- Wed, February 16 2011
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
My least favorite retail experience is grocery shopping. I need toothpaste? Stare at 55 kinds and try to choose one. Need OJ? Is that with or without pulp? Pulpy with calcium? Or No-pulp calcium? It all puts me in a bad mood and makes me tired.
I’ve recently reviewed a LOT of websites, and I’m troubled by the fact that there, too, things are more complex than they have to be. I often have to search hard for a donate button, which then puts me through to a donation page, which then offers me many ways to donate (planned giving, by check, online), which then offers me different payment options. It’s like the toothpaste aisle of CVS and all I want to do is give $50. It is far better to have a big donate button going direct to a donate form. I’ve also seen a lot of donation forms with 10 donation amounts suggested. Yikes.
Why are myriad options bad? If you are familiar with Paradox of Choice or some Stanford research reported in Neuromarketing, you know why: Too many choices make people tired and less likely to take action.
The Stanford study found that when a ballot in a California County was long, people stopped being able to invest much energy in making decisions. The lower on the ballot an item appeared, “the more likely the voter was to not make a choice or to use a shortcut, like picking the first choice or voting to keep the status quo.”
Neuromarketing also cites a study by Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota that found lots of mall shopping wore down consumers’ ability to do math, their brains too addled by a long day of decision-making.
The bottom line for nonprofit marketing and fundraising folks: When we ask people to make many decisions and choose among many options, they get weary—and they shut down and cease choosing. Or they just pick the first or most simple choice. “Choice fatigue,” as Roger Dooley calls it, means we need to limit the number of options and put the most important choices first. Ask people to do one thing, not five. Keep it simple, and you’ll avoid the inevitable side effect of complexity: option paralysis.