The Paradox of Online Choices vs. the Long Tail

In Chris Anderson’s book, “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More,” he argues that many products in low demand, but personalized to individual tastes, can rival or exceed that of a few bestsellers or blockbusters. Of course, there must be resources to distribute these products, whether it be a big enough storehouse or a functioning online store. At first this seems to run counter to another concept in the industry as the paradox of choice. This paradox refers to the phenomenon that when customers are given too much choice, they freeze in indecision, even abandoning their online shopping charts!

In this post we will discuss how an online business can both offer customers enough variety in products so that they feel they are customized according to their needs, yet not enough to paralyze them from purchasing.

Smart Limiting of Customer Choices

Here are a few success stories from businesses who found the right balance for allowing individual customization of their customer’s products.

First, there’s the case of the now successful customer design handbag line Laudi Vidni. When Laura Kofoid began her business, she originally wanted consumers to be able to design all details of the bag. Instead, she found that by giving her customers limitless color and stitching items, she was actually hindering their options. After creating different designer bag templates that customers then used to add personalized touches, she found that orders skyrocketed into was more than $1 million in sales.

Similarly, Motionware, a Doogma customer and a leading provider of superior dance, gymnastics, team and cheer apparel worldwide, allows customers to create endless mixes and matches between various skirts and tops. Its Lettering Studio also enables custom text, style and color to appear on each cheer uniform in real time.  These different details both create an illusion of unlimited choices yet limit these choices to specific personalized touches.

Another Doogma customer decal and apparel store, Sportsdecals, takes customization even further, allowing customers to upload their own unique images. After completing their designs, Sportsdecals’ customers continue to engage with the brand by showing off their customized products to their friends and family via various social media platforms.

To speak to someone about customization click here.

Interactivity as the Personalized Experience

Leading customizers will not only provide users with a finished design as a starting point, they will also offer customization and personalization at the precise level a customer requires.   

In addition, there are a few concepts of customization that not only assist your customers in having a better user experience, but provide them with a seemingly wide array of choices. The first is called interactive bundling, which can greatly increase the average site of a cart on your site. Users mix and match different items such as skirts and blouses, furniture items, or bed linens – with all of these purchases bundled together.

Social media sharing of customer designs also adds an element of interactivity, with the share of each different design offering a different experience.

Solving the Paradox of Choice

When customers feel as though they had a hand in making the product themselves, they psychologically feel closer to it. It’s similar to investing in a child’s growth and development – you truly love the child because no one else understands how much work you’ve put into it. Odd as it may seem, this translates into online products as well.

To further illustrate this point, let’s examine the chart below:

Figure 1: Data comes from “The Ikea Project” and the “I Designed it Myself Effect in Mass Customization”

As you can see, customers who built their own t-shirts, snow skies, origami and Ikea boxes all were willing to pay more for their item than for a similar item that was already built. This perception translates to higher revenue and earnings.

As your company develops, you might consider integrating customization into your business in order to grow your business. Understanding the paradox of choice and what the long tail has to offer, how to solve the paradox of choice and the reward that results from it will give you a strong foundation for deciding more minute details of your product customizer and how it can best be tailored to suit your customers’ needs.

To speak to someone about customization click here.

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