge is not to limit the scope of choice, but to provide users with choice that is relevant to them…

According to Kelly Kautz; too much variety can actually hurt sales. Yet many businesses assume that the more products they cast, the more fish they’ll catch. Take a look at your business and see if you can eliminate a few choices. Do you offer products or services that don’t generate sales, in hopes that the right person might just come along? By cutting the clutter, you may improve your overall sales. Have you created the perfect mix of choices, or do you still have some paring down to do? But some experts say that the paradox of choice is unproven and may be overstated…

There have been attempts to duplicate it in various studies with mixed success, for example; a meta-analysis incorporating research from 50 independent studies found no meaningful connection between choice and anxiety, however, they also speculated that the variance in these studies left open the possibility that choice overload could be tied to certain highly specific and as yet poorly understood pre-conditions… According to Dmitri Davydov; confused customers never buy, whether it’s many or few choices, simplicity is key– choice within constraints and freedom within limits is what leads to satisfied customers…

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Paradox of Choice: To put it simply, the paradox of choice states that the more choices one is given when making a decision, the less happy they tend to be about the decision they make (even if the selection is objectively better)… What’s interesting about the paradox of choice is that it doesn’t discriminate much… The brain, in other words, doesn’t do a good job of realizing what’s at stake when we decide…

In the book ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less’ by Barry Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers… Schwartz assembles his argument from a variety of fields of modern psychology that study how happiness is affected by success or failure of goal achievement…

Schwartz compares the various choices that people face in their daily lives by comparing the selection of choices at a supermarket to the variety of classes at an Ivy League college… There are now several books and magazines devoted to what is called the ‘voluntary simplicity’ movement. Its core idea is that we have too many choices, too many decisions, too little time to do what is really important…

Everyday decisions, big or small, have become increasingly complex due to overwhelming abundance of choices… We assume that more choices means better options and greater satisfaction: But beware of excessive choice; choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any, all failures.

In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when the options are limitless, then too much choice can lead to clinical depression.

In his book Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice– the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish– becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being… Schwartz says that the dramatic explosion in choice– from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs– has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution… By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes counter-intuitive case that by  reducing choices we can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives...

In the article Paradox of Choice: Theory Loses Favor by Donald Marron writes: More choice should always lead to more sales, since the odds are greater that a shopper will find something they want. But does it? According to the Paradox of Choice; less choice is better– more choice means less-buying– making decisions is hard…

According to Tim Harford; some studies failed to valid the paradox of choice effect: It’s hard to find much evidence that retailers are ferociously simplifying offerings in an effort to boost sales. Starbucks boasts about its 87,000 drink combinations; supermarkets are packed with options… The suggestion that ‘choice de-motivates’ is not necessarily true, but an effect that can emerge under special circumstances…

In research, Benjamin Scheibehenne and colleagues designed a range of experiments to figure out when ‘choice de-motivates’ and when it does not… However, they were unable to find any sign that the ‘choice effect’ is bad… After designing 10 different experiments in which participants were asked to make a choice, and they found very little evidence that ‘variety’ caused selection problems… Subsequently, Scheibehenne and his colleagues assemble all the studies, published and unpublished, of the ‘choice effect’ that they could find…

The average of all these studies suggested that offering lots of choices seems to make no important difference either way… In short, the paradox of choice is experiencing the infamous ‘decline effect’: According to an article by Jonah Lehrer in the New Yorker Magazine; sometimes what seems to be scientific truth ‘wears-off’ over time. And not just in ‘soft’ sciences like the intersection of psychology and economics, but in biology and medicine as well… It’s easy to get a paper published if it documents a new paradox or anomaly… Only after that claim has gained some mind-share does the marketplace then open to research showing null results of no paradox.

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In the article Perspective on Business by Timothy Platt writes: The problem with paradox of choice arises when consumers are faced with deciding between large numbers of what they see as functionally and value-based equivalent options… If the alternatives choices are value equivalent then they will most likely select on the basis of name brand familiarity– unless one of the other alternatives has a significant price differential, at which point that might affect their decision…

Under this circumstance, the likelihood that customers will simply walk away without selecting and purchasing something goes up. Because the perceived added cost to the consumer from having to stand there and sift and sort from among all the choices starts to look larger than the cost of simply doing nothing, especially if the product is not considered essential…

In the article Paradox of Choice by Kassia Gardner writes: We’re all faced with bewildering and sometimes overwhelming variety of choice in our lives… Often making a decision can be difficult, and the more choices we have the more difficult it becomes; we can feel overloaded by the number of options and, at times, unable to cope… According to Barry Schwartz; the more choices people have the less likely they are to buy… So as a business person– how can you actually help people to buy?

According to Barry Schwartz; getting people to make a decision is all about making life easier for consumers rather than torturing them with lots of options… This means structuring the choices in such away that consumers don’t have to look at hundreds of options… By using this approach you can make choices less acute and less problematic for buyers… Businesses that take the initiative by asking right questions, which enable customers to make decisions between two or three things rather than 100 things, can in many situations have a competitive advantage...

Bottom-line: Review the marketing strategy, and ask; how much choice are you giving the customers, and are you torturing the customer with too many irrelevant choices?

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Perhaps choice is not as paradoxical as some psychologists have come to believe, and we seem to be able to cope with it… According to Stephen J. Dubner; it’s important to make a distinction between ‘choice and complexity’… and streamline both choice and complexity such that they provide a good customer experience. According to Derek Thompson; some  called it paradox of choice, and others call it ‘feeling overwhelmed by options’. But some economists are calling it still something else; ‘complete hogwash’.

Perhaps multi-national corporations learned a different lesson about choice; that less isn’t always more, but more is more. The non-paradox of choice got an intellectual ballast when a team of psychologists and economists tried and failed to replicate the experiment… But what about the other end of the choice spectrum? What about shoppers who have few or no choice? That’s subject of an article by Daniel Mochon on ‘single-option aversion’…

According to Mochon’s research; when shoppers are given a take-it-or-leave it option, it makes them more interested in searching for comparisons. The ‘paradox of choice’ theory assumes that many similar options confuse the consumer… Mochon’s research suggests that businesses should be mindful of offering too few choices… Even if consumers can find a choice that they like, they may be unwilling to purchase it without considering other similar options first… For example; that’s why Best Buy doesn’t offer just two TV or two cameras: It offers hundreds. It’s why Starbucks and Whole Foods aren’t irrational to give their shoppers a bounty of options…

Sometimes, choices can paralyze us with anxiety and exhaustion, but sometimes, choices reduce anxiety by making us feel like we’ve searched  and exhausted all the options, and now they’re ready to buy… Herein lies the paradox of choice; more options and more flexibility but more confusion and complexity at the same time… Offering customers’ more choices can help win business– but only if you know the right way to do it…

Customers like idea of choice, but as choices multiply most customers find actual decision-making more difficult; more choices means more work, means more time invested, means more effort and often more stress… the key is provide choice, keep it simple, eliminate complexity…