Remember when the decision making process was less complex? Maybe it never was, but isn’t it a little trickier nowadays, you know, with this global network called the “Internet”, presenting all possible options plus one extra? Back in the old days when there were two brands of shampoo to choose from, one for men and the other one for women – shopping was bliss. Now there are thousands, and by the gift of the Internet, customers have instant knowledge access to most probably all of them.
You’ve all heard the expression “information overload”; it’s one of the hazards of the digital age. This is not just something that critics of modern society made up to scare kids away from the computer and into the playground. Studies show that humans in fact do have limited information processing abilities. With too much information entering our brain, our ability to make good decisions is notably hindered.
Variety is great however. Customers are more in control – they’re well informed and have the ability to pick the best option from a wide selection of products and services. This indirectly benefits the companies due to customers disregarding the less honest brands. It’s more likely therefore that the last man is the one who actually knows what he’s talking about and how best to ‘walk the talk’.
Back in the days when there were only a couple of brands to choose from, there was less pressure for companies to spend endless hours creating a marketing campaign that cost more than Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe. On the plus side however, diversity has created a more caring society where customers really matter.
Moving on – diversity may be a good thing, but that doesn’t make it easier for people to choose what shampoo to buy, quite the opposite really. Or forget about shampoo, how about which university to go to, what stock to invest in, where to cut ones hair? Some decisions, if made incorrectly, could mean utter disaster (or at least major inconvenience and a bad hair do). So how do we make good decisions in a world filled with information?
There are two different kinds of decision makers that you need to know about; maximisers and satisficers. A maximiser will make sure that he or she has considered every single option before making a decision. A satisficer will however settle for the first option that fits the bill/need. One may assume that being a maximiser is the way to go, but according to Psychology Today, maximisers tend to be less satisfied with their decision. The downside of knowing all of your options is that you also know what you’re giving up. So maybe the maximiser tactic should be saved for those super important decisions (and not which shampoo to buy).
So if your customers are struggling with indecision, chances are that they’re using one of the following strategies to make up their minds – they could for example:
- Divide the options into different aspect categories (this shampoo smells good, this one is cheap, this one is eco friendly), then pick the best choice from each category and narrow down the preferences until only one item remains;
- Consider two products at a time. The winner of each “round” will face the next opponent until no more opponents remain;
- Find the worst alternative and throw it out – then keep at it until the best option remains;
- Simply go for a brand they recognise. For the customer, selecting what they know may not be the best alternative on this list, but it works really well for making quick decisions. This is why it’s so important to create brand awareness among consumers (as discussed here).
Having too much information can be just as frustrating as a lack of it, plus few customers can handle the wrecking ball of information being launched at them every day (excuse the Miley Cyrism). Knowing that customers have limits and are forced to use different strategies to cope with what indecision gives you, Mr Marketer, an understanding of why you need to keep your marketing strategy as simple and clear as possible to cut through the clutter.
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Image courtesy: magneticresume.com, indezign.net