Decision Overload: How retailers are helping us make faster, better decisions

August 13, 2014
4 min read

In my life as a consumer, I suffer from a lifelong affliction with indecisiveness.

In the last month alone: I’ve spent at least five minutes deciding between SPF 15 sunscreen and SPF 30. I stood frozen, at a shopping mall in previously unchartered territory, when faced with the choice of which wing of clothing retailers to explore first. I hemmed and hawed over flavors for an obnoxious amount of time when requesting that my road-trip companion pick up a Vitamin Water at the gas station. Don’t even get me started on the impossible task of selecting a restaurant from GrubHub.

The problem certainly isn’t driven by a lack of options when choosing what to buy or where to shop; instead, the issue stems from there being so many good options.

Having such an abundance of options is a positive thing, as it feeds our sense of individuality and meets our expectation to get exactly what we want. But after so many years of seeking—and receiving—more and more options, we’re realizing that this abundance can be paralyzing when faced with an unparalleled amount of choices in our everyday lives.

The cure to this choice paralysis that I and many other consumers face isn’t necessarily fewer choices. Instead, as explored in Mintel’s trend Guiding Choice, brands and retailers are increasingly aiding those of us afflicted with indecisiveness by providing tools and tactics to make better choices.

We’ve seen shopping guidance based on past purchase history for quite a while in the online space, and now brick and mortar is starting to catch up. Brands are also leveraging the power of personalized expert guidance and the collective wisdom of crowds to make recommendations in creative ways. More recently, we’ve seen that innovations in mood-recognizing technology can allow brands to connect individuals with the options that meet their specific tastes and preferences.

The approach that works best can vary by company and by category, and many are blazing new trails to provide consumers with optimum selection assistance. Some of the methods that we’ve seen include:

    • Netflix Roulette randomly picks a film or TV show for users to watch, helping to reduce choice paralysis. It also offers a filtering service, allowing people to narrow the search by director, genre, actor or keyword.
    • A Scottish fashion start-up has created an app called Mallzee that learns what you like so it can make smarter recommendations. Mallzee uses a simple interface similar to the dating app Tinder, allowing consumers to swipe left or right on a picture of an item to declare whether they like or dislike an item. Based on a user’s swipes, Mallzee gets smarter about what products it suggests.
    • is a website that allows subscribers to fill out a questionnaire to determine their palate and then sends wines tailored to their tastes. The subscriber receives three bottles of wine each month, and then comments on and rates these wines on the company’s website.
    • Fitbay is a Danish online service that only shows users clothing that will fit their body. Users begin by answering a 30-second survey determining their body shape and how fitted they like their clothes to be. The service then narrows down the options from a total of 2 million products. Each item is linked to a web shop where it can be purchased.
    • IBM has introduced a new cognitive cooking system for its supercomputer Watson that uses data analysis to match ingredients to a user’s liking. Watson takes in a user’s preferences, creates trillions of combinations based on the entire Internet of recipes, and then narrows them down to a few hundred dishes. The team behind the program believes this type of technology could create a range of new consumer-facing uses, even outside of food.

Whatever your product offering or sales platform, consider how your brand can curate a tailored selection to help consumers make more educated and personally relevant decisions—and ultimately overcome choice overload.

For more information about consumer trends and Mintel’s trends expertise, click here.

Stacy Glasgow is a consumer trends consultant at Mintel. She specializes in Inspire trends that will propel businesses forward and comes from a diverse background that includes CPG, agency, and marketing experience.

Stacy Glasgow
More from Mintel
  • Mintel Store
    Mintel Store
    Get smart fast with our exclusive market research reports, delivering the latest data, innovation, trends and strategic recommendations....
    View reports
  • Mintel Leap
    Mintel Leap is a revolutionary new AI-powered platform that will transform your research process....
    Book a demo
Subscribe to Mintel Spotlight
Related articles
March 15, 2024
Head over to Mintel’s LinkedIn to let us know what you think of today’s episode, and visit to become a member of our free Spotlight community.
November 28, 2023
Head over to Mintel’s LinkedIn to let us know what you think of today’s episode, and visit to become a member of our free Spotlight community. Learn…
August 31, 2023
The Tech at Mintel series shines a spotlight on our global IT department and how some of the industry’s best and brightest build Mintel’s modern, agile, and scalable technology backbone. Janine Crosbie,…

Download the Latest Market Intelligence