Logic over freedom: how much choice does your customer really want?

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Too much choice can be overwhelming and drive consumers elsewhere

The term 'choice' is one that carries an air of positivity in a generation where freedom is focus. From food at different restaurants to the selection for browsing and purchasing online, the options are endless.

However, true to our British roots, we find the opportunity of getting too involved slightly daunting (although we would never complain about it). And it turns out, too much choice can often confuse consumers and turn them away as potential buyers.

Retail Ignition: The Future of Choice, an event held by The Iris Nursery last month, saw associate director, Matt Rebeiro, discuss disrupting choice and shaking up the system. He noted that choice is more than just a scale of independence, it is an imperative marketing technique that should be considered in detail.

How do consumers really react to choice and how should marketers be offering their products to get the best turnover?

Freedom versus logic

Here is an example of appearance versus engagement with a supermarket experiment:

A market research investigating choice preference saw two tables laid out in a supermarket; one had 24 flavours of jam on offer and the other displayed six. Results were recorded through the day of how many people approached each table and how many purchased from them.

Results illustrated that although the larger display of jams initially attracted more visitors, choosing from fewer options was an easier process and therefore more sales were made by the latter. It seems people like the idea of having freedom to choose, but essentially welcome direction on decision making.

In a world of technological mayhem and entrepreneurial demand, how do you decide which marketing option is the best for your brand?

According to Rebeiro, choice can be categorised into three types:

Single serve (no choice)

The single serve option demonstrates that the ‘best’ choice is made for the consumer.

Flat Iron Steak, a new, trendy restaurant that has popped up all over London, offers one meal: flat iron steak. Sides are a discretionary addition, but there is only one option on the menu.

Similarly, Eve, the mattress company, sells only one mattress: the eve mattress. They also sell toppers, pillows, sheets, protectors and duvets – all in one style.

The Amazon Echo, when asked to purchase a product online, also offers only one option: the top option.

This limitation of choice demonstrates that these companies are experts in their offering – they are only presenting the best product and have taken the stress of selection away from the consumer.

Single serve is most appropriate when the ends is more important than the means. Convenient methods are great for people with limited time and an open mind.

Curation/filtering (some choice)

Guesstimating based on the results of the jam experiment, offering people some choice without bombarding them would be the ideal option.

Spotify certainly thought so when it curated personalised playlists for its customers based on the users’ previous choices, which received positive feedback online; the time consumption of research was removed but users felt as if they had control because it was based on personal interest.

HelloFresh – an online service which allows customers to select recipe options based on diet preference – is another company which has opted for filtered choice. Although the chefs and ingredients are limited, suggestions are based around the customer's personal interest. It works because although convenient, the customer still has some control.

Curated choice is ideal when the decision has some cultural interest; it works well for companies that can base product on results and suggestions.

Customised (controlled choice)

Customised choice is something we have adapted to quicker than it took to adapt to the Snapchat filter – it’s everywhere. From customised shoes, bags and clothes websites and services to Coca-Cola offering custom named bottles, we are spoilt with controlled choice. It is the option to create things exactly as we want them without having to settle for something below ideal.

Personalisation works best when the product is an extension of the customer’s identity.

Although choice seems like a general term, each of the aforementioned options significantly alters a brand's audience. Before you start scribbling ideas for a campaign or a new product, take the time to examine your audience and how you want to address them. It will make a huge impact on your ROI.

So, what’s your choice of play?

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