I make choices every day. Do I get up at 5 a.m. or wait for the dog to bark? If I’m thinking about lunch, do I want peanut butter and jelly on my sandwich? Or peanut butter and sweet pickles?
Choose option A or option B. Pretty simple. But other decisions can be much more difficult.
Take shopping. In 2009, Supply Chain Digest claimed that the average Target store carried 88 kinds of Pantene shampoo. Hard to believe? Cut the number by three-fourths: you still have 22 variations to puzzle over. Makes me glad I’m bald.
But the basic problem exists with a host of goods and services: the more options I have, the harder it is for me to choose. And I’m not alone.
Shlomo Benartzi, a behavioral finance expert, studies the problem of choice in retirement savings. When the number of mutual funds offered in a retirement plan is small, many plan participants, unsure of which funds are the “right funds” to invest in, invest in all of them. For example, if four funds are offered, they put 25 percent of their money in each one.
This strategy, called “naïve diversification,” becomes unworkable with large numbers of investment options, leading plan participants to consider other strategies, including the one virtually guaranteed to reduce their financial resources at retirement: not investing at all.
The tyranny of choice. Having a choice is the hallmark of freedom, but having too many choices can keep you from making a good choice. And maybe stop you from buying in the first place.
Choice can certainly be a problem with bicycles. If you’re considering a new bike, how do you choose among all the brands out there? Even if you limit your search to a single brand, you may be asked to choose among dozens of models, which, due to budgetary concerns, forces you to throw out the naïve diversification strategy right away.
So how do manufacturers and retailers make it easy for you to make a decision? More often than not, they don’t. But some are better than others.
Recently, I counted 45 different models of bikes on Dahon’s website. That’s a lot of machinery to wade through, especially when you consider we’re talking about a company that specializes in a niche market: folding bicycles. However, Dahon makes it pretty simple to find the right bike. In fact, that’s the name of their online selection tool: “Find the right bike.”
Fewer choices, easier decisions. To begin with, the tool avoids asking you to select among more than four choices at any time. So let’s say you click “Urban Utility” after reading Dahon’s short definitions of four types of riding.
Now you read a short review of the benefits of three different wheel sizes: 16 inch, 20 inch and 24/26 inch.
If you want the most compact fold possible, you click the picture of the 16 inch, and then you’re asked to choose between two levels of component quality. If you’re budget minded, you click on “Good,” and your selection appears: the Curve D3.
Click on the image of the D3 and you can access plenty of information on the bicycle—and see what it looks like when folded.
In this example, you moved from 45 possibilities to one in just three clicks. Want to see if a nearby dealer has one in stock so you can test ride it? Click on the Find a Dealer link at the top of the page for contact information.
Making it easy to say “yes.” It’s a win-win for everyone. Dahon retains the big benefit of a broad product line: being able to match bicycles with a wide range of customers. Prospective customers, on the other hand, can quickly drill down to the bike that best fits their needs, without wasting a lot of time searching for bits of information scattered throughout a large website.
“Find the right bike” doesn’t guarantee Dahon a sale—the customer may lose interest between leaving the website and traveling to the dealer—but it doesn’t sacrifice customer goodwill, either.
And in a world of bicycles, websites, dealers and confusion, that’s a big advantage.