choice - Freedom from choice

How options-overload is driving a trend towards perfection in simple, focused products.

In a world where we have all the information we need and everything else we could want at our fingertips, have we become better, smarter and happier? We are certainly better connected and better educated than ever before. We have more choice, and, on the surface, many of us benefit from a sheer abundance of possibilities that we couldn’t have dreamed of before.

For generations previous, and indeed for those in less fortunate parts of the world right now, it might be a struggle to see how this could possibly be a bad thing. Yet choice overload is a problem for much of the developed world, and a very modern one at that. Rather than offering us endless possibilities for increased freedom, contentedness and quality of life, having too much choice often results in stress, fatigue, and perversely, the inability to actually make a decision.

It is one of the reasons for the phenomenal appeal of discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl, who – in terms of sheer variety – offer just a small fraction of the range of the major supermarket chains, but instead focus on providing guaranteed value and quality to their customers. Indeed, it is one of the reasons that Tesco themselves recently made the decision to remove a whole third of their range from stores.

It’s becoming clearer that consumers neither need nor want all the choice they’re offered, and would rather commit themselves to something that they know is of good quality and will meet their expectations.

In the restaurant world, for example, single-dish restaurants have been dismissed as pure fads, but their continued prominence is showing that they may have some more fundamental attractions.

They are representative not only of the desire to reduce the mental overload induced by too much choice, but also of the drive to achieve product perfection; a restaurant offering just one dish, or variations on it, has more chance of getting it right than one with an encyclopedia for a menu.

And this trend for on-premise simplicity is no less relevant to drinks; wine lists have been getting smaller and more focused for some time now, as venues concentrate their efforts on quality and provenance, and single-cocktail bars are an increasingly popular extension of the single-dish restaurant concept, passionately striving for perfection in one thing only.

This singularity of focus can provoke curiosity, admiration and ultimately devotion, which is thus the name of one of the trends identified in our latest Global Consumer Trends report. The Devotion to which this trend refers is both the obsessive purpose of a service or product provider to achieve the best possible outcome in a limited focus, and the commitment of the devotees too; the idea of committing to a few things of real quality and value that truly interest us instead of being overwhelmed by endless choices is something that’s seeming increasingly attractive, and we’ll continue to see new products and behaviours that reflect this.

To find out more about Devotion and nine other consumer trends, take a look at our Global Consumer Trends 2016 Report, or book your place one of our Global Consumer Trends workshops.

Author: Chris Giles