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September 5, 2011

Is Variety the Spice of Life?

by Marketing Made Easy

Baskin-Robbins, now the world’s largest ice-cream chain, opened in 1953, its line of 31 flavours – one for every day of the month – was a novelty.  At the time, such variety was unheard of.  The company continues to emphasise variety by developing more than 1000 flavours, 100 of which are rotated through the stores each year.

It’s simple, the more choices, the happier the shopper and that equals more sales.  Right?  There are neurological limits on our ability to process information, and the task of having to choose from a myriad of products or services, becomes a less than pleasurable experience.


Consumers have grown accustomed to having choice.  If however, the market for your product is saturated with choice, you can’t gain a competitive edge by stuffing more variety into the mix.  Whilst offering your consumers greater variety, the explosion of choice can make it more difficult for people to identify what they want and how to get it.  The abundance of alternatives will overwhelm and immobilise the customer.


Therefore, you can outthink and outperform your competitors by turning the process of choosing into an experience that is more positive and less mind numbing for your customers.  You can achieve this by designing a more helpful form of choice in a way that benefits both the consumer and the marketer.  It’s essential to create a smooth transition from each product or service, so the customer can easily navigate through the new choices.  As you introduce new alternatives, give your customer meaningful categories to use.  When it comes to choosing, you can truly help consumers help themselves.


Apple is a good example; they offer consumer more choices, not less.  Whilst some may argue there is too much choice, Apple understands that simple is something that customers value highly.  Apple’s simple philosophy is evidenced in their products and services, including the store layout, where product categories are immediately easy to recognize.  From a customers perspective the entire purchasing journey is an easy one.


Here are four actions you can take to guide your consumers to help themselves:


  1. Minimise the number of options.
  2. Categorise your products or services so that consumers can better understand their options.
  3. Condition consumers by gradually introducing them to more choices.
  4. Create confidence with expert or personalised recommendations.


Offered together, these actions will create a sense of organised freedom and the customer rather than feeling trapped in a morass of alternatives, will feel in control.


Author: Peta Di Palma


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