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Are You Discouraging Consumers Without Knowing It?

Key Takeaways:

  • Consumers are often faced with too much choice, but when habitually confronted with it, they tend to stop making active choices altogether.
  • Consumer expectations are adapting to this phenomenon. Brands and retailers can’t restrict the choices they offer, but they do need to better personalize them.
  • With Virtual Product Advisors, you can make ecommerce experiences simple for consumers, guiding to the right choices without the usual headaches.

The Full Story:

If you’re old enough to remember what the world was like before ecommerce, you can remember the feeling of getting a catalog in the mail. It could’ve been JCPenney, Sears, Kohl’s or anywhere really, but when you cozied up with those thick, glossy pages, you had the feeling that it had all the information you needed right there.

Today, you can still find a lot of great catalogs, but you can also follow a brand on endless social channels, subscribe to emails, get push notifications, download apps, read third party reviews, interact with influencer content… the list goes on. At the same time, there are more products, brands and retailers to choose from than ever before. 

While more choice and more sources of information is generally a good thing, too much of these also has an unfortunate downside: as our choices grow, the likelihood of each of those choices to be right for us becomes less and less, and this ultimately discourages us from trying to make more choices in the future.

This is happening to shoppers today. Not only is it having damaging effects on consumers’ willingness to shop, it’s also keeping them from feeling like their expectations are satisfied, finding products they love, and allowing brands to actually convert them. 

Excessive choice can turn consumers off, but most of the time brands and retailers can’t afford to restrict their offering anyway. The best choice is to help consumers better qualify their options instead. Source: Neurofied.

The More Choice We Have, The Unhappier We Get

For more than a decade, behavioral psychologists have known that the more choice people have, the less likely they are to purchase something. In one experiment, a display with 24 choices of jam generated just under 3% coupon redemption, while a display with 6 choices of jam generated 30% coupon redemption

Barry Schwartz’s research has found that the typical amount of choice consumers are exposed to increases the time and effort required to shop in ways that actually increase feelings like anxiety, regret, disappointment and self-blame, particularly when their choices don’t work out. The amount of choices consumers have is not only emotionally discouraging, but discourages them from shopping more. Even when we do “test the waters”, rejecting product choices has actually been shown to activate the parts of our brain associated with negative stimuli.

Iyengar and Lepper’s seminal study clarified the paradox of choice. Even if there were choices that may not appeal to every consumer, too much choice simply turned people off. Source: Convertize.

People who are offered more choices are more likely to delay making a choice, make worse choices and feel less satisfied with their choices overall – even when making decisions about something as important as retirement planning. If choice overload is causing consumers to avoid thinking about extremely important decisions about their financial future, how likely are they going to prioritize picking out the right skin cream, watch, or a new bicycle?

Consumers often have the chance to feel more satisfied when they’re faced with less choice, but does this mean that every brand should throw decades of differentiation out the window? For brands, it’s more important than ever to provide choices to consumers in proactively personalized ways. Continuing to leave them to their own shopping discourages them from making both individual purchase decisions and repeat or frequent purchases in the long term. 

We’re Starting to Expect Answers Before We Even Ask Questions

As the amount of choice we have continues to compound, the digital services we use are also starting to condition us to expect answers before we even ask questions. The desire to more quickly and adequately satisfy what a consumer is looking for can come down to mere seconds.

For instance, Google has found that it takes a person more than ten seconds to type out their search, hit enter and get the results. To shorten this window, Google introduced Instant Search, in which Google will search for results as the question is being typed. Gmail also introduced smart replies to reduce the need to type short emails.

Along with other features, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) were introduced to improve mobile browsing. At every turn, these kind of optimizations enhance the experience users have with Google properties. Source: Simo Ahava.

The digital services we use are also there when we need them and off when we don’t. They don’t decide how we behave, they just assist us as we do whatever we were looking to do in the first place. As consumers become accustomed to being served up answers, their tolerance for doing their own shopping goes down, while their desire to find great products remains just as high. 

While excessive product choice already discourages consumers from making purchases, failing to meet expectations will only discourage them more or, worse, leaves your brand forever left out of the products they do consider. 

Experience Is Starting to Matter More Than Products

66% of consumers now care more about the experience they get rather than the cost of a product or service. 63% are interested in personalized recommendations, and 52% will stop shopping on a website if the experience is poor. Consumers are starting to value simplified, personalized experiences more not just because it’s more convenient, but also because of the emotional costs of doing all their shopping themselves.

Overtaxed consumers have substantially less patience for brands that don’t optimize their experience for them. Source: Merkle.

We see it with the growth of every new direct-to-consumer and on-demand service. Whether it’s taxis, groceries, food delivery, dog walkers, personal shoppers or simple tasks, people are looking for help and are willing to spend money rather than do something themselves. However, when we shop online, few brands offer us the proactive assistance that we’re willing to pay for in so many other areas of life. 

When you’re offering a choice of products to a consumer, it’s never been incumbent on them to come around to your point of view. You’ve always had to invest in marketing, sales, promotion and partnerships that get your products in front of the right consumers at the right time in order to generate meaningful interest and higher purchase intent. 

In order to do this in a reliable way through ecommerce, you need to give your consumers tools that can help them find the right products faster, more easily and in a more satisfying way. Going without solutions that can talk to consumers, recommend products and proactively personalize their experiences will simply limit the overall performance and conversion you can achieve. 

Brands Don’t Just Need To Make Product Choice Simple, But Also Satisfying

As product choice grows even greater, the number of potential negative choices continues to outweigh the number of potentially positive ones. In order to wade through these choices, however, people will shop in all kinds of ways. Depending on their needs, timing, concerns and requirements, they’ll need help and personalized assistance to find what’s right for them. 

Virtual Product Advisors are a conversational AI-based solution that learns about your products, develops an expert understanding of your offering, identifies the core concerns your consumers need addressed and then allows consumers to get guidance, advice and personalized recommendations when they shop online.

Virtual Product Advisors can also use their product explanations to re-explain to consumers why a product is right for them. This is a critical function because this solves for the exact problem that keeps consumers from starting on their shopping journey in the first place. We often fail to shop because we know all the energy, time and anxiety devoted to finding the right products so often ends up with us making the wrong choice. 

Virtual Product Advisors don’t just simplify the choices available to consumers – they also allow consumers to understand exactly why a product is right for them.

Instead of leaving consumers discouraged again and again, Virtual Product Advisors give them more confidence and higher satisfaction – characteristics that increase with every purchase they make from your brand. In a world where consumers not only face more choice, but also get more help than ever before, Virtual Product Advisors are one of the key ways that brands can finally stand apart from the crowd.

Automat is a leading provider of conversational-AI based Virtual Product Advisors. These solutions help consumers shop, find products they’ll love, get recommendations, figure out what’s best for them and feel confident when it’s time to buy. Book a demo with Automat to learn more.

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