The Paradox of Choice and Being Relevant

15.09.2016

The Paradox of Choice and Being Relevant

Here’s three simple things that you should probably understand if you’re going to do business

  1. your selling process
  2. the customer’s buying process
  3. how these two should be aligned

And here’s how much a selling process, no matter how refined, is of value if you don’t understand the buying process of the customer: near to nothing.

Now, there’s this general statistic floating around that 70% of the buyer’s journey is behind him/her before contacting any relevant, potential providers. I’d argue that this statistic is very misleading if not taking into consideration the fact that a buying process is very much dependent on various factors concerning the need, available information and the set of options. Still, this statistic conveys the important point that in today’s digitalized world being relevant to the customer is more important than ever before.

As there are notable differences between B2B and B2C selling processes, there are undoubtedly differences between B2B and B2C buying processes as well. However, the common denominator when it comes to a buying process is still the human component running through the buying process and, ultimately, making the final choice.

American psychologist Barry Schwarz coined the term “Paradox of Choice” in his 2004 book with the same name. The digital economy at that time was constantly growing in importance with regards to giving consumers seemingly unrestricted access to product information provided by, not only the suppliers but peer consumers as well. Also, in terms of digital goods, the variety of options was not bound by the restrictions of the non-digital past such as physical shelf space.

However, as Schwarz argued, this abundance of available options could mean that rather than getting the best solution available, one could end up choosing nothing at all or choosing a non-optimal solution as the consumer’s mental short list consisted only of brands familiar (consciously or subconsciously) to her/him. A seemingly unlimited amount of choices can paralyze rather than liberate.

Coming back to the meaning of being relevant, the main question is, how to be that final choice over the competition? We could dive into the details of Michael Porter’s different competitive strategies (first introduced in the 80’s) such as differentiation or price leadership. Or, we could take a few steps back and realize that in order to make use of a good winning strategy, one must first be in the group of considered options – a precedent that seems very trivial but more often than not is not the target of sufficient effort. Let’s simplify and just state that the aforementioned statistic is universally true. What are your actions in order to maximize your involvement in the first 70% of the buyer’s journey in order to be on the (mental) short list?

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Anssi Falk

Bilot Alumni