When Henry Ford offered his clients model T in any color just as long as it was black, he wasn’t just making a joke. It was a great marketing move. Sometimes it is up to you to make customers realize, what they really need.
Marketer’s obsession on identifying customer needs is somewhat misconceived. Most of such studies focus on respondents’ convictions about their likes and dislikes, and not on their way of thinking. Steve Jobs went even further, saying that market research is obsolete, because: „You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.”.
Usually the process of introducing a new product is quite similar. Every manager wants to make this new product most attractive for company’s customers. In this case, the opinion of customers is decisive. For example, one company, basing on that opinion and on its own experience flooded the market with too many products, all extremely desirable, according to previous surveys. As it turned out, such a broad offer confused the customers. They were incapable of making a choice. The solution was to limit the range, apply segmentation and differentiation of products or skillfully make the choice for the customers by suggesting in a persuasive manner what was best for them.
Our instincts tell us, that broad selection of products or services is something positive. However, people find choosing easier, when their options are limited. The issue is not the abundance of products, but the number of features, that need to be compared. It is not a problem to choose between twenty clunkers and a new Mercedes, but it gets far more complicated when it comes to choosing between Mercedes E class and BMW 5 series .
When the products are very similar to each other we are more afraid of making a bad choice than when they differ considerably. Quite often, customers back out from the purchase due to discomfort resulting from difficulties of making a decision. We then try to reason that none of the products met our expectations, when in reality it is simply our inability to choose.
Before you narrow down your offer, try analyzing the way of thinking of your customers. When Walmart decided to cut its stock in half, its sales figures dropped. The customers were used to wide variety of products and learned how to exploit it. So, when the product they wanted to buy was no longer available, they started consciously deliberating on which substitute to choose. As a result, Walmart’s revenue decreased.