More is more, says research

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Posted by Matthew Stibbe

‘Consumers are irresistibly drawn to product specifications.’ – The Atlantic , drawing on findings published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In short, people will buy cars with more horsepower, cameras with more megapixels regardless of whether they will actually make a difference to how they end up using the products. More is more.

Just as people overestimate risk, they overestimate the benefit of ‘more. For example, people can’t tell the difference between a one megapixel picture and a five megapixel picture and 500hp doesn’t help you much if the speed limit is 55 mph.

Lots of technology companies (and many of my clients) understand this enough to provide detailed product specifications but not enough to zoom in on the two or three that really make their product stand out.

It is telling that, when launched, Apple had two models of iPhone, one with 8GB and one with 16GB. The choice is simple and numeric. It aligns with what this research tells us. BMW do the same thing with their model names – a 325 is ‘better’ than a 318, for example. As with writing, if you try to say everything, you end up saying nothing.

On the other hand, Nokia had dozens of models, each with a long list of specifications, making it much harder to choose between them. Apple beat Nokia in the market by offering consumers less choice not more.

If consumers don’t make rational choices, companies can do much more to help them make irrational ones in a rational way by simplifying and highlighting key specifications. When it comes to ‘more is more’, sometimes ‘less is better.’

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