Is too much choice bad?

We make choices every day. It starts at breakfast; a sandwich or a yogurt? What are we eating tonight? Should I switch health insurance companies this year? Consumers like to have some choices. It provides a sense of security and autonomy. Yet it's not a matter of simply adding more choice if you want to make customers happier. Psychologist Barry Schwartz addresses choices in his book The Paradox of Choice. He describes that more choice often leads to more stress and less satisfaction. 

Choice stress occurs in consumers when they have to compare seven items or more. That's where things often go wrong, as they do with health insurance. With fifty-five basic policies and countless supplementary policies, you really can't see the trees in the insurance forest. But if there are six deodorants in a row at the supermarket, it's easy to choose. But are there fifteen? Then you'll have a lot more trouble choosing. That's something to keep in mind if you want to present your assortment as attractively as possible. Preferably limit the number of options to seven. That's the number the brain can remember and compare on average. Are there more than seven products lined up within a category? That shouldn't be a problem. Choice stress occurs when consumers: 

  1. Do not have a clear (brand) preference
  2. Has to make big decisions that are infrequent
  3. Is unfamiliar with the choices
  4. Are not offered the best choice
  5. Difficult to compare

If you can get around these five points for consumers, then little choice stress arises for them. Therefore, the circumstances in which consumers find themselves have a lot of influence on the choices they make. Every marketer and salesperson should therefore understand all about choice behavior.

Ruud Olijve

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