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Too Much Choice Promotes Customer Anxiety

Kindle? Nook? or iPad? Confused by too many choices and too much information, many people have deferred purchasing an eReader. Complexity promotes buyer indecision. If you are planning new marketing material or new products, consider if they are truly distinctive or just variations that will only confuse your customers.

Factors that Complicate the Decision Process

Customers get confused when you offer too many choices or when your offerings resemble each other or your competitors' offerings. When faced with too many choices and too much complexity, customers walk away. Product complexity is the single biggest reason that many customers do not purchase anything. Furthermore, buyers are less satisfied when they have too many choices, asserts psychologist Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less (2004).

Should you buy a sleekbook, netbook, notebook, or ultrabook? HP recently announced a "sleekbook" that is a very thin laptop, but not an ultrabook by Intel standards. Kevin McLaughlin surmises that customers will confuse HP's sleekbook with HP's "sleek" EliteBook Folio 9470m Ultrabook.

Customers claim to want more information. However, bombarding customers with too many choices and too many marketing messages extends the purchase process and causes prospects to drop out, according to Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman of the Corporate Executive Board.

Suggestions for Simplifying the Decision Process

Spenner and Freeman considered 40 variables that could make consumers "sticky" or predisposed to actually make a purchase, to make repeat purchases, and ultimately to recommend the product to others. The factor that most often led to "sticky consumers" was decision simplicity.

Marketers that are most successful with simplifying the decision process have developed communications that:

  • Assist with navigation. Reduce the number of "information sources" presented to consumers as they move along the "purchase path."
  • Build trust in the information provided, not just the brand or product features and benefits. Form a group of advisers who will recount how they made purchase decisions and how they use your product.
  • Help customers more easily evaluate options. Include buying guides that differentiate your own products from each other and that compare your products with those of your competitors.

Rather than "empowering" customers, too much information "overwhelms," according to the Corporate Executive Board. Make sure that the products you offer and the information you provide simplify your customers' decision making process.

Copyright 7/12 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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