How much choice is too much? June 05, 2017

How much choice is too much?

How much choice is too much?

The Australian supermarket category is one that always generates a strong response from our Caféstudy community. So when we asked them to tell us what they thought about the recent news of Coles and Woolworths reducing the number of brands because their customers thought too much choice made their shopping decisions stressful, we knew we would uncover some great insights.

There is no doubt that there is an element of truth to the idea that too much choice can be overwhelming. A number of our community members welcome the prospect of a quicker and easier shopping trip. However, it's not all so straightforward.

The real issue that we uncovered is that many have found that their favourite brands have become harder to find as they disappear from the shelves of the major supermarkets. People have already noticed that trusted Australian brands have been replaced by overseas-produced home brands.

So while making choices simpler might be worthy, shoppers clearly see that the supermarkets' idea of simplifying choice is not the same as theirs.

"Life is easier if there are a few better and quality brands, rather than a few just ok brands which we keep ignoring"

This is already having an impact on shopping behaviour for many people. In order to keep buying the brands they want, many need to make multiple supermarket trips each week.

There are two big winners from this trend. On one hand, Aldi is viewed very favourably as it offers high quality home brands at cheap prices, and because it doesn't pretend to be anything else, shoppers are happy to do some of their shopping there. However, as most people realise they can't do a complete shop at Aldi alone, independent supermarkets such as IGA and Foodland that tend to stock a wide (and different) range of brands are becoming more popular.

"The result of this is that I'm shopping at independent supermarkets quite often these days as and when I require things, rather than the traditional once-a-week shop."

Perhaps the most important aspect of this is understanding that too much choice is only a problem when it means that shoppers can't find what they want. Supermarkets looking to reduce the number of brands on their shelves will need to be careful to avoid forcing customers to start shopping elsewhere to find their favourite brands.


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