“Too many choices can overwhelm us and cause us to not choose at all. For businesses, this means that if they offer us too many choices, we may not buy anything”. – Sheena Iyengar
While customers expect to be able to choose what they want and what fits their needs and requirements, they can get thrown off by too much information by way of choices. It is advisable for businesses to not confuse your customers by bombarding them with statistics, facts, figures and a plethora of choices that could potentially intimidate them. The quote above lucidly explains one of the reasons that customers don’t buy. Intricacy and over-involvedness results in buyers moving from a decision to buy to a state of confusion and indecisiveness. Before putting information out there relating to a new product or a re-launched product, make a thorough analysis of whether the information will be seen as unique and distinct enough to make the product appealing or is it a re-hash of before and will only serve to confuse your customers.
Every business seemingly is searching for a selling proposition that is unique to them – something that differentiates them from everyone else and can be used to attract a larger number of customers. The methods to do this range from highlighting discounts on prices, shortcomings of the competitors, distinctive features of their products and many other such ways. As companies focus on what works best, they also direct the customer attention to how their offerings would address their emotional needs. It is about telling the customer how their offerings can affect positively more than just their business.
However, customer attention is a fickle thing and moves about and changes very often. Your business understands this too and that is why you make the error of placing too many options and choices before the customers, which does not help but only serves to confuse your customers.
Customers decide based on some factors. The website of a company is perhaps the first and very crucial decider. In fact it is in a matter of only seconds that customers usually make decisions to buy or not. The home page or landing page of the website must be meticulously done and must have just enough to arrest the attention of customers without confusing them. The content must be informative, the page must be interactive and the graphics bold but not startling. Those who ‘visit’ the site consider all these aspects before making a decision. In addition, there are certain physical and psychological conditions that make people decide. These are reactions to certain patterns and occurrences which make people decide, however people are not always conscious of them. Smart companies study these behaviours and patterns and use them to design their web pages, marketing campaigns and better products thereby ensuring that whatever they come up with will be suited to their customers and not lead to confusion.
The fact is that as humans we are faced with choices from the moment we awake – a mix of small and big decisions. Many times we are able to make these decisions and yet at other times we are overwhelmed and look outside for help in making these decisions. Another fact is that while we may want some options, when faced with too many choices, the normal psychological behaviour is to stop and not make any choices.
The number of options and choices they receive from just your company is enough to confuse your customer. Imagine the number of choices and offerings that are similar to your company’s and the large number of competitor’s out to get their attention. This complexity of making choices and the overloaded of information serve to confuse your customers and they simply walk away rather than choosing. Even though, customers may seem to want information, it must be clearly understood that they want only as much as they can easily process and decipher. Fancy words, intricate marketing campaigns, too many choices for one product together ensure that your customers will block out any decision making and would rather not buy than make the effort to wade through the choices.
So why does providing too many choices serve to confuse your customers?
- It takes away from the focus of a good product. Companies often think that they are making an investment when trying to provide many options for customers. However in doing so, they lose focus on what their main business is and end up messing that up as well. Too many choices also detract from personalization which over time, customers don’t appreciate. So even though the company started out by trying to please the customer, the lack of focus and personalization causes them move away from the company and seek a company that can give them choices that are focused and customized to their current needs.
- It would seem like a great idea to have many things on offer. However, when customers look at the ‘spread’ they are unable to process and decide which leads to frustration. From your own experience, you would know that when you enter a store, unless you are looking for one particular product and brand, even the number of toothbrushes for example can send you in a tizzy. You would much rather buy from some place that has fewer options but all of them are pertinent to your needs. Narrowing down options based on customer data, will allow customers to buy and do so more often.
- How many times have you felt like you could have got something better or that you should have chosen the ‘other’ product lying near the one you chose? This leads to dissatisfaction. When customers are faced with too many decisions, they would often feel that they have decided in a hurry and later regret the choice they made. With time, they would much rather buy at a place with fewer choices.
Companies must look at their decision to offer too many choices and instead look at simplifying the process of deciding for customers.
- In order to sell better and more, companies must assist the customers from the most initial stage. For example – ensure that the website is simple and imaginative or the entrance to their store is inviting and is not crowded. The customer must start the journey with your company knowing that they have choices but just enough to make informed decisions.
- Do not crowd your customers by overloaded them with products and information. Let the customer decide what they want to see and how much information they want. Again, the website for example must have a clean appearance with the information that could be required placed subtly under sub-headings that don’t open up on the landing page. In a store, how often have you left without buying something because 2-3 store assistants were instructing you on the best buys? I have a number of times – customers need space and time to decide – respect that.
- Provide the necessary direction for your customers and also let them know what they need to do. Post that step away and let them make a choice. Lead the way and then let them choose.
- Build and sustain relationships with your customers. Over time as customers learn to trust you, they would know that you would provide them with only the most relevant and best choices. Include other customer testimonials in your product information – it is much easier for customers to relate to other customer experiences.
- Show a clear and crisp comparison between your products and those of the competitors. This tells the customer that you are confident in your products and are not holding back any information from them even if the choices are not as many.
Too much information only serves to confuse your customers, while some companies may feel that they are empowering the customers. Information is meant to and should be aimed at simplifying the decision making process for customers. Don’t confuse your customers by making it difficult to choose.