One of the most important choices CEOs and their marketing teams must make is how much choice to offer customers in the product or service lineup. Many have wrestled with two opposing schools of thought – “less is more” and “more is better.”
Two Schools of Thought
The “more is better” school is far and away the predominant group. Their approach is to give the customer exactly what he or she wants. They view the days of “one size fits all” as ancient history, and any move to limit choice as the Neanderthal ramblings of those “brute force marketers” of yesteryear, as typified by Henry Ford and the “any color you want as long as it’s black” mindset. They reason the more customized the purchase options, the better the chance of attracting customers.
The “less is more” school’s point is perhaps best articulated by the mantra: “Choice is the enemy of conversion.” As politically incorrect as that may sound today, there are prospects that are prepared to buy, but when faced with “choice overload,” they have difficulty making a decision. The fact that they are stymied and have to “think about it” should strike terror in the hearts of those holding the budget that generated that call, click or drive in the first place.
The Answer (?)
So, what’s the right choice on how much choice?
A recent article by Sheena S. Lyengar and Kanika Agrawal, of the Columbia University Business School, published in the Winter 2010 Edition of Strategy+Business may hold the answer. In the article, entitled “A Better Choosing Experience,” the co-authors suggest the decision is less about the quantity of choices and more about the experience. Iyengar and Agrawal point out that if the market in which you compete is already saturated with choices, you cannot gain a competitive edge by offering even more. But, you may be able to gain competitive advantage focusing on the process of choosing, i.e. making it simpler, less stressful and more satisfying for your customer. How? They offer four paths forward:
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- by Mike Amburgey, Partner & CMO