Consumers virtually always tell researchers that they appreciate having many variants of a product to pick from. However, consumers' judgments of how many options they like differ depending on whether they intend to use an item for enjoyment or to satisfy a practical requirement. In studies testing consumer preferences for various product attributes, giving participants more choice generally leads to higher ratings of preference than giving them fewer options.
For example, in one study, researchers asked participants what number of coffee flavors they would prefer to choose from. They found that most people preferred at least three options, but that participants were more likely to say they liked two than four flavors. The more choices participants had, the more likely they were to say they'd prefer that number of options over another sample value such as $10.00. Even when offered a choice between two products with different attribute levels on each dimension (such as flavor strength), participants still said they preferred more options rather than less.
In another study, researchers tested how many toothpaste varieties people would choose if given the option. They found that most people chose at least three brands, but that again participants were more likely to say they liked two than four brands. Again, the more choices participants had, the more likely they were to say they'd prefer that number of options over another sample value such as $20.00.
Having more options gives individuals the impression that they have greater control over what they buy. And customers adore the idea of choice; the more possibilities there are, the more likely it is that they will find something that is right for them. The truth is that having more choices can actually be a pain for most people. There are so many choices available that we often don't know where to start. But starting anywhere is better than starting with nothing at all.
The more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. This is because every option is unique, and you cannot compare one against another. For example, if you were looking at cars, there would be dozens if not hundreds of different models to choose from. That means that even when you pick one model, there are still going to be differences between each vehicle within that range. So instead of making a clear-cut decision, you're left in limbo as other factors come into play such as price or appearance.
The problem with having so many choices is that it tends to lead to indecision, which is exhausting. You feel like you must make a choice, but none of the options seem ideal. This leaves you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. In order to move on, you need to make a decision, but now there are only two options left, which isn't much better.
Although an explosion of consumer options means we sometimes get exactly what we want, too many options can also overwhelm us to the point where we choose nothing at all, and in the worst-case scenarios, may even erode our well-being, according to a new line of research by psychologists critically examining today's consumer culture.
Their conclusion: Too much choice is actually bad for you.
In their paper, "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less," authors Michael E. Argyle and David A. Cantor argue that although more choice is better for consumers, the more options we are given, the harder it becomes to make a choice. They note that several studies have shown that having more options available leads to less satisfaction with our purchases and less willingness to pay for them.
Argyle and Cantor say this is because choosing anything means leaving something else out, which creates a cognitive burden for consumers. In other words, they say we feel like we made the wrong choice because there was something better out there that we could have bought instead.
They also say that when we cannot make a decision, we go shopping somewhere else. This is called "choice overload" and it means that having more options available causes us to make poor decisions because we can never decide what we want to buy.
Truly, there are several factors that influence a buying choice, including one's goals, needs, capacity to afford something, motives, desires, and so on. The idea is to see if the wants and requirements of customers differ across various quantitative criteria. If they do, then you should focus your marketing efforts on those aspects of customer life that motivate them the most.
Some consumers may have different wants and needs depending on their position in the market. For example, some people may want a new car because it is an exciting experience, while others may need a new car due to an injury or illness they have (such as needing a wheelchair accessible vehicle). It is important to understand these differences since they will affect what type of marketing message would be most effective.
Other factors that may influence consumer behavior include culture, gender, age, socio-economic status, geography, technology, media, and time of day. You must know these factors so you can target your marketing messages appropriately. For example, young men who like sports cars might be more likely to buy from a company that sells sporty vehicles rather than one that sells sedans; likewise, women who like luxury cars might be more interested in brands such as Mercedes-Benz or Lexus.
Geography may also play a role in determining which brand consumers choose.
Choice, which is one of the reasons people shop and purchase online, has two aspects. First, consumers have a choice in the products or services they can purchase. Second, the interactive features of Internet-enabled technology aid in decision-making. These features include search capability, review sites such as Yelp! and Angie's List, and social networking.
Search capability. Consumers can use key words to find specific products or services that meet their needs. This feature is particularly important when looking for small businesses online.
Review sites. When searching for a product or service, consumers can read other people's reviews. This helps them make an informed decision about what company to do business with. Review sites include Yelp! , Angie's List, Zagat, and Superpages.com.
Social networking. Social networking allows consumers to connect with others who may have experience with a particular business. This can be useful if they need help finding something or have questions about a product or service they're considering purchasing.
These are just some of the many choices available to shoppers today. With so much choice comes more opportunity to spend your money on things that don't necessarily benefit you. However, these same opportunities also provide consumers with more control over how and why they spend their money.