The problem of plenty

A professor from my college called and said he wanted my company to take a few students for summer internship. I agreed and said will talk to the Human Resource (HR) and do it. I remembered the days when I myself had to struggle to secure a summer internship and had to run from pillar to post. Thought things are much improved these days for the students. So spoke to HR on this. She said maybe we can take 4 interns in total across specializations (Finance, Human resources, marketing, and Store operations). So requested the professor to mail the resumes in accordance with it.

Later when I open the mail I see 30 resumes staring at me against the requirement of 4. With 25 of them wanting a summer internship in finance. Now the dilemma was how do I select them? Will my selection be just? Will the most deserving candidate secure the internship? Am I the correct judge? Lot of questions remained unanswered. Decided to approach the HR to find a solution. On hearing the situation she said ignore the finance resumes and mail  the other resume  so that she could  discuss with the respective Department Heads and take the same forward.

So the entire 25 students lost the opportunity to get the summer internship. Would the situation have been different if only one or two resumes were sent after scrutinizing by the appropriate authority? The chances of such candidates securing a summer internship would have been high. Hence whenever there is a problem of plenty the easiest and best decision is not to take a decision. Reject the whole lot.

The same is the case with a customer in a retail outlet. If there is huge assortment available for customers then the customer is confused and decides not to buy. For she/he is confused as to the basis the choice could be made, for the decision could be made basis quality, brand name, manufacturer, ingredients, price point, offer, advertisements. With many options available the customer is unable to decide.

Few years ago a brand introduced around 30 varieties of mouth fresheners. Now that’s too much to digest? While we may have seen a huge variety of mouth fresheners at stores but we actually taste a few varieties and then decide the variety to be bought. Now these newly introduced products were neatly packed in plastic bottles. Hence customers could not decide which variant to buy. He could not afford to buy all 30 variety to identify his/her favourite . While a very few customers who were very sure of the variant they wished to buy must have definitely bought it but the general acceptance for the brand and products was low.

Would it be the same case if the brand had introduced only 4 or 5 popular best selling varieties (by general market standard). Definitely yes. It would have helped the customer in decision making and thereby lead to purchases.

So what can retailer learn from this?. Each category should have at the maximum 4 or 5 brands or products (lower wherever possible) and atleast two. The top two leading brands in the market, a store own brand (if any), a fighter brand (which has the potential to take on the market leader-could be due to price point, new technology or high advertisement) and lastly a brand a which is based on new trend (organic, imported, healthy)

Know of any category or brand which gives too many options to choose from or any category has too few? Any situation where the decision not to buy was the best decision?

Please share with me


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