In February of 2004, Malcolm Gladwell told the world the story of Howard Moskowitz and the revolution of consumer choice. People don’t want the perfect Pepsi. They want the perfect Pepsis. Consumer tastes vary so much that there is no such thing as a perfect product. There needs to be clusters of variations that, in aggregate, please everyone adequately. This information revolutionized the food industry as well as the world of retail marketing. What was once thought to be true, wasn’t.
The research still holds today. There are still dozens of varieties of spaghetti sauce in the aisle at my grocery store. But the focus on consumer variety, a notion most retail brands solemnly believe in today, is butting head-first against marketing trends.
Ask any forward-thinking marketer today what they are focused on for consumers and somewhere in that answer you’re going to hear the word, “curation.” In a world of choice, marketers, especially those in the digital space, are focused on removing as much of it as possible. Smart web design says to give your visitor no more than three choices on the page. Social login allows websites to now cater the user-experience to the liking of the visitor’s social graph.
More relevant, i.e. more curated, means higher converting.
So in an effort to make consumers convert, we marketers are focusing on eliminating choice. Will this come back to bite us one day?
Certainly, there is a difference between finding what you’re looking for on a website and choosing between spaghetti sauces. But by filtering and curating the online experience — even the shopping experience — for customers, are we not stripping them of the very want we know to be true for them? They want to choose.
Are we dumbing down the experience because the consumer is dumb or because we are?
The logic behind social graph-curated user-experiences is that we can automagically detect which of the variations of spaghetti sauce you want when you come to our site. But will machines ever truly be smart enough to get that granular from a web experience? The one network that is supposed to know your social graph better than anyone — Facebook — certainly does an inadequate job of presenting me with relevant advertisements. Facebook? I thought you knew me?!
Much of Moskowitz’s research tells us that people will say they like one thing when actually, they like something completely different. Can our social graph, then, even be accurate?
People keep asking questions about the future. “What will the next ‘big thing’ be?” “What does the future hold for marketing?”
If we can learn anything from our past, I’d say our future is finding out that in the present, we’re wrong.