The other day I was in a talking business with my long-time friend, journalist and communicant Maria Teresa Iglesias to offer on-line services to small businesses around Barcelona.
She had everything planned, from a commercial team who is led by the best you can get for this kind of job, and she (I thank her for that) truly trusts my competence to provide her with fine and effective web-sites and other solutions for her future clients, everything was looking great.
And then she told me: “I thought about defining services packs, 3 or 4, maybe more, for the commercial team to sell.” She gave me examples of the kind of packs we could offer, and they made a lot of sense, from the basic one to the very connected and social one. But the more we explored the “few” packs we owed to present to future clients, I thought : Aren’t we supposed to provide web services to strangers to the internet world? How could they possibly choose? And even if they had some online basic experience (facebook, youtube or online TV or press), would it be a great strategy to propose “closed products”, since we can adjust any point of them?

That’s when I recalled a great talk I once heard from psychologist Barry Schwartz. The main idea was: “We, as western-societies, tend to overrate choice, connecting it to welfare and happiness, when (too much) choice can in fact make you miserable” (those are his terms).

So I thought I’ll share with her (and with you) some of those basics thoughts about choice and consuming.


1 – Choice creates paralysis

The first application of course is that, in a business like web services where the limit is the sky (and money of course), and that every solution can be tailor-made, we tend to present choice (for the client) as a good thing. And it is, or let’s say it can be. But one reason it can be very bad, is that the more choice you have, the less we seem to take action. Looking for the best solution when you have few or no knowledge of an industry or a service can bring you to the point where you’d rather wait than take the wrong action.

Did you know that in supermarkets of the same group, jam sales went down from 30% to 3% when flavor options were brought from 6 to 24 varieties?


2 – Choice induces doubts and regrets

Let’s say the customer finally buys the service, or product. Giving more options to get to decision making will dramatically increase the second thought and regrets moods. The client made a decision, but since there were a lot of option, he can’t be certain anymore he made the right decision, and will be more likely to question his move.

For you? A problem in customer satisfaction.


3 – Choice makes expectations go to the roof

With e-commerce, it’s quite likely that your customer knows nothing or few on the topic. His expectations are in adequacy with his knowledge: rather low. You’re about to use those low expectations to show him the potentials of your services, and create interest.
But confronted to too many options, people tend to let expectations go to the roof, while reality (not advertising, I wrote reality) can’t deliver as much.

By giving too many options, you take the risk of decreasing satisfaction by creating a gap between expectations and reality.


4 – Choice makes you responsible for feeling worst about better

There’s no way we’ll prove that more choice is worst. More choice usually ends in a well-suited, and therefore “better” solution. But we saw that too much choice tends to disconnect expectation from reality. The last point is crucial : who will be to blame? Well it has been shown that since all the options were on the table, the one who feels guilty while he feels worst making better, is… your customer.

He made the decision, the wrong one he thinks, but since all options were on the table, he must be the one guilty of that. So he feels worst, and “miserable” too.

To get back to where we started, working on our future collaboration, we decide, my friend and I, to prepare a “tool-box” for the commercial team, for them to cleverly and in no-time be able to push not 3, not 2, but one tailor-made solution while talking to the future client.
The approach is simple: Selling the best solution by proving it before and after realization with a series of tools and arguments than can help the client monitoring results and impacts.
It can seem a lot of work, but commercial task force appreciates the unique one-to-one contact, and they’re trained to feel the space they can use and make the best sales within this space.


So, as a bonus, I’ll give you some popular key-points around the e-commerce business:

1 – Limit the user’s choice
2 – Clearly differentiate between choices
3 – Hide less popular choices (make a hierarchy in options)
4 – Make suggestions
5 – Set good defaults (avoid choice by providing the best the first time)

And as always, you can find the Barry Schwartz talk in the NJF video section.
Get a bit further:
Watch the Video from

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