The Psychology of Choice: Why Your Customers Need Your Assistance

By Markus Linder

sephora skin products

Do your eyes get blurry when you’re standing in the pharmaceutical aisle trying to decide which product is right for you? Mine do.

During my last shopping trip, I encountered 34 options for toothpaste, 93 lipsticks, 62 eyeliners, and 42 colors of nail polish from one brand alone. Then there were 23 skin creams, 36 cleansers, 29 moisturizers, face mists, skin tints, etc.

There are so many choices! How on Earth am I supposed to pick?!

Even if you’ve never heard of choice overload before, you’ve likely experienced it first-hand:

Choice overload is the negative psychological, emotional, and behavioral effect of having too many options to choose from (Kellogg Insight).

Waitrose’s report on trends found that 64% of consumers always or occasionally feel overwhelmed by choice, and a recent consumer report discovered that already 54% of consumers experience so much frustration that they abandon e-commerce sites if they can’t choose.

But why exactly do consumers have a problem with choice? Isn’t choice supposed to be the purest expression of free will?

As a brand or retailer, you likely carry more than two products so that you can give consumers exactly what they want: the agency, autonomy and freedom to choose that one product that’s just right for them.

So what’s the problem?

The issue with choice is that while it can be liberating, at its core, it is closely linked to the feeling of loss. If your customers choose something, it inherently means sacrificing something else.

Making trade-offs can cause decision anxiety and decision aversion, especially if there are potential negative consequences and risks associated with one’s decision, such as using the wrong product on your skin or spending too much on a product that’s not worth it.

If consumers cannot make a decision, it is extremely unlikely that they will make a purchase.

Undoubtedly, choice is becoming a real problem for brands and retailers that needs to be faced head-on. The negative impacts (fewer sales, reduced customer satisfaction, and higher return rates) will only exacerbate in the current market environment.

To help mitigate how choice negatively impacts your business, we examine the main causes of choice overload and explore ways how you can optimize the choosing experience in your stores by better assisting your customers.

Why Choice Is So Difficult

1) Decision-making timeline

For over a decade, numerous scholars have researched the psychological effects of “choice overload.” They found that, while people want choices, the ever-expanding array of options discourages them from making purchase decisions.

Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, described this phenomenon in his famous book as “the paradox of choice”: While we consider variety to be a good thing, at the same time, it makes our decisions more challenging.

But there’s more to it.

Newer research by Stanford GSB marketing professor Itamar Simonson sheds more light on this paradoxical-seeming consumer behavior:

“People like bigger selections – but a lot depends on where they are in the decision-making timeline.”

Having a lot of choices is great — until it’s not.

For example, if a person is contemplating …read more

Read more here:: B2CMarketingInsider

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