Is it good to give people many choices?

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Our brains have changed

Is it good to give people more choices?
Will customers buy more if they got more than one choice?
Do people really want more items to choose from?

The human mind is highly adaptable. This is why the child that was born in year 2000 is very different from the child that was born in the 1960s. As the child arrives to this world and finds new stuff his brain quickly gets adapted to them.

I am pretty sure you noticed how little kids can play with Gadgets while some grown ups still fail to master them like those children.

In other words the environment we are born in greatly affects the way our brains work. In a previous article called How the internet changed physical attractiveness preferences i explained how people's minds changed as a result of the advancement in technology.

So what does all this introduction has to do with giving people more choices?

Is it good to give people many choices?

How many products were available on shelves In the 1960s?
How many choices were people presented with?

The answer is much fewer than the choices present now. As the number of products available exploded in numbers humans started to discover that they have to take so many decisions everyday.

In fact we make so many decisions everyday because of the number of choices we have. When you want to watch TV you have to chose from between hundreds of channels, when you want to check the internet you have to choose from between millions of sites and Apps and when you want to buy a book you will have to choose one from millions of books.

The fact that we keep making so many choices everyday has put a big burden on our brains that the decision making process is no longer pleasant for many people.

Long ago when you had to choose between only two kinds of toothpaste it might have not been a burden but with shelves full of hundreds of different products the decision making process became anything but joyful.

This is why it's not a good idea to present customers with too many choices. Customers are already burdened with the hundreds of choices they take everyday so any additional invitation to make a new decision in such an era might be a very bad idea.

The Jam experiment

Psychologists wanted to make a test to find out how choices affected people's behaviour. They got people to choose from a small sample of jams then brought a different group of people to choose from a larger sample.

Here is what happened the larger sample attracted many more people but sales were lower than when the smaller sample was used. In other words more choices can attract more people to the store but does this result in increased sales?

According to the experiment the answer is no.
Have you been to an Apple store?
Did you notice how Apple presents it's products compared to traditional companies?

Apple focuses on few choices instead of giving people hundreds of products to chose from. In fact one of the first things Jobs did when he came back to Apple is to kill all underperforming product lines and to focus on the few ones that matter.

In short more choices could have been a good idea long ago but in the Age of information overload people can't tolerate taking more decisions because they are already burdened with the hundreds of decisions they take everyday.

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