When More is Less: The Too-Much-Choice Effect

Optical retailers recognize that customers crave choice, perhaps even abundance. Research from various sources, including marketers, economists and psychologists supports the belief that shoppers feel they benefit from having more choice. Online giants like Amazon have indeed built their business models on the ability to offer endless assortments in any product category.

But did you know there is a well-documented “too much choice” effect? It’s also known as “choice overload”, “the paradox of choice”, or “hyperchoice”. Further investigation has shown that having too much choice can be associated with less purchasing!

Offering consumers too many options makes them less keen to make a final choice. How many of us have been overwhelmed by our options when shopping online for cosmetics or electronics, for example, and have simply put off the decision and abandoned our carts? Perhaps even more surprisingly—and more importantly for ECPs—when there are too many options, customers have less post-purchase satisfaction with their choice.

What causes this lower satisfaction? Having to decline many alternatives. The more alternatives customers have, the more uncertain they may feel about whether they have made a good choice.

Three Tips to Avoid this Effect

  1. Reduce the Amount of Similarity between Alternatives

The most important thing is to make the range of choices seem less complicated to the consumer. When presenting frames start with options that are quite dissimilar. Present choices in a specific order, from the boldest to most subtle frame designs, from the most advanced design to entry-level options in lenses. Propose a frame or lens that you can describe as a standout option and offer one back-up option for easy comparison. Offering one choice that is clearly superior will help reduce the choice paralysis your customer may be feeling.

  1. Reduce the Range of Alternatives

The size of the assortment matters differently to two distinct types of customer. For customers who don’t arrive with something specific in mind, more IS less, whereas customers who walk in with strong preferences tend to be more satisfied if they choose from a larger assortment, expecting that a large selection will ensure they find the look or the product they have in mind. You can be successful with both types of customers if you merchandise your frame selection strategically. Place more of the “same” items together: multiple colours of the same frame, the same sunglass style with and without polarized lenses. This will avoid triggering the “too much choice” effect. Mirrors, false bottoms and simply presenting every product twice on a frame board can go a long way to creating the comfort of selection without the discomfort of choice paralysis.

  1. Chunk Technical Information into Categories

We owe our customers the necessary technical information, so they can participate actively in the selection process and make well-informed choices, but the difficulty of choosing will increase with the number of different pieces of information they need to evaluate. This is particularly true when consumers lack expertise and experience­­—particularly when they are first-time wearers of prescription glasses, progressive lenses or contact lenses. The secret to avoiding information overload is to simplify the choices by grouping them in categories. For example, if you tell customers, “we will walk through three decisions together with respect to your lens options—lens material, lens design and lens coatings”—it will be less overwhelming than if you had listed all the options one-by-one. Same for frame choices: saying, “let’s compare the benefits of the different materials, then choose a shape, then your colour preference,” helps reduce the complexity. This approach has proven to be even more effective with smaller rather than larger assortments.

Always keep in mind that your customer’s ultimate satisfaction is not directly associated with the number of choices you offer. The relationship between choice and satisfaction is complicated and sometimes too many choices can damage your overall effectiveness.

By Margaret Osborne, BSc MBA RO

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Unravelling the Mystery of Sunwear

By Dana Sacco

The funny thing about sunglasses is that they become part of our persona and allow us to project an image or style. Of course, sunglasses also protect our eyes and the delicate skin around them. Technologically advanced sun lenses provide crisp optics and enhance visual performance. It’s such a cliché – the guy on the beach admiring females passing by, with full confidence that his observations are shielded by a pair of dark sunglasses. Like all stereotypes it contains a modicum of truth. Yes, sunglasses protect us from harmful UV rays but they also add that layer of mystery.

So, it’s interesting to look at what motivates our clients and to understand the behavioural needs that drive their sunglass purchases. Opticians have a long-standing tradition in retail and an innate philosophy of customer-focused selling. They are trained to understand the lifestyle and needs of the customer and to provide the perfect eyewear solution for them.

Optical inventory selections are often driven by trends in the marketplace. Some opticians have a “golden gut” that lets them pair the perfect sunwear trend to the patient. Those opticians instinctively understand the key motivating behaviours of their customers and translate that “EQ” or emotional intelligence into the perfect sale.

An example is the “weekend warrior” who lives a sport-centred lifestyle. Many athletes have fiercely competitive natures. This assertiveness drives them to go to great lengths to get the newest style or technology to enhance their athletic performance. Any Oakley or adidas sunwear dealer has served a customer who knows all about the newest, “about-to-be-released” model. Just like a new golf club that will make their shots 20 yards longer, the sunglass is in hot demand.

Generally speaking, if a client pursues individual sports they may be less extroverted and will choose a more conservative style. Their more extroverted counterparts often choose team sports and identify with bold colours and distinctive designs.

An athlete who is a strong sequential processor, such as a long-distance marathon runner or golfer, displays core behaviours linked to repetitive tasks, which are sustained for long periods of time. These people are often quite happy to wear the same style for many years. Or, if they update their look, the next model will be quite similar to their last, as they may be reluctant to change.

A person who is hard-wired for urgency to achieve their goals, such as a beach volleyball player, whose sport has a very random changing pattern, will likely own multiple pairs of sunglasses to suit their mood and playing conditions. Sunwear models that offer choices of lens colours or a changeable palette in the frame design will appeal to their natures.

Identifying your athletic customers’ need for detail will also help the sales process. Those attracted to highly technical sports, such as road cycling and mountain biking, will often display a need to know all the technological aspects of their purchase and demand the same attention to detail as they would in purchasing their coveted bicycle.

The level of core behaviours, such as assertiveness, extroversion, sense of urgency and detail orientation, give the retailer a basic pattern to work with in the selling process. In behavioural science you must take account of individual personality, which is shaped by birth order, cultural context and other external experiential factors. However, some studies indicate that understanding core behaviours can give us insight into about 30 per cent of a person’s make-up and help predict behavioural outcomes with about 85 per cent accuracy.

As an optician, sunglasses represent the “fun” side of the eyecare business. Every client has unique needs and it’s not necessarily the activity that drives their final purchase decision. Each customer presents a new mystery for the optician to solve and a new opportunity to establish a valuable long-term relationship.