The concept ‘Paradox of choice’ was popularized by Barry Shwartz, an American psychologist in his 2004 book ‘The Paradox of Choice – Why more is less’.
As per this concept, people get more stressed about making a decision when there are more choices at their disposal. Instead of making them satisfied, the larger selection with multiple benefits and negatives actually make it harder for them to choose. In effect, they may become more anxious and the decision-making process may be longer than required.
Impact on consumer purchases
People in general like their freedom of choice. Consumers like to consume things according to their personal preferences, be it choosing the foods to eat or the clothes to buy or holiday destinations and so on.
However, the flip side to the very same is an abundance of choices. Too many choices induce fear in consumers – the fear of choosing the wrong option or missing out on better choices. It is a very natural reaction in the human brain. Studies indicate that too many choices actually overwhelm people rather than the opposite.
There can be three side effects that are negative –
Sometimes if too many options are given to consumers, they will feel paralysed and eventually purchase nothing. For example, Whirlpool tested this through an email campaign. They reduced the number of products being advertised which showed a rise in customer engagement by 42%.
Another unfortunate side effect is the guilt pangs that occur to customers. They will browse for hours and after locking on their choice they will feel sudden guilt pangs. This is indicative of them second-guessing their choice.
People generally can make only a certain number of decisions in a day. Once they reach that limit, their capacity for smart decisions gets depleted.
What should marketers remember?
Marketers should pay heed to the paradox of choice and apply it to marketing propositions to increase conversions, engage more customers and indulge in better communication with customers.