Fundamentals of Business: Customer Choice

No sale is made until somebody chooses something. The fundamentals of choice are the fundamentals of business. How are you handling customer choice?

Flickr photo by emilio labrador

As Denise Lee Yohn pointed out in her blog yesterday, businesses often paralyze customers with choice, leaving them frazzled and frustrated with their shopping experience. I’ve written about this subject before, so let’s review the fundamentals of choice.

1. Too many choices overwhelm people, making it difficult to choose.

This leaves customers with a bad taste in their mouth from what they consider to be an unpleasant customer experience. People will often tell you they want more options, more choice. That’s not true. They believe it is true, but what they’re really saying is,

You haven’t made the choices interesting enough.


Your current choices are not really what I want.

People may be buying from you, but they do so out of necessity and not desire. If you customers are telling you they want more choices, revisit your product selection. Don’t add more choice. Subtract the current undesirable options and change their choice.

2. Customers like simple choices.

The more information you give a customer, the more difficult it is to make a decision. Present choices in a series of steps. Don’t give the customer everything at once. If you make the decision too difficult, the customer may simply walk away because their brain simply cannot process the entire load of information.

If you have a mountain of information about a product, either don’t show it all or unveil it piece by piece. Make customer choices simple by handing out bite-size chunks of information as needed. Organize information and choice in a hierarchy, so that the customers can make simple decisions.

3. Provide a starting point to choose.

When a customer decides to purchase something, they have to make their first choice, “Where do I begin?” Are you helping customers make that first choice? You can do that by providing a starting point.

When people first arrive at you store, or your website, what do they see? If it’s everything (or nothing), you’ve just made it difficult for the customer to choose you. A good starting point offers two, maybe three simple choices.

Let’s say you’re a bakery specializing in cupcakes. Don’t start by presenting all 101 varieties of cupcakes. Give them three choices: “Are you interested in gourmet cupcakes, artistic cupcakes for special events, or our special low-fat cupcakes?”

4. Choice Needs to be in Context

While choice can be overwhelming, customers need options to make it possible to choose you. So don’t oversimplify to just one choice. Customers need context to make a decision. They need to be able to compare their choice with other possible options (but not too many). That’s why it’s popular to give people three choices. “Would you like a tall, grande, or venti?“ The choice is placed in context with other possible choices.

People need reassurance that they are making the right decision. If they are able to choose between slightly different options; good, better, best, they can reassure themselves that they weighed the important options and chose wisely.

What’s your choice?

It’s a fundamental of business. How do you choose to give customers choices?

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  1. […] Fundamentals of Business: Customer Choice – Too many choices paralyze customers and prevent purchase decisions. This article tells you how you can reduce customer choice to get more sales. […]