Easier Choices, Happier People

“Every waking moment is a shopping moment. Anytime, anywhere.” -Steve Yankovich [1]

We the hyper-connected, never-slow-down people have taken our shopping mindsets out of the store and into our other daily experiences. The explosion of mobile devices also provides access to content from any context.  The increase in our mindshare devoted to shopping gives marketers unprecedented opportunities to deliver their brand message. But there’s a downside to increasing the time a consumer spends thinking about buying your product.

Could always shopping behavior be a coping mechanism rather than an obsession with getting more stuff? Every day we encounter a daunting array of options for everything. “Would you like organic, low fat, nonfat, or sustainably sourced ranch dressing on that salad?” We are challenged with fleeting windows of opportunity, and limited resources.  At least we have an endless font of data to help evaluate our options (snark)! In order to cope, we extend our data gathering and product evaluations beyond the marketplace. Always shopping means hyper-vigilance about what’s available, our needs, and our means.

Grocery Store
Photo Credit: Lyza Danger Gardner copyright 2004

Barry Schwartz has done great work understanding our world of abundant choice. He’s found the more time we spend evaluating options, the less likely we are to feel satisfied by them. Instead, we experience anxiety and doubt. By extension, the less effort we spend in choosing, the less self-doubt we experience.[2]

Look at the near religious fervor among Apple customers. Apple extends its simple is better design philosophy to the product selection process. Few options are offered within each product family compared to the decision gauntlet you need to navigate when buying a PC. Since there are fewer opportunities for picking the wrong option, Apple customers have more confidence in their selection, contributing to higher enjoyment with their purchases.

The narrower the difference within our decision set, the less confident we are in our ability to select the right one. Products that break away from a cluttered field clarify the options into this or that. Upon their introduction, the Dyson vacuum clearly differentiated itself from its competitors. They also inspired passion in their customers. Are these people really that happy about cleaning their carpets? Or was their enjoyment freed of self-doubt?

Offering a better environment to choose a product has a huge impact on the perception of brand as well. I love cooking, but hate supermarkets. Picking between 4 types of fresh strawberries and 10 brands of ice cream while managing a cart and trying to remember what is currently in my refrigerator takes the joy out of an ice cream sundae. Peapod gives shoppers an organized, low pressure setting to shop. Their fans rave about the service’s ease and simplicity. It may be a hassle to arrange delivery of these perishables, but I’m saved the anxiety of staring at that wall of salad dressings while my child runs into my ankle with the cart.

Woman hugging her new car
Photo Credit: Ross Berteig copyright 2007

Seizing every moment as an opportunity to get in front of consumers’ eyeballs may increase brand awareness, but negatively impact customer satisfaction.  Minimizing the effort it takes to select your product will improve satisfaction, as well as reviews and social activity. The real opportunity in this “always shopping” culture is shortening the time it a person considers your product before choosing it and completing that transaction. Faster, clearer choices make happier consumers.


[1] Steve Yankovich, head of eBay’s mobile business USAToday.com, 9 August 2012

[2] Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice, TEDGLOBAL 2005 http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html