June 14, 2016
How to quit overwhelming your customers
By Phillip Van Wagoner
It’s often an unchallenged assumption that offering a variety of choices is the best way to give our customers what they want.
It sounds like this: “If my store offers a wider variety of styles or products, my customers are more likely to find exactly what they’re looking for.” But do people know exactly what they’re looking for?
Choice is important, but there are a lot of reasons why this perspective, left unchecked, can be damaging to your brand, burdensome for your customer, and problematic for your business.
“I don’t care. You decide.”
Humans can only make so many (good) choices per day. Each one requires focus, energy, and willpower and these are finite resources. Decision fatigue, the concept that each choice we make depletes our mental reservoir, has been shown to have significant impact on retirement investing, purchasing decisions, and even judges’ leniency in sentencing hearings! It’s also tied directly to “decision paralysis” – that point in the day where we’ve all said, “I don’t care where we go for dinner as long as I don’t have to decide!”
Many of the busiest, most successful people in the world employ strategies to combat decision fatigue. Mark Zuckerberg, Vera Wang, and even Barack Obama all employ personal uniforms specifically to cut down on the number of decisions they need to make each day. As the president told Vanity Fair, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
An Explosion of Choice
The most powerful people on the planet aren’t the only ones that have choices to make. The explosion of choice in daily life has affected everyone.
For example, in 1976, the average supermarket carried roughly 9,000 products. By 1998, that number had ballooned to 30,000 and in 2006 to 50,000. Now, Amazon Fresh offers, well, a lot more than that…
That’s right. That says 1,009,500.
In a world with never-ending options, many businesses have found great success in limiting them. In stark contrast to the general trend in grocery outlined above, Trader Joe’s has been incredibly successful with stores that commonly offer around 4000 items.
“So, what’s good?”
How do brands such as Trader Joe’s generate so much success, and such passionate customers, with a relatively small product line? The key is building a relationship with your customer and any good relationship is based on trust.
In a world with infinite choice, the role of a store or brand has evolved to be one of curator as opposed to collector – a trusted resource that can make many of the preliminary choices for the customer and offer only options that will likely fit the customers’ needs best.
“Many products fail because companies develop them from the wrong perspective. Companies focus too much on what they want to sell their customers, rather than what those customers really need. What’s missing is empathy: a deep understanding of what problems customers are trying to solve.” –Clayton Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life?
By empathizing with your customers and putting in the time and effort to curate the best options, you make yourself and your brand an expert in your field. Taking responsibility for what you sell saves your customers from having to sort through endless offerings and helps you build a stronger relationship with people who trust your insight and feel empowered when they shop with you.
In our connected world, choice is everywhere. Both online shopping and the ubiquity of retail has empowered consumers with countless choices. What customers are looking for now is someone that can help them sort through the options and make the right choices.
Photo: Cocoparisienne, Pixabay.com