How Does Variety Sell?

Variety is a mixed blessing.  If you advertise a massive variety of products or services, is this attractive to more customers?

What is It?

Politicians go on about choice as if it is a good thing.  If I have an acute medical crisis, I am happy to allow my doctor make choices for me.  I trust my doctor.  I could choose between several hospitals but I’m going to ask which is the best one.

Variety works in two ways.  You cater for customers with many needs.  So, if you sell sports equipment, the beginner has different needs to the champion.  The experienced sportsperson knows exactly what they need and pays for it.  The beginner needs the basics and won’t spend a fortune in case they decide not to pursue the sport.

The other type of variety is a range of options with no particular reason a customer would choose one or another.  For example, ice cream flavours are a matter of personal preference.  They are similarly priced and the customer chooses their favourite or sometimes fancies something new.

Value to the Customer

It doesn’t follow the customer knows what they want.  Someone who needs coaching may have specific needs but does not always know enough to make their choice.  To offer a range of options may be counter-productive.

Alternatively, whilst a variety of ice cream flavours may attract the eye, how beneficial are they to the business?  Customers restrict their purchases to a small variety of flavours.  The business owner must consider the cost of producing so many flavours; wastage where some flavours are less popular.  Even queues that move slowly because customers take more time choosing.

How to Get There

For ice creams and similar products, there are diminishing returns to offering more options.  How much more inviting is “30 delicious flavours” to 15?  There are few advantages to offering in a supermarket more than 2 or 3 types of tinned tomatoes.

For the specialist, a lot depends on their customers’ awareness.  A knowledgeable customer wants to see everything on offer or specifies exactly what they seek.  For the less knowledgeable customer, exposure to all 15 options may be counter-productive.  Far better to find out what they need and offer a couple of options.

Offer two options because it gives the customer a choice and it is easier to opt for the cheapest than it is to say no outright.  If they are not happy with either, find out why and offer something more suitable.  With services, the issue may be one of trust.  The customer tries something low-priced before they opt for more expensive options.  They are unlikely to tell you this, so be ready with a low-priced option.  Once they become a customer, they are more likely to buy again.

The customer who says yes may be interested in an upsell.  Offer more until they say no, then seal the deal.

Your Offer

To what extent does variety increase the likelihood of people using your services?  To some degree variety is neutral, especially where customers want one specific thing.  They may come to you because they believe you have what they seek.  “We have what you seek” may be a better slogan than “View our extensive stock”.

They say variety is the spice of life but not all at once.

This is the twenty-ninth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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Using Elements of Value - Market Together Blog - August 13, 2018 Reply

[…] Risk, Organises, Integrates, Connects, Reduces Effort, Avoids Hassles, Reduced Costs, Quality, Variety, Sensory Appeal, […]

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