4 Ways Customers Drown in Choices
Spring, Distilled, Drinking, Sparkling, Flavored, Mineral, and Vitamin water are all different kinds of water available at your local grocery store. That is not even counting the different brands and flavors that are available. Throughout the grocery store, we are faced with literal truckloads of choices. Everything from salad dressing to water there are many options. We could actually drown in choices (especially the water.) We are faced with a problem that many areas of the world wish they had.
Most people consider a lot of choices a good thing. However, social psychologists have discovered that there are limits to the benefits. Research shows that when our brains are faced with too many choices there are several problems that may arise – unhappiness, reduced self-control due to decision fatigue, decision default, or even choice deferral.
Professor Barry Schwartz in both his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice and his Ted Talk of the same name points out that often when we make a choice out of a large number of options, we later question our choices. What does that mean?
Baskin Robbins made a very effective campaign in 1953 centered around offering 31 flavors one for every day of the month. Since then they have created over 1,300 different ice cream flavors in their 70-year history. According to a study they performed with Food-ology they found that the top five flavors that make people happy were:
- Jamoca Coffee
- Rocky Road
Think about that a moment. Three of the top five flavors that make people happy at Baskin Robbins are the most generic ice cream flavors.(Baskin Robbins survey results) From a business standpoint, the International Dairy Foods Association conducted a survey of the top-selling ice cream flavors in the United States in 2017. The five top-selling flavors were:
- Cookies N’ Cream
- Mint Chocolate Chip
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
While Strawberry did not feature on their list, the top two of the five flavors were Vanilla and Chocolate. International Dairy Foods Association survey results.
You know the phrase, ”like a kid in a candy store.” Kids will often grab candy or toys at random because they have not developed much self-control nor the understanding of money and cost that should reign in consumer spending. The main reason why stores have so many items surrounding their check-out lanes is because of the effect of Choice Overload. When our minds are presented with an overload of spending options, we often fall back on decision shortcuts.
Ever leave the store with items not on your list? The reason why: an overload of choices makes us vulnerable to marketing ploys and mental shortcuts. These influences cause us to place greater value on perceived deals or so-called cheap little pleasures like candy bars at the check-out.
Decision defaults go back to the idea of mental shortcuts which social psychologists call heuristics. These are factors such as:
Availability – the easier it is to think of a concept due to recent influences such as seeing an ad before entering an aisle can cause a product to be more likely to be chosen.
Salience – similar to availability the subject is more easily recalled. In this case, it is often due to a more emotionally impactful point of reference. Maybe Vanilla is your favorite because it makes you think of your favorite birthday or some other emotional frame of reference.
Here is the most dreaded effect of choice overload from a business standpoint. The consumer walks away. You taste too many samples and are too full for an ice cream cone. You get fed up looking for your vinaigrette so you give up. You walk up and down the water aisle and decide to finally buy that water filter and just use the tap.
So how do you keep from overloading your customers without eliminating their power to choose? Learn how minds make decisions and use that knowledge to help customers make decisions without overwhelming and frustrating them. Need help? Contact your branding experts at Novae Design Group