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Spoiled by choice: option overload can lead to buyer paralysis

Many manufacturers now have more than 100 different IP camera models to choose from, but is complexity driving away their customers?

November 3, 2014  By Colin Bodbyl

There is no one camera for every application. Manufacturers need to offer a variety and selection of cameras that can be adapted to fit the majority of end-users needs. In the past that meant having a line of dome, box and PTZ cameras while letting smaller manufacturers service niche applications.

In the last few years, however, leading manufacturers have rapidly expanded their product lines to capitalize on smaller niches while at the same time trying to offer more options than their competition. With the proliferation of megapixel technology adding to product line growth, even the simplest of cameras is now being offered at multiple resolutions.

Expanding of product offerings to serve a wider customer base is easy to justify. Unfortunately, in the process of targeting smaller niches and offering more selection, some manufacturers may actually be driving customers away.

Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University (and author of “The Art of Choosing”) suggests that when customers are faced with too many choices they become more likely not to make a purchase.


In the late 1990’s Iyengar conducted an experiment in which customers at a large grocery store were presented with a table of jams to taste from. At random intervals, Iyengar would alternate between presenting shoppers with six and 24 different jams to taste from. The results of the experiment revealed that 40 per cent of shoppers stopped to taste jam when six jars were displayed while 60 per cent stopped at the larger display. When it came to purchasing, however, 30 per cent of customers who tasted from the smaller selection ultimately purchased a jar, while only three per cent of customers who tasted from the larger selection made a purchase.

An important element of the experiment was how each customer made their purchasing decision. Rather than allowing customers to make a purchase at the tasting table, they had to go to the jam aisle to make their final selection. Customers who tasted jam at the smaller table were more decisive.

As camera manufacturers continue to expand their offerings, they need to keep Iyengar’s study in mind. Do not overwhelm customers with hundreds of cameras to choose from. Instead, group similar products into single categories and marketing materials. If a camera is offered in four different resolutions, do not list it as four different cameras, instead list it as one camera available in multiple resolutions. Complex offerings only make customers more likely to question their choices, and customers who question their choices are more likely not to make one. 

Colin Bodbyl is the principal of Zeecure (www.zeecure.com).

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