Swapping selection for value turns out not to be much of a tradeoff. Customers may think they want variety, but in reality too many options can lead to shopping paralysis. “People are worried they’ll regret the choice they made,” says Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore professor and author of The Paradox of Choice. “People don’t want to feel they made a mistake.” Studies have found that buyers enjoy purchases more if they know the pool of options isn’t quite so large. Trader Joe’s organic creamy unsalted peanut butter will be more satisfying if there are only nine other peanut butters a shopper might have purchased instead of 39. Having a wide selection may help get customers in the store, but it won’t increase the chances they’ll buy. (It also explains why so often people are on their cellphones at the supermarket asking their significant other which detergent to get.) “It takes them out of the purchasing process and puts them into a decision-making process,” explains Stew Leonard Jr., CEO of grocer Stew Leonard’s, which also subscribes to the “less is more” mantra.
I really like Trader Joe. Too bad there isn’t one in Toronto.
Now, one of the funny thing was that whenever I am at a Trader Joe, I never really notice that it wasn’t a fully stocked supermarket. Yeah, something in the small part of my brain sets off that … “where do they put the sponges?” … but, y’know what? Not really. It was just so cool.
Besides, who really needs 40 different types of peanut butter? Looks like freedom of choice is becoming a marketing mistake.