This One? That One? One of Those Other Ones? Oh, Never Mind: Managing Overabundant Choice

July 2010
by Sheena Iyengar

« Back to Independent Articles

This One? That One? One of Those Other Ones? Oh, Never Mind: Managing Overabundant Choice

by Sheena Iyengar

Have you heard of the famous jam study? When I met with the head of Fidelity Research, he explained it as follows: “Consumers think having more choices is great, but they’re less likely to buy a jar of jam when they have to choose from a larger array. We offer our clients up to 4,500 mutual funds, so this study provides a mantra for us: Narrow it down!”

Then there was the McKinsey exec who said that because of an internal memo regarding this same study, consultants now practice the 3 × 3 rule, in which the client first chooses from among three choices, which can lead to another set of three choices, culminating in no more than a third set of three options. This rule of thumb for presenting people with choices is also used by bank brokers, personal shoppers, and Wall Streeters, proving the broad appeal and utility of putting a cap on how much choice customers have.

And such encounters with enthusiastic jam-study disciples weren’t limited to boardrooms and business meetings. Once, during a long flight, the woman seated next to me shared the details of some research she’d recently read about in the New York Times. Apparently, she told me, a few years back someone had done a st…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

Join Today!

« Back to Independent Articles

How to Get Involved!
Marketing Opportunities

From mailings to exhibits, see how IBPA's marketing programs help you grow your sales.

Educational Opportunities

Attend a seminar, ask an expert, and get more free advice with our educational programs.

Become a member

Access exclusive members-only benefits starting at just $10.