When it comes to product choice, the world is drastically different today than it was in the 1950’s. The number of options available from the variety of ice creams, intensity of hot sauces, even to style and cut of jeans practically ensures that there is something for everyone. This is a great time for consumers – no longer are they chained down by old Ford idiom of having ‘any color you like, as long as its black’ – now you have a spectrum of colors to choose from for you car (in fact the new Ford Fiesta has 9 exterior and 4 interior color options). It easy to assume that with all of this choice consumers must be really happy – but are they?
Barry Schwartz talks about a concept called ‘The Paradox of Choice‘ – that having more options actually makes us less happy. When people are left with fewer options they are content because they are ignorant of other possibilites. Once more choice is brought into the picture, expectations change, as well as future enjoyment. Consumers get overwhelmed and are left dissatisfied when they cant find the absolute best match for themselves. Outlooks change from a ‘this will do’ attitude, to ‘i want the best’. The problem is that ‘the best’ is highly subjective, and most consumers do not truly understand their needs or wants.
To get an idea on the amount of options consumers face, there are:
- 87,000 drink combinations at Starbucks
- 256 ways to make a Whopper
- Almost 2,000 different Nike Air Force 1 Sneaker releases
- 6 Trillion burger combinations at Five Guys Burgers & Fries
With this many choices, people can sometimes suffer from paralysis-analysis (over analyzing choices), and some can feel overwhelmed and discontent with their decisions (ultimately – buyer remorse). Creating something new and different isn’t enough anymore – what is needed instead is a better choosing experience.
In a perfect world every consumer would be an informed one, but the truth of the matter is that time is too limited and the choices are too many. Unfortunately I have run out of space and time to discuss this more, but I see this concept – helping consumers choice (not manipulating, but helping) as the next big medium. The idea is still in the ‘innovator’ stage, but here are two interesting websites to give you food for thought:
- Aardvark – a new kind of tool that lets you tap into the knowledge and experience of friends and friends-of-friends.
- Hunch – personalizes the internet by making recommendations based on your tastes.