The average American supermarket carries 30,000 items with 20,000 new products hitting the shelves every year. For first-timers, shopping can be a mind-boggling process when brightly coloured products of every conceivable price and variety line never-ending shelves. Choosing just a loaf of bread from the varieties available (whole-grain, gluten-free, loaf, artisan) can be overwhelming if you come from a country where the only options were white or bake-it-yourself. This phenomena is discussed in the article ‘Can reducing our choices increase our happiness?’
The article discusses restrictions placed on German supermarkets that reduces ‘consumer choice’. For instance- starting in 2010, sale of coop-raised eggs was forbidden in favour of pricier free-range eggs. In 2008, the author found more people were buying coop-raised eggs but stated that their preferences were for free-range eggs. It is said that in the end, financial concerns overshadowed ‘moral preferences.’ The author introduces the controversial ‘Paradox of Choice’ which argues that too many choices results in ‘informational overload’ that complicate the consumers need for ‘regret aversion.’ The author uses this example to argue that the removal of coop-raised eggs will help the Germans ‘resist temptation against a perceived greater good.’
In another study, customers were allowed samples of a variety of jams and given a coupon if they bought a jar. Results showed that 30% of those who were exposed to 6 varieties bought a jar compared to 3% of those exposed to 24 varieties. This may indicate that having more options can make for harder decisions. As many cultures transform into market based economies, it has become essential to study what consumers want to buy and how they can be persuaded to do so.