On Facebook, “It’s complicated” is one of the choices for describing your relationship status. It’s complicated is a fall back choice when none of the other check boxes quite work. Your situation may be a mixture of choices, without clear descriptions and labels. It’s complicated sounds messy but in reality check boxes don’t always work and we are forced to select the least wrong box.
In marketing we often force our customers into these same murky choices. Do we want toothpaste that whitens our teeth, gives us fresh breath, prevents cavities or improves the health of our gums? Do you want body lotion that softens skin, defies aging, or reduces the appearance of imperfections? Customers with multiple needs may be forced to prioritize and pick a product that excels at solving their highest priority need.
As a consumer I have had the frustrating experience of choosing when in fact I wanted everything. Why couldn’t everything be miracle in a bottle or at the least focus on one thing, eliminating the myriad of confusing choices?
When you present multiple benefits and features, you run the risk of confusing or irritating your potential customer. You may believe that by offering choices – multiple payment options, plans, benefits – that you are doing your customer a favor but your plan can backfire.
Too many choices can lead customers to:
Walk away because they are overwhelmed by the options
Your customer may go in search of a solution to a specific need. When presented with lots of options they may also realize they have more than one problem. Overwhelmed by options and problems they did not know they had, they walk away.
Reassess their need and decide they can live with the pain
Last week I was in the mood for a snack food. I had a clear choice in mind but when I arrived at the store I was assaulted with options. After calorie counting and label reading, I decided it wasn’t worth it and simply walked away. Are your customers doing the same thing?
This does not mean that we should eliminate choice but we need to be more strategic about when and how they are offered. Offer the customer with a specific need, a clear choice right up front. If you need “x” click here. Other customers may need help deciding their priority, make it easy for them to choose, divide them into a manageable category with a limited menu of choices that does not overwhelm.
Presenting your customers with easy to make choices is equivalent to giving them their own “miracle in a bottle.” The last thing you want is to have your potential customers declaring “it’s too complicated” and walking away.
Have you ever been ready to buy and then changed your mind because the options were overwhelming? Do you have any examples of companies that do a great job of offering just the right amount of choice?
Related articles by Zemanta
- The value of restricting choice (robweir.com)
Karen Swim says
David, your story illustrates the beauty and success of doing one thing and doing it well. I am sure your friend is a master craftsman who is able to stand out because he chose to specialize in just that one thing. I wonder how many of us would find even greater success if we scaled back and focused?
I think those businesses that ‘get complicated’ and try to be all to everyone just dont have focus. I have a friend who resurfaces claw bathtubs, and makes a living at it. He doesnt do tile. Doesnt do showers. Doesnt build web services. He just refinishes tubs and does it well….
Karen Swim says
Melissa, you are so wise! Customers can provide a wealth of information if we would just ask!
Melissa Donovan says
I agree — there is a delicate balance between presenting too many choices and not enough. For most of us, the best way to package services is often revealed through experience. A great way to make decisions in this area is to get feedback from clients. They are often happy to tell you if your services structure needs a little work.
Hi Ricardo, I’m with you! Eating, and buying toothpaste just should not be that hard! 🙂
Ricardo Bueno says
You know, I do this all the time at restaurants or when I go to a cafe to buy a drink. I get inundated with so many questions about this or that, so much so that that all I really wanted was a darn latte. I’ve walked out before because I thought the person was making it too difficult by throwing so many options/questions at me.
I think simplicity in choice, and well everything is a good think. Make it easy for people to contact you. Make it easy for people to identify with your product. Then, make it easy for them to buy and refer you new business. The easier you make it for the them, the easier it’ll be for them to make a decision to want to work with you.
Karen Swim says
Brad,that is a very good point about complexity. SEO is highly technical and most purchasers will not have more than a surface understanding so added choice could have them screaming for the hills.
Meryl, great point about being all things, you just cannot at least not very well. 🙂
Rick, in LA there’s a place called Jerry’s Famous Deli and the menu is huge (in size and offerings). It can literally take 1/2 hour to read but JFD incorporated their giant menu and overwhelming number of options into the brand making it part of the appeal. You make a great point not necessarily eliminating choices but presenting it in a way that feeds both types of people.
Debbie, thanks for weighing in from the scientific side of this equation. Your expertise in assessing personality types really adds value to this discussion. Personality does play a factor here and even that will vary by what is offered. I know that this discussion has revealed the amount of work I personally need to do. I honestly don’t write these posts to create more things on my to do list but you all weigh in with such good information I’m always left with more things to improve and do!
Debbie Yost says
At our company we have found that it’s not just the choices or complexity but the person as well. Some people like to have lots of choices and explanation, where another person’s personality wants you to “cut to the chase.” It’s not only about presenting easy choices but presenting them in a way that the customer will relate to. With so many differerent peronality, learning and communication styles out there, it can make marketing a real challenge. But getting to know your customers can help you make your job easier.
Rick Hamrick says
The crazy thing is, Karen, it isn’t possible to find exactly the right sweet spot! Some folks are fine with choosing from five flavors, some want only three.
And, there are the oddballs like me who want to see the entire offering in one list, even if it is 200 items long. Just as too many choices can lead to walk-away overwhelm, if I just want to scan all the offerings, forcing me to refresh the page a dozen times is going to underwhelm me.
So, I think it is important to feed the brains of both the easily overwhelmed and those who want to start with all the choices and narrow things down on their own.
Great sites do just that: they will let you decide if you want the site to show you only three, or if you want the universe of choices.
Just as with any customer-facing situation, the more nimble the salesperson (or website) is in adjusting to the desired type of interaction the customer is seeking, the greater the conversion rate.
Meryl Evans says
Yes, we have too many choices in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. But for businesses — fewer can be better. Again, it’s all about strategy and planning. Don’t try to be all.
Brad Shorr says
Karen, I’ve found complexity to be a deterring factor in SEO. Companies become overwhelmed with the options and frequently throw up their hands and say, “Forget it.” It’s a constant challenge to keep things simple.
Karen Swim says
Alina, too many choices drives me nuts too! Great point about choice coupled with restrictions. Too much and too little can both make me as a consumer feel like the company does not really know me or understand my needs. I like your suggestion of 3-4, that seems reasonable.
Alina Popescu says
Karen, there sometimes are so many options, they drive me nuts. And when restrictions are also in place, and I am forced to choose just one thing, that’s even worse.
I think most companies can have a limited offer of 3-4 packages, plus a list of all product/services with a multiple select in place, of course, all divided into 3-4 relevant categories. Of course there will always be those needing a custom offer, but that is easily solved without driving the rest of the customers nuts – just tell them to contact you for customized packages! This way you will find out exactly what they need and present a suitable offer instead of promoting several complicated solutions that fail to actually help anyone