Why brands giving too much choice can be overwhelming

Fjord Australia director, Bronwyn van der Merwe
By Fjord Australia director, Bronwyn van der Merwe | 10 August 2016
Bronwyn van der Merwe

The evolving retail landscape has led to customers being constantly bombarded with choice, from supermarket shelves packed to the brim with products to a countless variety of online stores. And while being presented with a number of options is nice, too much choice can be overwhelming.

Increasingly, customers are finding it difficult to make sense of all the noise and this is something brands need to be aware of in order to capitalise on success and thrive in the digital world.

People who are confronted by an overabundance of choice are more likely to make poor decisions, be less satisfied and switch off entirely. The services that are able to anticipate customer needs by providing personalised messages, suggested options and automating low-maintenance decisions, will be the ones to cut through the crowded marketplace and leave a lasting impact on the customer.

Aldi, for instance, built a successful and disruptive business model that simultaneously offered significantly fewer choices than traditional supermarkets. Similarly, when Proctor & Gamble cut its Head & Shoulders line from 26 products to 15, the organisation saw a 10% increase in sales.

Brands looking to cut through the noise and rise above competitors need to consider removing the burden of ordering and explore innovative ways to limit the time their customers spend browsing. For example, digitally-powered box subscriptions remove the chore of choice for customers, offering curated surprises designed to suit customer needs. With these subscription services, customers are treated to the thrill of unboxing, advanced presentation and personal touches like handwritten notes, which all add to the digital experience. Digital subscription services such as these thrive amongst competitors, despite targeting some of the most crowded and confusing consumer marketplaces.

While there are a variety of players in this market, there are several stand out examples leading the way. Barkbox, for example, is a unique online organisation taking the complexity out of shopping for pets. Petowners sign up online, select the size of their dog and choose the length of their plan to receive a monthly personalised box of handpicked toys, treats and gadgets for their pet. The curated monthly BarkBox takes away the burden pet owners’ face in choosing between the wide array of snacks and toys for dogs available in the market.

Hello Fresh plan your meals for you, select fresh produce and delivers to your door the recipe and a box of healthy ingredients which you then cook. People who use the service love that it removes the chore of choosing what to cook and then shopping, however an unexpected pleasure is the introduction of new recipes into a household’s repertoire, breaking the rut of repetitious family favourites.

When assisting customers in scenarios where choices need to be made, brands should look to ways to educate and coach customers along the journey using engaging interactions.

Club W is an example of an organisation implementing interactive paradigms to increase customer engagement, by simplifying wine purchases. Club W recognises the level of choice customers are faced with when selecting the right wine. The online retailer uses answers to customer questions such as “how do you like your coffee” or “how much do you like salt” to develop customer “palate profiles” and provide users with monthly recommendations on the right wine for them.
Similarly, customised grocery provider, Graze users customer data on what they ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ to curate boxes of handpicked snacks suited to the customer’s tastes, thus eliminating the choice between hundreds of snacks available online and in stores.  

The next step in the evolution process is for brands to create services that are able to anticipate customer needs. Already, organisations are starting to develop this intelligent technology, with tools such as Google Now, the intelligent personal assistant, and Pocketbook, the Australian start-up, which reminds users of their upcoming payments and bills to ensure they avoid any missed payments.

Though it is important not to over-simplify and sacrifice the thrill of discovery, brands need to find ways to break through the clutter. By using curated subscription services and engaging interaction paradigms, brands are able to pre-determine what their customers like, but don’t yet know about and assist them with one less choice to make that day.

By Bronwyn van der Merwe, director of Fjord Australia – part of Accenture Interactive.

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