Last week I needed to buy a new laptop. I went to Amazon and typed ‘laptop’ only to be confronted with 6,731,991 results. I took a deep breath and began my research. Thirty-seven reviews later, I eventually settled for a sleek chrome machine. Then I started to question the price. After countless comparison sites and boring my wife to the brink of divorce, I bit the bullet. I bought it. But it didn’t stop there. In the days that followed, my hesitations would reappear. Had I really got a good deal? Was this top spec? Wait – is that a new model? There was always the 14 day cooling off period…
If you’ve experienced this kind of purchasing paranoia you’re not alone. It’s got a name; psychologist Barry Schwartz calls it ‘the paradox of choice’.
EDF Energy recently commissioned Canvas8 to investigate this first world problem and understand the impact that it is likely to have in 2013 and beyond.
Previously, a lack of information and, almost more importantly, the inability to act on it created a culture of reliance in Britain; a do-it-for-me approach grounded in ignorance. From holidays to television sets, our purchasing decisions were limited by what we knew as consumers - very little - and the choices we had - very few. The closest we came to ‘smart advice’ was Teletext. Put simply, we just didn’t know.
Now we know. We have access to more knowledge than we can possibly act upon. With only 3% of Britons claiming not to shop around, Britain is a nation of researchers hell-bent on making the perfect decision. We’re more likely to rely on ourselves to find a good deal than partners, family and friends combined, according to the YouGov survey compiled in conjunction with this report.
Empowered by information and choice, we can now spend more time booking holidays than getting there – jumping between TripAdvisor, Expedia and Google. Even potential partners can be researched online before a date.
Are we any happier for it? Three quarters of us feel pressured to find a good deal and more than three million Britons spend more than 24 hours researching each major purchasing decision and 95% of smartphone owners research products on the go.
Fear of making the wrong choice - it can be paralysing. We hesitate more, we waste time, and this leaves us with a question: are we neglecting the things that really matter?
Technology affords us choice and information - but rather like a Rubik’s Cube, it’s enjoyable for those who can figure it out and infuriating for those who can’t.
At Canvas8 we’ve seen a new trend emerging – one that’s based on refinement of knowledge and simplicity. Central to this are what we’re terming Navigator Brands: businesses that help us save time, whilst keeping us in the loop. They make our lives less stressful. Working quietly in the background, they free us up to get on with what really matters. They don’t need to be seen or heard, but they do need to be transparent – and flexible enough to allow us to switch back into ‘manual’ and take control whenever we require.
With this comes a very real commercial opportunity. From food to film, utilities to music, innovators are leading the way. They’re creating products, experiences and services that work on our behalf and give us the confidence to make smart decisions.
Whilst established players hesitate, the fleet-footed are responding. Streaming service Netflix’s ‘recommendation engine’ makes picking a film easy. Members detail their tastes, and every time they watch a film the engine updates their choices. It’s now responsible for 75% of their customers’ viewing choices. In the services industry Goodman Restaurants’ triumphantly simple Burger Lobster offers a menu of just three items. Whilst in the energy market EDF Energy’s transparent Blue+Price Promise actively tells you if you can get your energy cheaper elsewhere and they don’t penalise you for switching. Navigator Brands make decision-making easier.
Expect to see a raft of new businesses banging the simplicity drum – that is, as long as their boards are not paralysed by indecision.
About the author
Nick Morris is the founder and Strategy Director of the Behavioural Insights Practice, Canvas8