I found myself with the huge need to buy a computer a few years ago. I was initially going for a MacBook, as this was what I was previously using. But for comparison’s sake, I shopped around for other potential units I can try.
This is where it got hard. I looked at all other brands. I looked at ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, name it, I checked it out. What’s interesting is the fact that for each brand, there were around 20 to 30 models to choose from. Each of them had their own pros and cons.
The ending? I went right back to my comfort zone – the MacBook Pro. At least here, I only had the Pro or the Air to choose from.
It was the same ordeal for me the last time I bought my phone. To be fair, my hunt for a new phone was not really a need. I just thought I was using my phone for quite some time now, and I wanted to see if there was anything worth replacing it with. To cut the long story short, I got tired just browsing through the other choices. I ended up deciding that I won’t get a new phone until my current one dies out on me, which I feel won’t be for the next year or so.
Funny thing is, as I scouted online, I found out that I was not the only one with this dilemma. All over the world, people were plagued with the same questions – why so many choices?
This is when it struck me. Have our choices always been this hard when it came to making buying decisions? Do these brands realize that instead of doing us a favor, they may be doing more harm?
This is where the concept of decision paralysis comes in.
Understanding Decision Paralysis
From a medical perspective, paralysis describes a condition where you lose all muscle function. Often, it is also accompanied by sensory loss. When used on a figurative level, it describes the inability to take action.
Decision paralysis happens when there are just too many choices, that it is almost impossible to make a solid decision.
As someone who works in marketing, I know how challenging it can be to promote a product or service, no matter how high the demand may be. A lot of brands, therefore, feel that they are doing us a great service by giving us more choices.
But this is not always a good thing. This can be related to the phenomenon called analysis paralysis. Because one overthinks, there is no definite action taken as a result. So when consumers are given too many options, they are barraged with information overload. They become confused. They tend to forget about what they’re trying to buy in the first place, simply because there are so many extras coming into the picture.
More Isn’t Always Better
The Harvard Business Review mentions that when there are too many options offered, consumers are less likely to make a purchase. And if they do end up buying anything, they are usually less satisfied with their decision.
Without a doubt, MORE ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER.
A 2000 experiment sheds more light on this.
Exhibit A showed a display table that presented 24 different kinds of gourmet jam. The offer was this – anyone who sampled the choices would be given a $1 discount if they end up buying a bottle of jam. This display definitely reeled in a lot of interested people.
Exhibit B was done on a different day in the same establishment. This time, only six kinds of jam were displayed. Although this display brought in a smaller crowd, majority of the people who took interest actually ended up making a purchase. This was a completely different outcome from the bigger spread, where a lot of people crowded about, but very few made a purchase.
Secrets to Preventing Decision Paralysis
We’ve all experienced decision paralysis at one point. If you’re like me, who’s both a consumer and a marketer, then the urge to keep this from happening is even stronger. Here are a few tips for brands and marketers on how you can keep your market from suffering from decision paralysis:
In curating strategically, you have to figure out how to present the right choices each time. On your e-commerce site, for example, consider how efficient your filters are. Filters are a great way to narrow down the choices for your visitors so that only the products that offer perfect solutions to their needs are presented.
Don’t leave your audience gaping at the options and not knowing what they’re looking at. Make sure you give them guidance every step of the way. Earlier, we talked about filters. That’s a good form of guidance. Also, make sure your product descriptions are clear and detailed. Avoid heavy, technical stuff (unless the product is highly technical, of course).
You can also offer an option to compare similar products, with clear labels on what each product has and doesn’t have.
Focus on one thing at a time.
This is especially important in your content. Don’t come up with a single poster promoting a product, with all 10 varieties squeezed into a single space. This does not only make the poster look cluttered, it also confuses the audience. Try featuring just one kind in the middle, then maybe adding a small note in one corner that it is also available in other variants. Then, create similar posters for all the other options.
No, I’m not saying that you should start phasing out your products. That’s not the point here. But you don’t have to present all your products in one go. The trick is to present the right options to the right people. Try these tips out and prevent decision paralysis from happening to your audience.