4 August 2011
Whatever happened to simple choice?
Whether you’re ordering a coffee, picking laundry detergent or purchasing a new car, the sheer volume of consumer choice today can be overwhelming and complicated.
Look at the car industry. Today you can choose from an enormous array of vehicles in hundreds of shapes sizes from city cars, superminis, family hatchbacks, saloons, estates, crossovers, estate MPVs, SUV estates, mini MPVs, midi-MPVs, people-carriers, SUVs, compact SUVs, mid-size SUVS, full-size SUVs, pick-ups, pick-up SUVs, SAVs, urban activity vehicles, grand tourers, convertibles, roadsters, sports cars, supercars, hypercars. The list goes on.
Even Audi, a brand I personally hold in great esteem, is well and truly in on plugging any perceived gap in the marketplace. They currently sell three sizes of SUV, Q3, Q5 and Q7 with talk of more SUVs to plug the gaps – including an “SUV convertible”. They sell something like 45 different bodyshapes. That’s before the millions of possible colour, trim, engine and spec combinations. All this makes visiting an Audi showroom a mind-boggling affair.
Back in the 1970s, if you wanted a new car, you picked either a three box saloon (sedan), a hatchback or an estate (station wagon) and if you were single a two seater sports car. If you lived on a farm you had a Land Rover.
It’s not just the automotive industry. I was at a Starbucks in a motorway service station in Northern England last month when a fellow customer asked for “a coffee”. The Starbucks guy looked confused and perplexed.
All this choice also comes at a cost. Most brands can’t do choice without letting something slip, be it product quality or customer service. There’s fine line between a product being tailored to us and it just becoming overwhelmingly complex. Perhaps it’s time to go back to doing fewer things really well.