The Paradox of Choice

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Lessons we could learn in the window and door industry

Whilst lounging by the pool on holiday last month I thought I would take the opportunity to read something other than the usual trashy novel. I asked friends for some advice and I was recommended “The Paradox of Choice” by economist Barry Schwartz. Just before you all stop reading this blog, it isn’t a book review of some obscure economist, so bear with me and you will see where I am going here.

The central theme of the book is that too much choice leads to paralysis and ultimately less satisfaction with the choices we have made. When presented with literally hundreds of options we get more concerned about the alternatives we could choose and worry that we will make the wrong decision. And when (and if) we do finally choose one, we can’t help but think was it the right choice? Which actually leads to less satisfaction with the purchase in the end. The book does expand on this very paraphrased idea and is well worth a read (or watch his very interesting and concise lecture.)

In the book Schwartz uses the example of his local grocery store with 189 options on salad dressing, with even more “make your own” options with 10 types of olive oil and 15 brands of balsamic vinegar. In our world of windows and doors the options available are the grocery store example multiplied and then multiplied again. Take the composite door market for example: once you have chosen foam filled over timber core (and now hybrids!) you are confronted with hundreds of colours (one major company was marketing 15 shades of grey – as if this was a benefit); hundreds of glass options; not just lock systems but choices of cylinders; sidelights or no sidelights; brass or chrome furniture in multiple designs – the list goes on … and on … and on. When Door Stop came to the market they claimed that six billion combinations were available!

When confronted with this amount of choice and – in many cases – conflicting information from online reviews, how can the consumer make a choice? I know this only too well from personal experience as, for seven years now, my wife has been asking me (actually telling me!) to get a new front door. In her view its simple: something that looks better than the old timber door we have, preferably in grey (but its not a deal breaker) and more secure than the 25 year old Yale lock that we have currently. For me though paralysis has set in – I have just too many choices; Which grey? Should we have biometric or standard lock? Which door? Which frame – and should it match? And I haven’t even started on the glass options. On numerous occasions I’ve almost got to a final decision, but at the last minute I think to myself:-

“is that the right choice … what if I get it wrong? … after all, this is supposedly my area of expertise”

I am not decrying the choice available today in the market; there are some incredibly innovative products out there and I fully understand that each company wants to differentiate its offering from the next guy. As a supplier to the industry we have been offering more and more choices to our customers for years … in fact it’s the cornerstone of our business model. But the more and more I think about the issue and see it from the consumer or installer and retailer’s point of view, the more I believe that the ever-expanding choices are making decisions more difficult to make – and maybe even reducing the overall volumes sold.

I hear you say:

“it’s all very well to talk about too much choice but we have to offer what the consumer wants!”

and I agree. The discerning customer, who has done his or her research, or with the guidance of a technically competent sales person, should be able to get what they want and take advantage of the plethora of choice this wonderful industry has to offer. But for the consumer who just wants a door or windows to serve a function, whilst looking good (rather like my wife), how do we streamline the choice and make the decision simpler and in the end more rewarding?

Watch this space for information on the new RegaLead Essentials composite door range – a simple range of doors, colours, glass and furniture options, neatly packaged and marketed to help you sell to those people – like my wife – who just want a door.

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Guy Hubble

Joint Managing Director

2018-08-13T15:36:08+00:00