Decision fatigue. Are you complicating the brand experience and losing customers?

A friend of mine was trying to purchase a new smart phone. With great anticipation of acquiring a new gadget (that he had to have), the experience soon soured as he became confused and then frustrated. Eventually, he just gave up and left without buying.

This made me think, instead of making the choice easier, are some brands actually over-complicating the buying experience and causing decision fatigue?

In the example of the phone retailer, my friend was progressively worn down with a myriad of choices, add-ons and information overload. It got to the point where he just couldn’t make a decision. He left the store unsatisfied and disillusioned.

As retailers and service providers continue to complain that times are tough, I am increasingly baffled why they effectively impose unnecessary obstacles to purchase.

It reminded me of this infographic that appeared in to highlight how difficult the simple task of purchasing a remedy for a headache in a chemist can be.

Cliff Young, Founding Editor of Co.Design explains “Just 10 years ago, getting something for a headache or a cold at the drugstore was a simple enough affair: Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen? No longer: Drugstore aisles are now an eye-melting maze of choices, with products advertising everything from time-release to gel-caps to flavours to different dosages.”

Young’s point is that, “An innovation process that started with the original intention of offering better products leads to an overall product experience that’s horrible.”

It is certainly a powerful and confronting graphic. It makes you stop and think. If it is really that hard just to buy something for headache, is it any wonder my colleague gave up trying to buy that smart phone. Maybe he is now searching for some paracetamol.

For brand managers, if you haven’t done so recently, take a fresh look at how many choices customers have to make before they buy your product.

Is your brand promise compelling and clear? Are all your brand assets such as packaging, stores and communications designed to build confidence in the purchasing of your product or service? Are your personnel helping make the decision easier or contributing to buyer fatigue?

A brand experience audit and strategy to remove the obstacles that discourage your customer could make a significant difference to sales.

If you’d like to have a chat on how to make it easier, not harder to choose and purchase your brand, I’d love to hear from you.

Michael Hughes
Director of Brand Strategy



  1. Carolin Dahlman

    There are many studies done that prove that people prefer less choices, and are more open for buying when they are not overwhelmed by too many alternatives. One interesting about jam showed that 30% of consumers bought a jar when they had 6 to choose from, while only 3% bought when they were presented 24 different flavours:

    Proves that we make decisions emotionally, not rationally.

    Other studies show that people´s “decision muscles” get exhausted by the end of the day, which leads to them not buying anything expensive, but if they have to choose between 2 cheap options they buy both! 🙂

  2. rupi dosanjh

    On point.

    Currently conducting research into how digital media can influence a consumer’s brand experience.

    Research has involved me looking into multi sensory marketing, experiential and brand experiences.

    Brands need not to over complicate the consumer decision journey. It should almost be a conversation, offering brief advice to consider. Put the human needs back into the centre of the experience and build around and towards the goal.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

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