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TED Takeaways: Help Your Customers Choose

People are bombarded every day with competing calls for their attention. This overload can add to digital fatigue, impeding the choices they make. How can marketers cut through the noise?

The average American makes around 70 decisions a day

Behaviorologist Sheena Iyengar presented the findings of a series of studies exploring the effects of an excess of choice on people's ability to choose in a TED talk, "How to Make Choosing Easier." She found that the increase in options negatively affected the ability of a person to choose, resulting in postponement, dissatisfaction or poor choices made. 

You've probably heard of Iyengar's jam experiment. A local boutique grocery store had multiple options in every aisle — over 75 kinds of olive oil, 250 kinds of mustard and vinegar and a jam aisle that contained 348 kinds of jam — but most people left the store without buying anything.

Iyengar set up a table, offering people a choice between six jams and 24. While more people stopped when there were more choices, the people who tasted the six jams purchased a jam six times more than those who tasted the 24.

What can today’s digital marketers take from these lessons?

Iyengar offered four techniques to work with that can ease the choice paradox for the end user.

1. Less is More

Cliche, but true. Do not overload your followers — they already have too much to read. Socialbakers CEO Jan Rezab recommended updating Facebook pages no more than two to three times a day (see more thoughts from Jan in our recent interview).

Instead of overwhelming social streams with an excess of content, tailor your content for the correct stream rather than automatically cross-posting. Make sure you are using the right channel for your message. Making these choices will put the weight on the content — make sure that your content provides something new, something interesting, something relevant. 

2. Make the Results of Choices Clear

Iyengar says that consequences must be felt from choices. This can be a visual aid, as eyeglass vendor Warby Parker does with their virtual try on tool. The company goes the extra step when inquiries come in on social media channels, responding to questions about how certain glasses look on blonds by taking photographs of a blond associate in the eyeglasses and sending the photograph back.

Other items may not have such a clear line of visualization. Iyengar suggests that even having clear text, asking customers to imagine how the product or service can help or change their current circumstances can cause a customer to spend a bit more time thinking about the choice you have offered.

3. Categorization

People are capable of handling more categories than choices. By clearly indicating what area a product or service falls under, businesses can take advantage of the pre-existing understanding that people have of that area. Use concrete words that clearly describe the offering, don't obscure what you are selling with cute but useless terminology. 

4. Condition for Complexity 

Customer can acclimate to handle more choices by easing into complexity. Iyengar uses the example of buying a car to demonstrate. If a car offers 4 gear shifts and 24 choices for car color, begin by asking which gear shift the customer would like. Starting with more choices increases disengagement, but by simply reversing the order of questions from lower amount of options to higher, businesses can retain customer engagement. 

Increase the complexity of the customer's choices as they engage with your site. As with all of these techniques, test the results. Multivariate testing may be a slight bit more complicated than Iyengar's jam experiment, but it is through close observation of your customer's behavior that you will learn what they truly want. Then clear the path for them to make that choice.

Don't take my word for it. Watch Iyengar's presentation to find out for yourself:

 
 
 
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