Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a nice thought that has turned into a mad rant

With the Christmas season upon us there is always a rush to find gifts. As we get closer to Christmas stores become over crowded, the pressure is on to find that perfect gift and a lot of the time I find that I end up buying things that I think are good presents when they are really rubbish, so I have decided to cut back on gifts this year and buy early (some of you may think that it’s only 14 days till Christmas and this is indeed late, but for me this is early!) This leads me two things:

Firstly shopping on line is great! There are some great places to shop online. It allows you to browse, and compare gifts and prices rather than do a panic buy. One of my favourite sites to browse is etsy! If you haven’t heard of etsy yet you should check it out now! (that’s okay you can always come back and read the rest later, off you go). While a lot of sellers are from the U.S they are pretty pronto about delivery. But there are a few from New Zealand as well. Below are some lovely pieces from cleobelle. Ever so sweet as I’m sure would put a smile on a loved one’s face.

Secondly with this economic recession we are going into, it seems that I am not the only one cutting back on gifts. This year I have noticed loads of blogs are featuring DIY presents (sign of the styles ahead and that have already hit for you early adaptors). Also Christmas has come early this with businesses closing down and massive sales on stock (this doesn’t normally happen in New Zealand to boxing day). I think this is great of course, not because I get to buy over priced goods for a 1/3 of the price but because it means that businesses have to become a lot more smart * in order to survive.

What do I mean by this? Well, today there are so many stores that are alike (Wild Pair, Lippy & Dotti, Farmers, Kmart and The Warehouse) so in order for them to survive they really have to differentiate themselves from their competitors (The Warehouse does this well) and find something unique about themselves that consumers can relate to, yes that ugly word... Marketing.

This is another reason why places like etsy have become so popular, because they sell unique products that are in smaller quantities. This allows products and lines to be easily changed to suit the target audience and change with the market. Of course the big companies will stay as they have the finical stability to stay around, but it is the middle ground competitors that we will see disappear as they can’t afford to be reactive with their big bulk production approach.

With middle ground chain stores providing more crap, oh sorry choice, it means we feel pressurised to buy more. Some may argue that competition is good because everyone knows that a monopoly in the market place is unhealthy. But it is also know that if there are too many choices then no one will survive and consumers will be left feeling disillusioned and confused about their product/brand and rather than making a choice they will make no choice at all.

This leads me to another point, (which is more like a foot note than a point that is directly related to the original statement above.) Barry Schwartz puts it wonderfully in this talk on ted.

If you don't want to watch the video I have an example he uses below. I haven’t written it word for word but you will get the gist)

We go into the supermarket to buy a type of salad dressing. When we get to the salad dressing isle there is 154 different types of salad dressings, we are confused for a while deciding which one to pick, there are just so many. We know we want something with a creamy texture but do we want ranch, caesar, thousand island, garlic mayo, blue cheese.... there are just so many. We decide on ranch and are off to find some bread. At dinner that night we have the ranch dressing on our salad and are unsatisfied with our decision, we think we should have got caesar or maybe garlic mayo was the way to go, we are annoyed about our decision... hum.
When we go down to the 4 square to buy our salad dressing a week later there are only 3 to choose from; a vinaigrette, caesar and olive oil based one. We know we are after a creamy based one again so the caesar if the obvious choice. We have it that night the dressing is almost perfect. This is not because it’s a different brand or style but because there were less choices to be made at the 4 square, therefore there is no way you could have made a better decision.
When we are given more choices we subconsciously blame ourselves for making the wrong decision. This is because there are so many choices available that we believe there is no way we can make the right one. When there are less choices involved it is easier for us to believe that we have it right because there is a smaller chance of us getting it wrong.

Anyway what are your thoughts, I’m just off on my tangent horse now, but always good to through some ideas around.

*(I realise this is bad England but it is a long term joke between a friend and I)

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