strategy+business is published by PwC Strategy& Inc.
 
or, sign in with:
strategy and business
Published: November 23, 2010
 / Winter 2010 / Issue 61

 
 

A Better Choosing Experience

This research shows that consumers can handle a large number of options, if they start off in the shallows and then slowly move toward the deep, all the while building skill and nerve. Beginning with fewer options not only warms consumers up, it helps them better figure out their own preferences, which in turn enhances their choosing experience. Over time, practicing this choosing technique will condition consumers to cope with increasing complexity.

An Open Invitation

Each of these forms of customer engagement can be technologically enabled, for example, through online networks or social media. But the heart of this method lies in better design of the shopping experience, fueled by better awareness of human capabilities. When you take this approach, the goal of your marketing is no longer to give people what they say they want. Instead, your goal is to invite consumers to enter into a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship with you.

From the outset, your design shows them that you understand how they think and respect their desire for both control and simplicity. The message is clear: In the short run, you are helping them navigate a bewildering and even debilitating world of options. In the long run, you are inviting them to choose you.

Reprint No. 00046

Author ProfileS:

  • Sheena Iyengar is the S.T. Lee Professor of Business at Columbia University and a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award. She is the author of The Art of Choosing (Twelve, 2010), from which this article is adapted.
  • Kanika Agrawal is a research assistant at the Columbia Business School and a graduate of Columbia’s MFA program in writing.
 
 
 
Follow Us 
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google Plus YouTube RSS strategy+business Digital and Mobile products App Store

 

Resources

  1. Matthew Egol and Christopher Vollmer, “Major Media in the Shopping Aisle,” s+b, Winter 2008: On the growth potential of in-store media, and better use of this critical consumer choice touch point.
  2. Bridget Finn and Michal Lev-ram, “Recent Research: The Downside of Choice,” s+b, Summer 2009: Corroborating research about the consumer dissatisfaction that stems from too many choices.
  3. Nicholas Ind and Majken Schultz, “Brand Building, Beyond Marketing,” s+b, 7/26/10: Moving branding practices toward a connecting strategy that promises to make consumer choice easier.
  4. Sheena Iyengar, The Art of Choosing (Twelve, 2010): By describing the psychological impact of having too much choice, too little choice, and varying levels of autonomy, Iyengar shows how the conditions of choice influence business, society, and personal fulfillment.
  5. Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (Harper Perennial, 2005): Another leading work on the “darker side of freedom”: the limits of the human mind in managing a surfeit of options.
  6. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at www.strategy-business.com/marketing_media_sales.