Research suggests your decision-making abilities deteriorate the more decisions you make during the day. For maximum effectiveness, we should reduce the volume of decisions we make during each day and make our best decisions in the morning.

Some people achieve this by standardizing their wardrobe (Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs); some master the art of delegation and employee empowerment so that decisions in which their input is less critical can be taken by others in an organization.

Faced with too many decisions, it is all too easy to become transfixed and end up making a poor decision, or no decision at all. That’s bad for business if you are a brand or retailer.

Tesco, with 28% of the U.K. grocery market, has some 90,000 product lines, with a staggering 98 varieties of rice, 28 ketchups and 50 breads. Aldi sells around 1,350 products, with just six types of rice, two ketchups and two breads, yet maintains 6% market share, which incidentally is growing. Perhaps a major reason U.K. consumers are increasingly happy to purchase their groceries at their local convenience store rather than make a trek in a car to the out-of-town supermarket is that we find it much easier to shop with a dramatically reduced selection on offer.

Grocery store aisle

Many brands have also realized the difficulties humans have in making decisions and they are using this knowledge as part of their business ethos.

Disrupters in the mattress industry, such as Casper, Simba, and Eve, all offer just one choice of mattress. Why offer more if they can convince you this is the best?

U.K. personal stylist disrupters Thread, Trunk Club, The Chapar, and Enclothed all pre-select clothes they think will suit you and deliver these to you in a box – so you only have a small selection to choose from and never need to visit a clothing store again.

In London, there has been a surge in single dish restaurants, from Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Byron Burger (posh burgers), to Chicken Shop and Clockjack Oven (posh chicken), to Meatballs and Gourmet Hotdogs. Restaurants are shortening their wine lists and cutting their menus to help make dining choices easier for their customers.

Yet some industries and big brands are ignoring this trend towards smaller product portfolios. The beauty industry, for example, continues to offer proliferation in product choice. L’Oréal Paris offers nine different types of foundation and five different concealers; Maybelline offers sixteen different eye liners. By contrast, fast growing disrupter Charlotte Tilbury offers just two types of foundation and two types of concealer.

Relieving the customer of the burden of choice may encourage customers to buy. As organizations invest in online guided selling tools to help customers make better choices, perhaps a more impactful, and less expensive, strategy would be to simply reduce the number of options you force customers to choose between?

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