Presenting Choices Takes Some Thought
By Dwight Fletcher, CEO Spearfish

According to research, humans of course confront hundreds (some say, even thousands) of choices every day, but just a few where they are expected to make an actual selection or purchase decision in the end.

However, when it comes to consumer product or service choices, things can get a bit challenging.

In working with consumers since 2000, Spearfish research studies have revealed some simple truths about consumer choice. Simple, yes, but ignored by even some of the most sophisticated marketers on the planet.

What we have found is that when presented with a handful of easily understood options, consumers quicky sort through them, using unique, tried-and-true sorting methods. This can include up to dozens of choices, for example, in the case of paint colors. At the local Home Depot or with online color chips, consumers quickly eliminate a large percentage of options by narrowing their choices to specific color palettes, thus making their final selection from among a smaller universe of colors. Simple enough. Actually pretty ingenious, but we ARE sophisticated creatures, right? And we’ve been involved with this kind of choice making since we were very young.

However, if consumers have to choose between several features which each have multiple layers, they tend to quickly “shut down”, and eyes begin to roll in frustration. In these cases, we have found that consumers will often default to choices they have made before or even disregard that brand and move on to one they are either familiar with or that doesn’t force them to engage in multi-level decision making.

So, marketers, when you can, offer only a few choices, and make them clear and straightforward. At each stage, consider breaking down the choice options until you have only a handful. Or you might find that your customers will choose to shop elsewhere.