Research: Too Many Choices Can Derail Success

https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/research-too-many-choices-can-derail-success

“By providing multiple ways to attain the goal, we’re actually forcing people to stop and think and make a choice instead of giving them a straightforward path to rush to the end,”

customers who were required to make purchases in a strict order of six flavors in a yogurt shop’s loyalty program were more likely to complete the purchases of these flavors to earn a reward than those who were given the flexibility to choose their own order of purchases of the same six flavors of yogurt.

“People fail to realize that relatively rigid structures can often simplify goal pursuit by removing the need to make choices, especially when people are already well into the process”

Many types of organizations typically give customers and donors multiple choices without adjusting them as their clients approach their goals, Huang notes. Companies running loyalty programs give members sitting on thousands of points many ways to keep earning more. The risk is not that they will never turn in their points, but that they will stop purchasing from the company altogether because their motivation to earn more points in the program is weakened by the overwhelming options. Nonprofits let patrons donate in various ways, and even late in a fundraising campaign as the organization approaches its goal. Instead, Huang says, organizations should consider narrowing the options once a goal is within reach.

“When customers are in the advanced stage, you’re dealing with a completely different animal,” Huang says, “so we can’t be static in our communications or in our design of loyalty programs and promotions. It’s a dynamic process.”

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