I’ve just come back from a week’s course in Spain organised by the European Monroe Institute. The course was on consciousness, a thing all good marketers need to develop, especially when it comes to their customers’ choices.
The reason I am referring to this course, besides the fact that it was led by the brilliant consciousness expert Arkaitz, is because we spoke about a subject that is very relevant for shopper marketing. I did in fact already touch on something similar in last week’s post. I’m speaking about decision making and the difference between Polarity, Duality, Dilemmas and Trilemmas. For clarification, these terms refer to:
Last week I spoke about the Trilemma as it relates to project work; in this post I want to review the different situations in which we oblige our shoppers to make customer choices and how we can make it a lot easier for them.
How many decisions do you make in an average day? Tens, hundreds, thousands, even more? It has been estimated that an adult makes in excess of 30,000 decisions each and every day. (>>Tweet this<<) From what to have for breakfast, to what to wear and the route we take to work, we are constantly making decisions. However, have you noticed that when you need to make a decision, having more choices is not always better? More choice can in fact make decision-making all the more difficult.
In a recent article about Mark Zuckerberg, it was mentioned that he, as did Steve Jobs, wears the same clothes every day. A sort of uniform that enables him to make one less decision that he considers to be less relevant and unimportant to the success of his business. In the post he reveals that he wears the same clothes over and over again, because he wants to limit the time he spends making “frivolous” decisions, so he can concentrate on real work. As he says:
“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life, so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services.”
It has been proven that shoppers can end up leaving a retail outlet or online e-shop without making a purchase, when faced with too much choice. (>>Tweet this<<) This so-called “choice overload” was first mentioned in the book The Paradox of Choice, by Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz.
Schwartz co-authored a study that supported his theory in the context of Web search and other research has documented choice overload in contexts as wide ranging as gourmet chocolates and retirement plans.
Choice overload is also one of the major reasons, besides price, for the success of hard discounters. They take away those “frivolous” but hard decisions we usually have to make whilst out shopping, by offering just one or at most two brands or sizes of each article. We then have to make the choice between buying one of the two on offer, or purchasing neither (a trilemma). If you have the time, you might then go elsewhere to buy what you were looking for, but if the choice is of lesser importance or we are lacking the time, we will accept the limited choice and buy one of the two on offer (a dilemma).
Therefore choice is not always a good thing. So what can you as a marketer do to help the customer make the “right” decision in favour of your brand?
Know your Customers
If you’re a regular here, you will know that everything you do should start with the customer and from the customer’s perspective. Understanding their needs and desires, both stated and unstated, will enable you to better meet them. A satisfied customer is unlikely to spend time in choice and will automatically go for your product or service. You can read more about getting a deeper understanding of your customer in another post entitled “How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?” here.
Many retailers and some consumer packaged goods companies have noticed that consumers today are suffering from “choice overload”.
Both P&G and Unilever have done some radical pruning of their brands over the years. They have understood that most of their business comes from just a small number of all its products. P&G has around 300 brands today, a third less than just a decade ago. Unilever has been even more ruthless. Since introducing its “Path to Growth” initiative almost fifteen years ago, the number of its brands has been culled from 1,600 down to just 400.
Retail organisations too are no longer willing to offer increased space for ever-expanding brand portfolios. They often use the “one in, one out” rule and need strong evidence to add a new line from manufacturers. This has been especially true in recent years with the increase in the number of supermarket chains offering smaller, urban outlets, such as Tesco’s Metro and Walmart’s Express. You can read more about current retail trends here.
What both retailers and manufacturers have realised is that Pareto’s Principle is highly relevant to the success of their businesses. The “Pareto Principle” or 80-20 rule, helps a lot in reducing the number of trilemma (or worse) type decisions that shoppers are faced with.
It therefore makes a lot of sense to regularly review your own portfolio and cut the “long tail” of slowest movers. Unless you have recently launched it or have a solid recovery plan in the pipeline, it is better to delete them.
Another very good reason for reducing the numbers of brands and variants in portfolios has to do with innovation. Today’s consumers thrive on novelty and constantly demand new products and services. They quickly become bored or are satisfied for far less time than in the past.
In response to this, many companies have increased their level of innovation and new launches. However, neither retailers nor consumers want an ever increasing choice of products to sell or purchase. Therefore it makes good sense to have a “one in, one out” policy as mentioned above.
Identifying the best products and variants to put on shelf at each retail outlet or at a minimum by region, will enable customers to make those all important choices more quickly and easily. You will make the sale and the retailer will not be faced with stock that sits on their shelves, not moving; a definite win-win-win. (>>Tweet this<<)
Coming back to the issue of polarity, duality, dilemmas and trilemmas, I hope you can see that the situation in which a customer finds him/herself at the point of sale, whether they are facing a dilemma, trilemma or worse, will have a huge impact on whether or not they purchase.
Do you have something to add to this article and the customer choices we offer when they are faced with making a purchase decision? Please add a comment below. And if you enjoyed the post, then please share it with your friends and colleagues, so they too can be inspired.
If you would like support in reviewing your brand portfolio to identify the 20% of brands and variants that may need to be deleted, contact me here and let’s discuss your situation. I know I can help.
C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Unilever and Walmart in this post.