When I wanted to buy my first car more than 25 years back, I had two choices –Fiat or Ambassador.
I selected a second hand Fiat and I was very happy.
I became an expert mechanic, as the car would stop after every fifty kilometres for unexplained reasons.
I blamed the government policy for not allowing competition.
I blamed the car company for making a lousy car.
I never blamed myself.
I had a bad experience but I was happy.
Last year, I again wanted to buy a car.
There were a staggering 74 different models to choose from.
After two months of dedicated research, I finally selected a car which fitted into my budget.
After six months; the car developed some minor problems.
This time I could not blame anybody.
It was my choice.
So I compared what I got to what I expected and was disappointed with what I got in comparison to what I had expected.
Adding options to people’s lives won’t help but will just add on expectations people have about how good those options will be.
And that is going to produce less satisfaction with results even when they are good.
Take your younger child or an infant to an ice cream parlour or restaurant if you really want to torture them.
They have to make a choice, and that’s one thing they hate.
Would chocolate chip or coffee ice cream be better?
The burger or the chicken wrap?
Their fear, they say, is that whatever they select, the other option would have been better.
They are not alone in this dilemma.
Although it has long been common sense that there is no such thing as too many choices, psychologists and economists study the issue, they are concluding that an overload of options may actually overwhelm people and push them into decisions that are against their interest.
Some years back, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted a fascinating study.
On one day, shoppers at a supermarket saw a display with 24 types of jams.
Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off on any jam.
On another day, shoppers saw the same display, except that only 6 types of jam were on display.
The large display attracted more people than the small one.
But when the time came to buy, people who saw the large display were less likely to buy as people who saw the small display.
Other studies have confirmed that more options are not always better.
More choices can make you feel overwhelmed, confused and eventually less happy.
How do you choose a mobile among hundreds of options, when every brand claims to have superior functions.
There are 700 companies making soap in India. How do you choose?
If you want to buy a simple pair of Jeans- you are faced with mind-boggling choices-slim, narrow or regular fit, blue; black or grey colour, Regular, faded or stoned washed, low hung or regular and so on.
In case you want o buy a TV or a music system- the choices are so many that you are inclined to postpone the decision
As the variants of snacks, soft drinks, and beers offered at stores increases, sales and customer satisfaction decrease.
Studies have shown not only that excessive choice can result in “choice paralysis” but also that it can reduce people’s satisfaction with their decisions, even if they made good ones.
It is a researched fact that if you’re given a huge number of choices while buying an insurance policy or mutual funds, you are most likely to postpone the decision.
You believe that you will buy the policy tomorrow.
Of course, tomorrow never comes.
Marketers don’t seem to understand this.
The most meaningful strategic decisions they make is to provide more and more product variants to the buyer in terms of volume, size, function and price.
Their logic-there is something for everyone.
Choice can no longer be used to justify a marketing strategy anymore.
More is not always better, for both the customer and the retailer.
The real challenge is to discover how much assortment can be provided to get a perfect balance.
Your customer should have enough choice to feel happy about his buying decision, and at the same time do not bombard him with so many choices leading to complete paralysis.
Companies that get the balance right will be rewarded.