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Less Choice, More Commitment: Customers Want Simplicity

Choose from among too many options makes people feel paralyzed and unsure of themselves.
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Consider what your brand offers and think less, not more. This is true especially when you’re developing new products or services. Fewer choices translate to higher sales. So if you’re hurling myriad selections at customers, blindly hoping that one will fill the bill, your customer may just leave with his or her basket empty.

Research backs me up. Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor and author of The Paradox of Choice, found that when people are confronted with too many options, they’re likely to experience anxiety, regret, and even paralysis.

Sheena Iyengar’s 2000 study at Columbia University, which compared consumer behavior when shopping for jams, found a whopping 30 percent of customers presented with a limited 6-jam selection made a purchase, compared to just 3 percent of those who saw the extensive 24-jam selection. And Daniel McFadden, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, also found that consumers become disconcerted with an abundance of options. Will they misunderstand the alternatives or even their own tastes if they yield to a whim. And will they regret it later? 

The lesson for the marketplace is indispensable. Don’t let your customers worry that they’re making the wrong decision. Make it easy for them.

People Need Hand-Holding

Countless studies show that the more clearly people understand the unique features of a new product, the more likely they are to buy it. CEB’s Managing Directors Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman said that after surveying 7,000 consumers and experts to understand what made consumers “sticky,” it turns out that “decision simplicity”--the ease with which consumers could gather trustworthy information and confidently weigh their options--was the single biggest driver of purchasing and brand commitment. 

Steve Jobs understood the value of simplicity, and made it a hallmark of Apple’s renewed success when he returned when as CEO in 1997. He drastically reduced the number of products the company offered, and made all of them easy to use right out of the box.  

According to Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, Jobs learned the power of simplicity while working the night shift at Atari after dropping out of college. Atari games did not come with a manual and the makers understood that the games had to be “uncomplicated enough that a stoned freshman could figure them out.”  For example, its Star Trek gave players only two directions: “1. Insert quarter. 2. Avoid Klingons.” 

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful,” says John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design and former MIT Media Lab professor in his book, “The Laws of Simplicity.” The takeaway: Pare product choices down to understandable alternatives, and make the differences between those alternatives immediately clear. 

 

IMAGE: joannapoe / Flickr.com
Last updated: Aug 29, 2013

DEBRA KAYE | Columnist | partner, Lucule

Debra Kaye is a Partner at the innovation consultancy Lucule and a former CEO of TBWAItaly. Her book, Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections that Lead to Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation, was The Washington Post's Leadership Book of the Week. A frequent commentator on American Public Radio's "Marketplace," she also writes for Fast Company and is a sought after speaker at venues such as SXSW.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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