How having many options actually entices consumers

Is the paradox of choice a myth?

In 2005, Barry Schwartz made the case in his book Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More that too many choices negatively impacted consumers. Think about it, how overwhelming does it feel sometimes when we are given too many options -- whether its at the grocery store or on the television?

But as Derek Thompson points out at The Atlantic, the paradox of choice might actually be a myth. His evidence? A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research that shows people prefer to have options.

In the study, Daniel Mochon of Tulane University asked consumers to purchase a DVD player. In one group, a Sony DVD player was the only option. The second group could only buy a Philips DVD player. A third group had both options.

The result? When consumers were only presented with one option, it decreased the likelihood they would make a decision to buy and increased their desire to search around for other products to compare it to, even if the product they were given was the one they wanted to buy. In other words, the consumers were more likely to buy one model (say, the Samsung) when they were given the option of another, but less likely to buy it if it were the only option.

Or as Mochon puts it"There has been a lot of recent attention devoted to the pitfalls of presenting consumers with too many options. However, consumers may also react negatively when choices are too restrictive. Isolating an option, even temporarily, may increase how much consumers search and potentially the likelihood that they make no purchase."

Finally, a reason why cereal takes up an entire grocery aisle.

Read more: The Atlantic

Photo: Flickr/canadapost

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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