It’s a strange thing with satisfaction in a world of seemingly unlimited choice:
We tend to equate freedom with choice, and both with happiness, even in the marketplace.
Research, however, has shown that sales can be greater and customer satisfaction higher when the number of choices is reduced, not when it is increased. Having a greater number of potential alternatives just doesn’t help in being satisfied with the one choice made, or even in making a choice at all.
There is, then, a pleasure of no choice.
The choices available on the market tend to be only those between different ‘flavors’ of products, as decided on by their producer, anyways. You, the customer, supposedly express(es) individuality in a market-driven world through your purchasing decisions; the style(s) you could possibly go for are relatively limited, though.
In fashion, for example, there are different design houses and different makers of fast fashion, of course. The number of products offered is tremendous.
At the same time, it is all very similar, following what has been declared the latest fashion trend. And anyways, most people tend to go for basically the same look, and it is difficult (psychologically as well as just practically) to choose styles which the producer decided would not be the big sellers of a season.
The trend towards customization cuts right through that, in contradictory ways:
The choices are actually not so wide; just a few colors and perhaps other options – but what those seemingly few options make possible is a tremendous number of combinations.
Thus, giving customers the option to shape a product to their individual tastes tends to increase the number of possible options – and thus, of choices that have to be made – tremendously. This way, the number of alternatives that would also have been possible, the contemplation of which may dissatisfy with the one choice finally made, is much greater.
It is all enough to make a run-of-the-mill version a much easier decision.
You don’t have to go through all the additional options beyond the handful of versions and colors of the product.
You don’t have to invest the time and effort to design and decide on “your” ideal model.
You can just head to the next store, don’t have to wait, and might easily get a better deal.
The choice was clearly your own, however. (With some peer pressure, at least in the form of fashion trends; perhaps with some influence exerted by the newness of some options over others; etc. – but still.)
And so, maybe you enjoy going through the various options available and have fun seeing what you come up with.
You may come to a final design that you really prefer above all others and that would definitely not be available just going into a store; a design that is “yours.”
You invest the additional effort and extra cost, and you thus imbue the product with additional value.
In the end, even being left with “no return” option (as is usual for customized products) is likely to make you more satisfied rather than less, as the insecurity over whether this was the best choice or not, which can go haywire when choices can still be revised, has to fall away.
I wonder what decides how these things go for whom.
It is probably a matter of personal psychology (and quite possibly, also of individual circumstances).
For example, you’ll probably have to know what’s more important for you: saving some time and money or splurging on treating yourself to something special, having a (relatively, more) unique version of a product (and the pressure to be happy with it) or not having to deal with the potential downsides of such a choice.
When Suunto started with its Ambit3 customizer, I personally was afraid it would be a bad decision for them.
The potential to breed dissatisfaction – through the paradox of choice, higher prices, waiting times, the chance that the actual final product may not look quite like the expected one,… – felt just too great.
Having had a chance to test the customization [full disclosure: I have been working as external tester, “paid” with the Ambit3 I customized, for them], however, I can easily imagine it being a great success, at least in certain markets, as well.
It’s great fun to see what designs are possible and be impressed or appalled by the choices others decided to make (if they decide to publish them, everyone can see them on a design gallery, and there are also designs made by the Suunto Ambassador athletes); it’s appealing to have a product that looks and is set up just for oneself, that has one’s mark and literally has one’s name on it.
(Admittedly, I was also in a position to “cheat” a little because I had a replacement strap lying around and decided on a design that works with both the – “Amber” yellow-orange – strap I chose in the customizer and the – black – one I already had 😉 )
So, make your choice. Preferably one that will make you happy.