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Too many choices hampers eCommerce spending

March 21, 2005

An IDC analyst said last week that the rate of growth of eCommerce and the technology industry in general is largely fueled by consumer spending. However, in the eCommerce sector, too many choices to the consumer can reduce the adoption of new products and can even suddenly stall entire markets.

A consumer confronted with too many choices might simply walk away from buying or upgrading the product, said Danielle Levitas, a consumer market analyst with IDC at the analyst firm's Directions conference Wednesday.

"Imagine replacing your TV for example. Today it's digital or analog, 4:3 versus 16:9, direct view, rear projection or a flat? If you go for a flat: a plasma or a LCD? And the resolution: standard, enhanced or high definition?" Levitas said. "Choice is good -- to a certain point."

The solutions are simplification, packaging and buyer education, according to Levitas. "Home theater in a box is a good example. It was marketed with emphasis on the feature, not on the technologies enabling the experience."

Levitas agrees that limitation of choice might be seen as provocative. The user interface on Apple Inc.'s new iPod Shuffle MP3 player has been criticized by some for being too simple, emphasizing random playback and lacking a display that allows a user to see what song will appear next.

"I'm not sure any other company would get away with that. It's more driven by cost than usability, I think," Levitas said.

Levitas finds Apple's larger MP3-players a better example of a simplified user interface that still provides choice. "The surface must be at its most simplified level, then you let people get deeper. Apple also gives the customer a chance to put a personal stamp on the product by choosing color," she said.

Emerging technologies can also be hampered by competing standards, like the dispute underway between vendors of next-generation DVD recording technology, Levitas said. "The next generation of blue laser DVD players and recorders won't take off until the vendors and the entertainment companies have agreed on using Blu-ray or HD DVD," she said.

Source: The Industry Standard

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