There are 4,706 titles on Netflix India, and I chose to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S
There are sixteen waking hours in a day (if you’re well-rested) and I spend most of them at work. On my commute to work, which takes two hours of my day, I listen to audiobooks or relax to some music. Unwinding at the end of the day usually means having a quiet cup of tea with my family and doing something absolutely random with my niece, like performing a made up broadway song called ‘socks are evil’ (all rights reserved).
The only time I sneak in some TV (which means Netflix) time is a half hour during dinner or before hitting the bed. And off late my easiest go-to is the popular 90s TV show FRIENDS. Now, if you’re from my generation, like me, you probably know every dialogue from the series and have a hard time picking your favourite ‘friend’. You probably think it is the best sitcom ever (because it is) and are guilty of quoting Joey (or anyone of the characters) more than once in the past 24 hours. While my decision to watch this show, even years later is a testament to the series itself, I believe it is also an indicator of something much bigger. It is the result of what Barry Schwartz called The Paradox of Choice.
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” — Barry Schwartz
The paradox of choice, simply put, is having too many choices, which should technically be a good thing and make us happy, but in reality causes anxiety and makes taking decisions harder. We experience this in almost every sphere our lives — too many choices have ruined us! And in some cases led to a paralysis in decision making. But we also love having choices. We equate having choices with having control and that makes us feel powerful — like we are the masters of our own destiny (are we, really?). How many of us have given up trying to plan a holiday because there are just too many places, prices and itineraries to choose from? How many of us have tapped on the most familiar playlist on Spotify because we have no patience to search for our favourite tracks and create a new one? So while excessive choices are causing such anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out) in our lives, what are businesses doing to make life better for the us?
- Filtering and sorting: Shopping on Myntra or Jabong? Filter as per gender, your favourite brands or size. Or if you’re just in the mood to firegaze, scroll away like a zombie. On a dating site, filter by location so you know the cutest guy or girl in the vicinity. Of course, none of this can counter the fear of missing out completely — the fear of missing out a better skirt for lesser price, or a cuter guy who is just outside the designated radius. But you can try.
- Comfort and familiarity: There’s a reason I’m watching FRIENDS and you’ll order Chinese from the same place every time even though Swiggy can deliver Chinese food from 50 restaurants close to your house. It’s because a few laughs are guaranteed to me and your taste buds know exactly what you’re going to get tonight. The results are predictable and comforting. This is why Netflix spent $100m to ensure the sitcom stays on its platform for another year. According to statistics recorded by Nielsen in 2017, only 20% of the time spent watching streaming services and video on demand, including Amazon and Hulu as well as Netflix, is spent on originals. Nielsen claim the other 80% is dedicated to back-catalogues of content they have acquired from other studios, both film and television. And this includes me on most days!
- Recommended for you: Pick three of your favourite musicians. Pick three genres you love. Pick three of your favourite books. Bip, bip, bop, here you go. We bet you’ll love this. Businesses that nail personalized recommendations have unlocked a secret treasure. McKinsey estimated that 35 percent of consumer purchases on Amazon come from product recommendations. Alibaba presents its customers with product recommendations based not just on their past transactions, but also on browsing history, product feedback, bookmarks, geographic location and other online behavior data. AI is creepy but convenient (now that’s a tag line waiting to take off).
- Planned marketing push: The sheer data available to businesses today is mindboggling. Using insights to focus on the right products and services (this could be extremely personalized) and creating effective messaging around it can get you a lot of attention from consumers. Can you consistently communicate with your potential customers about your next big release? Can you get influencers to share information on social media and get a word-of-mouth buzz going? Curating content like ‘editor’s picks’ and championing a few among many can help break out of the clutter and give the consumer something to focus on. Both data and intent can help decide what you, as a business want to push this month, this week or today. These are just some of the way marketing can help consumers make informed choices (or manipulate them, of course).
Are you, like me, tending towards wearing the same clothes everyday (okay, I exaggerate) so that there is one less decision to make? Or are you a keen observer of brands that walk the tightrope of giving us the freedom to choice while nudging us towards quick and efficient decision-making? Whoever you are, choose wisely.
“Focus on what makes you happy, and do what gives meaning to your life” ― Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less