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More Choice Isn’t Always Better

Increasingly we have less free time yet are faced with more choices. We love choices – in fact  what could be more American than a plethora of choice – but does it work in our favor? More choice means more mental energy and time spent weighing those options to ensure we made the “right” decision.

One study found that companies offering few mutual fund choices in their IRA portfolio had a significantly greater participation rate than those offering many. Overwhelmed with a large number of complex choices it seems people postponed the decision and many simply never got around to choosing!

Marketers are trained to provide choice. Give the customers every option they need is our mantra. If we provide more choices it means we’re working harder…fewer choices means we’re slacking off.

At Envision we used to give people eight to ten designs on the first round of a project believing that more was better. I found that to most people it was paralyzing. They couldn’t make up their mind and dragged their feet getting back to us. When they did, it was often asking for more choices to help clarify things. (Guess how well that worked.)

Fundamentally customers are paying for our brainpower. The onus falls on us to use it. Dumping a plate of choices into the customer’s lap to decide is intellectually lazy. Busy people are looking for help – a better approach is to curate those available choices and serve up only the best ones.

While it may seem counterintuitive (and perhaps blasphemous) more choices are not always better. In a complex world simplicity sells and we’ll be seeing more companies successfully adopting that strategy in the coming years. There is a reason the world loves the iPad – starting with the fact that it has just one button.