Posted by: DrAlanRae | August 27, 2009

The Paradox of Choice

In the “Paradox of Choice“, Barry Schwartz describes research that clearly demonstrates that too much choice is counterproductive if you are trying to get someone to buy something.

Our nervous systems evolved to make binary choices – stay or go – fight or flight – do or not do (there is no try).

We can (if we have to) get the scientific method out of the cupboard and make a rational choice – but we won’t thank you for it. We’ll put off the decision if you force us into rational mode – and if we do decide – then the buyer’s remorse will be terrible. So don’t make us think.

That’s why copywriters through the ages focus on getting us to stay with the gut and create something that feels familiar and innocently enticing if they want us to buy.

Schwartz quotes some evidence from a project carried out on people buying Sony and Aiwa sound systems. It turns out that if you make

  • I good offer – 66% of the sample bought
    2 alternative good offers – 53% bought
    1 good and 1 unattractive offer – 73% bought

So provide an offer and a benchmark. This could be a highly priced all inclusive offer as well as the one you actually want them to buy.
If you provide someone with an all inclusive bundle and then offer them a reduction for each item they take out, you’ll do better than if you offer a base price + supplementary prices for add-ins. Because psychologically the pain of giving something up is greater than the gain of adding something to a basic specification

He concludes that people want to have choices made easy for them.
Complexity forces them to trade off which makes them put off deciding.
Conflict reduces mental well-being and so reduces decisiveness.

Schwartz also describes some interesting findings about HOW people choose. They’ll forgo an uncertain large gain in favour of a certain small gain and conversely they’ll risk a complete disaster that’s not certain to avoid a small reverse that will certainly happen.

One other factor that’s counter intuitive is that people also buy to avoid post purchase regret. Some people – Schwartz calls them Maximisers – spend a long time to make sure that they get the best possible available deal. Others labelled Satisficers, are more relaxed.
If you believe that you are writing for Maximisers then you will need to try and make the offer appear the obvious, safe and logical choice. All the research points to the view that decisions taken by gut feeling lead to less buyer’s remorse than decisions taken with a great degree of analytic input.

So if you are dealing with people who need evidence, present it so that the case is unanswerable. And bear in mind how they’ll react if the don’t get what they think you offered them.

I think this book is well worth a read so check it out – it’s currently about £5.99 on Amazon. This article is taken from my latest book – Just 12 Hours.





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