Choices vs. Options- The Forgotten Marketing Question

Consider this; you are standing in the beer aisle of your favorite adult beverage emporium or grocery store. Your mission is clear. You’re out to grab two different 6- packs of a really nice and very well done craft brew. So there you are, you’re looking at that super hoppy IPA that you’ve had before that you really like. You’re checking out that smooth and malty Scottish Ale your friends are always raving about, and of course you’re thinking about that crisp Lager that you’ve been hearing a lot of good things about as well.

And additionally, there is a host of many other beers that you have never tried or even heard of before, but that look very interesting and quite appealing. I mean all told, there must be at least 100 different selections for you to actually consider.

So with that many beers, the question is how many choices do you truly have? Well, if you said you had at least 100 choices, that number would actually be off by at least 98. Because in reality, and because you are only buying two 6-packs, you would really only have two choices; your choice for 6-pack #1 and your choice for 6-pack #2. It would be those two choices though, that would be coming from a number of options that totaled at least 100.

Here’s how it works:

Options are the number things that comprise the consideration set from which we are to make a selection. Choices, however, are actually the number of decisions we have to make that are in direct proportion to the number of selections we will make. Simply put, the number of choices we have is equal to the number of decisions we have to make in making a selection. So, if we have to make three selections, that would require us to make three decisions, and thus we would have three choices. Those three choices however could conceivably come from an infinite number of options.

The distinction between choices and options is an important one to understand, and needs to be taken into consideration as marketers. Unfortunately though and sometimes to the detriment of the products or services being marketed, marketers at times conflate choices with options.

Viewing options as choices and vice versa can potentially lead to marketing efforts that leave potential sales and revenue on the table at best, and that produce less than stellar
results at worst.

Consider our beer purchase scenario. As a beer marketer, it’s a given that I need to know the factors that influence or drive my customer’s purchase decision. As marketers we are very familiar with the term “purchase decision”. However, we often leap-frog right over something that we don’t really think all that much about. And that is “choice decision.” Choice decision is what actually moves a customer’s hand to reach for one specific 6-pack over another. And as the decision that comes first, it’s the one leads to the “decision” to purchase that particular 6-pack. The number of competing beer options available can make this choice-decision and ultimately the purchase-decision a much more difficult one to make.

When marketers market from the perspective that having options is the same as making a choice, they run the risk of developing marketing strategies that can be misaligned and that possibly miss the mark. Understanding what the customer wants or needs and how that informs their choice decision, and addressing those wants and needs in the marketing, will lead that customer to choose that particular product or service and purchase it, from among the host of other options.

The goal of marketing is to distinguish and differentiate the products and services we market so that they are no longer viewed as being one of the available options, but instead becomes the clear choice. At Black Rhino Marketing Group, this is our focus for our clients.