The Thing with Choices

The Thing with Choices


Choices are great and I am a big fan of how many we have in our lives. We can decide what scent of hand soap we want, what color our cars will be, how big we need our morning coffee and much more.

Too Many or Too Few?

Humans like choices for the sake of choice itself. If you think about a scenario where there is only one option, that is like swallowing a pill more than anything. Because without choices we don’t have control over how we design our lives.

I experienced this recently when I went into a store searching for clothing starch*. In the store, there was only one product available. I didn’t like this because I immediately thought the product must be inferior if it’s the only one. If there were more options, there would be competition and that breeds better products. As it was, I hesitated while looking at the packaging. I decided to purchase, but up until I used the product, I wasn’t sure how well it was going to work. It ended up being great, but had the store stocked a few more brands, I would have been confident I was getting the best product through the whole experience.

There can be too much choice however. When a shopper is presented with too many options to consider, it becomes overly difficult to “pick the right one.” Satisfaction drops drastically as the buyer second guesses the chosen item and if there could have been a better product. In some cases the shopper gives up altogether.

Shoot the Gap

There is a better way however. We can design our own products to be part of a limited line with a moderate amount of choices. The actual number of choices depends on the product, but the customer experience for choosing should be easy and seamless.

When adding choices for your customer, you need to know what choices the customer wants to make. Part of this is knowing your industry, but you need to get to the heart of why your customers are seeking to purchase from you. Is your customer coming to you because of the flavors of your energy drink or can she not have caffeine and is looking for an alternative to coffee? Those two considerations would have you going down much different paths. Interview customers to find out why they are coming to you. Provide the options they want and you’ll delight your customers.

A good rule of thumb is to provide 3-7 options for any given choice. Just make sure the overall shopping experience is smooth and not an endless process of choices. You want to provide a little control to your customers without making them feel decision fatigue.



*Starch will help to keep your shirt collars in place and prevent future wrinkles (yes, I am one of those rare few who still irons shirts).