I LOVE trying new things and am addicted to the upside that accompanies the unknown. But when faced with too many choices, my adventurous aspirations relinquish and I find myself retreating to familiarity. I noticed this multiple instances over the past week:
Dinner at Gracefully – The market at my house has 30+ different sandwich options. I looked at the menu chock full of interesting combinations for 5 minutes and ended up ordering a boring italian hoagie.
Restaurant Recommendation App – This app recommended 10 places to eat dinner in East Village. After looking at each one, I ended up going to someplace I’ve been before that wasn’t even recommended by the app.
Why does this happen?
My mindset as a consumer is to look for the option that offers me the greatest utility/happiness. I hesitate to pull the trigger until I feel like I’ve thoroughly investigated my options and feel confident that one choice likely yields the optimal outcome.
When I’m faced with too many choices, the investigation process becomes exhausting. I get frustrated and opt for the path of least resistance. Almost always that choice resembles familiarity. I know what I’m getting with that sandwich or at that bar – the choice is de-risked, thus easier to make. It’s almost like there is a fatigue threshold that when crossed, the potential upside of something new takes a backseat to the pain it takes to decide.
How do you prevent this?
Simple. Limit choice or if you’re going to present a consumer a ton of options accompany them with gradients to make the decision process easier. The most obvious gradient is popularity. There’s a million choices on amazon, but picking something is always really easy because of the ratings and filters. Gradients aren’t limited to the online world. If you’re a deli highlight what the most popular dishes are or put little chili peppers next to the ones that are spicy. The bottom line – when there’s a litany of noise, I want a signal.
Regardless of whether you’re building an app or running a restaurant, understand the pitfalls that come with choice. Too many choices can leave a consumer paralyzed and put a blemish on the experience.