The ‘egg-cessive’ debate: Are we overwhelming our customers with choice?

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Victoria Penrose 14th March 2016 3 minute read

The ‘egg-cessive’ debate: Are we overwhelming our customers with choice?

Browsing the local supermarket to buy an Easter egg has now become more of a challenge than a treat. Little over a generation ago, the melt-in-the-mouth egg was supplied by a limited selection of brands with only a couple of different designs to choose from. Today we are faced with an egg-splosion (sorry!) of options - from milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, to eggs that are giant, large, medium and small - all complete with chocolate bars, chocolate eggs, chocolate shapes or chocolate bunnies… And don’t get me started with the dairy-free, lactose-free or gluten-free options!

In today’s society, freedom of choice has become a normal way of life, but when does too much choice become more of a hindrance than a help to the consumer? In one recent survey, a supermarket giant was quoted as stocking 91 different shampoos, 93 varieties of toothpaste and 115 types of household cleaner. Do we really need such an abundance of choice?

There is evidence to suggest that when presented with too much variation and too many choices, consumers become over-whelmed and don’t make a decision at all. It’s a paradox, but too many options can be bad for business and actually, when presented with enough, but not too much choice, research has shown that customers are more likely to purchase a product. For example, in a global study, researchers set up a sampling table with a display of jams. In the first test they offered a tempting array of 24 different jams to taste; on a different day they displayed just six. Results concluded that more shoppers stopped at the display where there were 24 jams. BUT, when it came to buying afterwards, 30% of those who stopped at the six-jam table went on to purchase a pot, against merely 3% of those who were faced with the selection of 24. A similar study was then conducted with chocolate and the results followed the same pattern (Source, The Economist). 

From personal experience, when faced with an abundance of choice, I panic and either postpone a purchase due to deliberation or often regret the purchase I’ve made, believing that the unchosen item was most likely better. Often, the scope of choices makes selection too hard. A simple product purchase starts to involve a wider deliberation – what would a friend think?, how would this look with this?, how will this impact on future choices? etc.

However, in an age where customer variety has never been greater, providing just one product or service is no longer enough. Customers require options, expect more than ever before in terms of value and customer service, and with a multi-choice market, why would they expect anything less? It’s a no-win situation. Also, choice keeps the market thriving and competition amongst retailers rich, resulting in the best options, prices and quality for the consumer.

Nowadays, companies must ensure that they go that extra mile for their customers in order to differentiate themselves from competitors. In these tough markets, great customer experience, including choice, is more important than ever before.  The important point however is tailored choice – not over facing the customer with an abundance of unrelated products.

Throughout Capita's history, the principles of good customer management have been at the heart of everything we do. We can provide the full range of customer lifecycle services to help you to look after your customers on the telephone (inbound and outbound), via email, web-chat, SMS, self-service options (using automated speech tools and IVR) as well as the more traditional white mail. We offer choice, but we also streamline our offering to ensure our clients are provided with the most relevant, tailored options for their campaign. 

While you sit and ponder that Easter egg aisle… we hope you have a very happy Easter. 

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