From Chaos to Happy Customer

From Chaos to Happy Customer

True story. Our family chuckles now when we remember the time our then 10-year-old son ran crying from the big-box sporting goods store because he was overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices he had for new athletic shoes. It was just too much; too many brands, too many colors, too many people, too much pressure to decide.

How many of us have been in the same situation personally or professionally? As marketers, how can we cut through the chaos on behalf of our customers and speed the decision process?

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management’s Ulf Bockenholt and colleagues Alexander Chernev and Blakeley McShane studied this phenomena, which they call “Choice Overload” — the negative psychological, emotional, and behavioral effects of having too many options to choose from. The details about their findings can be found here.

According to Bockenholt, Choice Overload can lead to what is commonly called Buyer’s Remorse or making no choice at all, which was clearly illustrated in dramatic fashion by my son. Bockenholt and his team identified four factors influencing the road to Choice Overload.

  • Choice-set complexity: How are the options organized, is there a dominant option, and what information is provided about each option?
  • Decision-task difficulty: How difficult is the actual act of deciding?
  • Preference uncertainty: How much do you already know what you want?
  • Decision goal: What is the ultimate goal of sifting through all of these options?

As marketers, what can we do? To begin, we need to focus on advantages. For example, consumers don’t care that the fancy new computer has a faster processor. They do care that web pages will load faster, spreadsheets will compute more quickly and so on. The same applies to complex issues like healthcare and public policy. We may not care how it works… do we have the care we need, when we need it at an affordable cost?

Getting to that point means deeply understanding the consumer buying experience. We need to help our organizations and our clients see our products and services through the customer’s eyes. Then, we need to simplify to satisfy by making it easy for our customers to comprehend what we offer, prioritize and compare their needs to what is presented, and make their choice.

If you or your organization is interested in knowing your customers better through consumer insights, we’d love to talk. Contact us at

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