The Paradox Of Choice

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Sun, 2007-10-14 08:24.
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I recently finished reading The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz. It is one of the better business books I've read this year.

It's important for copywriters and marketers alike to understand how choices affect decisions. So I bought the book mostly for its marketing insights, although I wanted insight into my personal life as well. The book sheds much light on how we as consumers make decisions.

A quick synopsis:

The Paradox of Choice explores the emotional impact of living in a society with too much choice. In America, we have practically unlimited choice. Common wisdom suggests that more choice equals more happiness.

And yet research proves otherwise. The reality is, more choice is a liability for both the advertiser and the consumer.

When writing copy or designing the flow of a web site, I always keep in mind this simple mantra: "A confused customer never buys."

In other words, simplicity is key. And as Schwartz demonstrates in his book, more choices depress response, increase "buyer's remorse," and cause more refunds.

Fewer choices, on the other hand, result in more sales, more customer satisfaction, and a reduction in refunds.

Yet faced with the plain facts, we all tend to overcomplicate things, myself included. Which is why I so strongly recommend reading Schwartz's book.

Here are two "take aways" I underlined as I was reading:

"Even if companies sell almost none of their highest-priced models, they can reap enormous benefits from producing such models because they help induce people to buy their cheaper (but still extremely expensive) ones." (p. 63)

"[...] individuals facing decisions involving trade-offs, and thus opportunities for regret, will avoid making those decisions altogether." (p. 157)

Ultimately, Schwartz concludes that "choice within constraints, freedom within limits" is what will lead to the greatest happiness in life. Consequently, it is also what leads to the greatest results in marketing and advertising.

P.S. I just noticed that Seth Godin blogged about choice a few days ago. He describes the current dilemma well.

[Via Ryan Healy

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