Choice overload - taking the anxiety out of retail
Choice overload is something we’ve all experienced - for retailers, the key to overcoming it lies in knowing their customers, how and when they like to shop and delivering products and recommendations in a way that removes the anxiety of indecision.
We’ve all experienced it – whether we’re trying to decide what to watch on Netflix, arranging an evening out with friends or selecting what to buy when we’re out shopping, choice overload is a real phenomenon that can at best make the decision-making process a lot longer and at worst result in not making a decision at all.
According to behavioural scientists The Decision Lab: ‘people get overwhelmed when they are presented with a large number of options to choose from. While we tend to assume that more choice is a good thing, in many cases, research has shown that we have a harder time choosing from a larger array of options.’
And this is fuelled by preference uncertainty: not knowing what we want from our final choice. If we don’t know much about the things we’re trying to choose from, it can be overwhelming when we’re faced with a huge range of them.
While this can be problematic on an individual level, big business, including the retail industry, clearly hasn’t escaped the issues that arise from having too much choice. Take a look at the terminology used to describe modern retail strategies – are they hybrid, omnichannel, unified or is there a new term waiting in the wings to describe cross-channel shopping? It’s safe to predict that by next year there will be a new buzzword dominating the boardroom in an attempt to define what customers want from their overall experience, and any number of solutions on offer.
This has led to a number of retailers delaying tech investments, awaiting the perfect solution at the expense of taking steps to elevate the customer experience and meet their expectations now.
From a retail perspective, the good news is that solving the problem at big business level will also go a long way to solving it at the individual shopper level. Strip away all of the perceived complexities (and choice) involved in what to name today’s shopping experience and how to deliver it, and it all comes down to ‘right product, right place, right time’.
As the Association for Psychological Science points out, customers who have relevant, easily-understandable information about a targeted range of products are more likely to buy – in other words, knowledge is power. Give store associates access to customer insights personalised to the individual (past purchases, preferences, what’s on their wishlist) coupled with all the details they need about products that specifically match their requirements and you’ll have a powerful recommendation tool that takes the stress out of being presented with an unmanageable amount of choice.
As a rule, shoppers don’t ‘see’ channels – they just seek out the experience that suits them best when they’re on their path to purchase. And it matters even less to them what retailers choose to call their setup – from the customer’s perspective, the retailer’s only job is to ensure they harness the entire retail estate and make it easily accessible, from online to in-store, offering seamless, consistent engagement with shoppers.
Harmonising the process from product selection to checkout and making it available to customers wherever they choose to engage has a measurable effect on the bottom line. According to US retailer Target, ‘multichannel customers spend four times as much as in-store customers and 10 times more than digital-only customers.’ And from an operational perspective, retailers offering seamless cross-channel experiences see an average 7.5% annual decrease in cost per contact.
Once again, personalisation is central to this level of accessibility. Having access to the wealth of customer data generated by every touchpoint across every channel allows store associates and the business as a whole to develop a granular approach to targeting, from product information to special offers, exclusive previews and tailored communications. Adobe’s retail digital trends report reveals that 73% of customers want to be delighted by companies, and that includes being presented with quick and easy ways to engage at their convenience without being bombarded by options, many of which won’t be relevant at that time.
For retailers, the key to overcoming choice overload lies in knowing their customers, how and when they like to shop and delivering products and recommendations in a way that removes the anxiety of indecision. Making a commitment to harmonise their data and use it intelligently is the single first step to take – there really is no other option. Knowledge is power - applied knowledge is stronger.
This article first appeared in MyCustomer.