For business owners looking to improve their respective bottom lines, many will have been told to look at retaining more of their existing customer base instead of investing more money into gaining new customers. Customer retention is one of the most effective strategies in cementing consistent revenue.
The problem some brands have is that they take this approach to the extreme. They bombard their existing customers to try and up-sell so many related goods or services that they find it hard to know which way to turn. In fact, the worst-case scenario is that the business disengages its customers to such an extent that they lapse and opt not to part with their hard-earned cash again.
The first large-scale study which explored the concept of ‘choice overload’ was back in 2000. The research was conducted by a supermarket, centred on jam. The store hosted two tasting sessions for shoppers. In the first tasting session, shoppers were exposed to 24 different jam flavours. The second tasting session exposed them to just six jam flavours.
Although 60% of shoppers were initially attracted to the 24-flavour jam tasting session, just 3% decided to buy some jam at the end of it. Meanwhile, 40% of shoppers took part in the six-flavour jam tasting session, with ten times as many shoppers (30%) deciding to buy some jam at the end of it. The upshot? Despite a brand’s good intentions, there is always the risk of distracting customers from the desired end goal.
Episerver, recently rebranded as Optimizely, is an expert in digital marketing. Its Digital Experience Cloud is designed to offer intelligent optimisation for lead generation and conversion rates, fostering unique online experiences for customers – something that’s increasingly important in crowded markets. In 2019, its Online Shopping Habits and Retailer Strategies survey uncovered that more choice can act as a barrier to conversions online. Almost half (46%) of the 4,500 customers surveyed admitted to having failed to complete a transaction online because of overwhelming choice.
The psychology of sales
US-based psychologist Barry Schwartz has specialised in the crossover between psychology and economics for many years now. The 75-year-old was the subject of one of the most popular Ted Talks, discussing the “paradox of choice”. Within his talk, Schwartz explored two negative effects caused by a consumer’s perception of excess choice:
Schwartz noted that when it comes to calls-to-action online, more is not better. Ultimately, the more options provided in a piece of content, the more a user is distracted from the brand’s end goal of signing an existing customer up to a new contract or a product.
Whirlpool is a prime example of a retailer that’s taken the time and effort to adopt a test-and-learn culture with its marketing messaging. Just some modest tweaks to their email marketing campaigns had the desired effect. Their email templates adopted a more minimalist look and feel, removing all secondary CTAs and imagery. The end result was a 42% rise in lead generation for Whirlpool products.
Schwartz also believes that if a consumer is given more choice, they’ll feel worse when they finalise their transaction. That’s because the bar has been raised in terms of product standards and what’s available to them. Buyers with too much choice invariably experience some form of remorse, looking back at the products that opted against and wondering whether they would have been a better fit.
When writing for hbr.org, Schwartz described choices as the root of all unhappiness. Schwartz said that with every additional option offered to a consumer, the worse they are likely to feel when they make a buying decision than they would have without it. Brands, therefore, need to balance the risks of encouraging self-blame and regret in buyer decisions with the benefits of equipping their users with enough information to educate them and maintain customer satisfaction.
How can industries that thrive on choice and competition stay the course?
Of course, there are industries where choice and competition are key to maintaining and driving standards for consumers. Without it, consumers would grow increasingly weary of being monopolised. The broadband telecommunications industry is one where homeowners and businesses alike deserve the freedom of choice to select broadband coverage that suits their needs best rather than being grateful for what they are given.
It wasn’t long ago that the UK broadband industry needed significant improvement, both in terms of investment and competition. However, since the country has emerged from the pandemic, the UK government has invested heavily in pushing for fibre-to-the-home connectivity nationwide.
Although there remains a reliance on companies like openreach.com to maintain the cables and exchanges across the UK telecommunications network, a growing number of providers are developing and enhancing their own fibre networks too. Neos Networks – which is focusing on the sub-1Gbps connectivity market – is doing just that on top of its access to the Openreach network.
In terms of customer education in a crowded marketplace, the iGaming industry is another such sector where users typically thrive on receiving a breadth of options. The online casino scene is one of the fastest-growing online industries, with well over 4,000 online slot titles developed by software studios worldwide. Sites like online-slot.co.uk look to cut through the industry noise and separate the wheat from the chaff. Strong categorisation also helps to pinpoint the newest slot titles, as well as those that offer the highest return-to-player (RTP) percentages. In this type of industry, these sites are also important to pinpoint the most reputable and trustworthy iGaming operators. They can act as custodians for customer fairness and transparency, underlining their commitment to player safety.
So, how can brands combat the threat of ‘choice overload’ whilst continuing to offer the most competitive features and products that consumers deserve? First and foremost, businesses can focus on making it quick and easy for users to compare products. Frame the use of every product or service e.g. Basic, Intermediate and Professional and clearly explain why each product or service fits their respective target demographics.
Brands shouldn’t be afraid of optimising their product portfolios. By reducing the complexity and simplifying the comparison process, consumers are much less likely to develop analysis paralysis, driving increased lead generation, engagement and eventual sales.