3 Rules of Choice Illusion: Don't Settle for less!

The problem with Choice Overload as I see it, particularly as it relates to the interior design & decorating industry, isn't so much related to the wide array of choice that exists, but rather it's a direct result of Choice Illusion, which is created by how goods & services make their way to market and ultimately into our homes.

As one client put it: "It's a little like channel surfing; when you actually see how many stations are really just different repeats of the same programs, not to mention the reoccurring content themes, you soon appreciate that the issue isn't really one of choice, but rather the inability to measure any remarkable differences among them."

It's part of human nature to want to make our own choices based on responsible credible information. But we don't always know what that is; and like sheep being nipped at by the great herding dog, all too often we're led to the checkout counter misinformed and under the false impression that we have made the best decision possible, rather than realizing that we've merely settled for what was offered. It doesn't really matter if we're talking about area rugs or light bulbs; countertops or chesterfields; or even choosing a professional to work with; there are "rules of play" that need to be understood.

Our main problems with choice are:

  1. Knowing how to source;
  2. Knowing who to trust; and
  3. Knowing how to make the "right choice for the right reason"

Here are Three Rules you need to be aware of:

Rule No. 1: There are more products available than any one supplier could possibly handle.

For mass merchandisers, shelf space is money and "dealers" need turns per sq. ft. to justify stocking product. Manufacturers' discounts and/or rebates are based on volume sales. Since the marketplace is driven by "perceived value" which is trend and price dominated, the emphasis on choice is concentrated at the center - average product for average people. And, as the gap between quality and cheap widens, the lowest common denominator prevails. That's precisely why so much specialty shopping has shifted to the Internet; but since decorating is about perception which requires our sensory participation – interior decorating choices which need to be seen, touched and tried out, become more difficult to make this way. So, unless we engage the services of real professionals, we end up back in the loop of average and as the glossy magazines show: "it all begins to look the same".

Rule No. 2: Product knowledge comes with a hefty price tag!

As a result little retail training exists outside manufacturer sponsored information sessions, so while sales staff (and this includes many so called professionals) may appear to know about the "brands" they're selling, it is often based upon manufacturers' biased claims as opposed to qualified independent research. Case in point: granite vs.engineered quartz. Quartz manufacturers have done a great marketing job to infer that granite is "less safe" than quartz but when the facts are really known, both tests equally for microbial safety and maintenance in the home - and the constant parroting of this misinformation has people believing it as fact.

There's a bit difference between specifying, selling and knowing how a product works from experience.

Rule No. 3: Clever marketers sell you on the need then create the supply.

IKEA circulates some 200 million "expensively" produced catalogues backed by millions of dollars of advertising appealing to our emotions to convince consumers that they need cheap furniture to enhance their lifestyles, and then they provide it. It doesn't matter that their designs have little to do with quality; or comfort; or socio-economic or ecological responsibility; but more to do with profitability based on cheap production and the least possible shipping costs, combined with the purchasers' agreements to be part of their profit base by absorbing distribution and assembly costs. Cheap products depend on volume for profitability, but this does not necessarily translate to low profit margins. Ikea's 2010 sales were reported at $23.1 billion. It sells its story well, but minimalism and "stripped of design integrity" are not necessarily synonymous.

Neuroscience has proven that our choices are driven by our perceptions and emotional buy-ins. Literally billions are spent researching and implementing just the right marketing tweaks to sway us one way or another and surprisingly, we don't always make decisions that are in our best interest, despite knowing better.

A great question was asked of me recently that should be asked of everyone in our business more often:

"Why should I believe you Irene? What makes your information more accurate than what I'm being told by others?"

The answer to this question is simply this:

It's not about believing me! It's about equipping YOU to be able to ask the RIGHT questions and assess the BEST ANSWERS FOR YOU based on solid research & experience about the vast array of products and services that permeate our industry. Knowing how, where and why to source this information is what removes the Illusion from Choice - and this, is a REMARKABLE DIFFERENCE.