Jam and the rise of Choice Paralysis?

If you diagnose your customer with Choice Paralysis, the prescription might mean giving them less not more?

In a now famous marketing study, researchers set up two displays of jams in a gourmet food shop. Customers were invited to try samples, and were given a money-off coupon if they bought a jar. On one display there were six jams, on the other a full 24 varieties.

As you might expect, more people – sixty per cent – were drawn to the large assortment, while only forty per cent visited the small one. However, almost a third of the people who had sampled from the smaller assortment decided to actually buy jam, while only three per cent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.

This “raised the hypothesis that the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory,” the researcher, a Professor Iyengar, said, “but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.”

It has always been thought that the more choice, the better. But it seems that if you bombard the consumer with endless choices along with all the information, reviews, options and permutations and combinations, it may simply cause the customer to freeze like a rabbit in the headlights – this is called Choice Paralysis.

Choice Paralysis can result in delayed purchase, or possibly even the complete withdrawal from the purchase process.

It seems we have largely ignored an important outcome of choice – it takes time and effort and can lead to anxiety and regret.

Direct Marketing draws the customer’s attention into focus around a single product or small range, a season or look, a theme… The massively wide choice still exists in the catalogue or online, but as curators, the Direct Marketer has the opportunity to avoid the dangers of choice paralysis, pushing the customer towards selected items that will deliver loyalty and confidence, create clarity and drive sales. Direct Marketing can dispel Choice Paralysis – but it must be carefully targeted, help people see the clear benefits. If it’s done right, it can create loyal, regular customers who will trust your brand to help them cut through the information overload.


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