Combatting decision fatigue: a guide for private brands
If the world is beleaguered by change and uncertainty, then so too are shoppers. Every day, consumers are called on to make thousands of decisions; from what they’ll wear to what they’ll eat, to the brand of vitamins they’ll buy for their kids.
Usually, having a choice between two or more options feels good. It helps us to feel in control, mostly because having the power to choose can help us to feel more empowered about other aspects of our day-to-day lives.
But when does having choices become a negative? When do we go from empowered to overwhelmed by the myriad options at our fingertips, and making a decision begins to feel more trial than treat?
Because making choices takes energy, our well of energy can become depleted over time. The more pressed the individual decision-maker becomes, the more likely it is that their levels of cortisol – the brain’s stress hormone – will rise.
Psychologists and behaviouralists have given this response a name: decision fatigue. But what is decision fatigue and what relevance does it have to private brands?
Decision fatigue in a nutshell
According to betterup.com, decision fatigue refers to our impaired ability to make decisions – either we are unable to make good decisions, or we are paralyzed when called upon to choose – usually as a consequence of repeated, prolonged decision-making in the past.
Decision fatigue can be triggered and/or exacerbated by stress, poor mental health, or general exhaustion/burnout. Commonly, it can be experienced as a lack of ability to concentrate, the sense of being unsettled or anxious, procrastination, or feeling disappointed with a decision after you’ve made it.
This means that decision fatigue is far from a positive experience – and one with the potential to cloud and controvert the smooth and satisfying customer experience your brand has worked hard to build.
But is there a way for brands to help alleviate decision fatigue amongst customers? Well, to do this brands must both understand decision-making journeys and work hard to make these pathways as easy as possible to travel. Packaging and branding professionals support brands in this area by creating brand standout.
Creating standout for private brands
Consider the dizzying and constantly expanding array of new brands, products and purchasing methods. Layer this with the amount of information about individual products consumers often need to digest, including price, quality, quantified value, nutritional information, sustainability, brand ethics etc. No wonder today’s consumers get easily overwhelmed.
To cut through the noise of a crowded supermarket shelf, there’s an impulse to overload product messaging with as many positive benefits and attributes as possible. But I’m here to tell you this is patently the wrong approach.
Think of the best known brand packaging in the world – usually, for high-priced luxury goods whose brand names are known globally: a Tiffany ring box, an Apple Macbook box, a Chanel perfume carton. Each is beautiful in its simplicity. And each brand adheres to its core architecture while banning all unnecessary adornment.
Similarly, our Equator team are sticklers for sticking to core messages because we know it works. That’s why, in each design, the designers will endeavour to incorporate and subtly echo the core message repeatedly across the packaging. Healthful, purposeful, irreverent, heritage: we remove uncertainty from the shopper experience by giving the customer a multitude of signals (most of them subconscious), that relates the essence of the brand and/or product.
This method allows customers to tap into their heuristic processes: i.e. shortcuts that enable them to make complex decisions fast. Every design concept for private brands should seek to harness heuristic processes, for example, using established category cues and strategically placing design elements for strong communication across touchpoints.
Harness brand trust
A landmark 2022 report from Daymon revealed that 89% of customers trust private brands just as much or more than national brands. Also taking into account that 75% of consumers prefer stores to have both value and premium private brand products, it’s easy to gather that customers don’t just want the choice between private and national brands in each shopping experience, they want a rich and diverse private brand experience.
Capitalising on the close and trusted relationship private brands have with shoppers is a major consideration when planning packaging and branding strategies to create standout. Design concepts (here again using heuristics) should therefore highlight that the individual product is part of a trusted private brand range.
Consider a widening audience
The coming of age of Generation Z means unleashing an estimated purchasing power of $360 billion (since this 12 to 25-year-old consumer bracket comprises around 25% of the world’s population). As Gen Z consumers are digital natives who are quick to jump on the backs of emerging trends, private brands should plan for agility and prepare to connect with these youngsters through targeted messaging and omnichannel presence, community building and engaging with Gen-Z tastemakers. (Business of Fashion)
Brands should be wary that what currently works to create standout among target audiences may shift dramatically as Gen Z matures. Whether the heuristic processes on which we have banked design concepts for years may shift in a different direction remains to be seen, but it is something for brands to keep in mind as they consider their messaging and their digital marketing approach.
The bottom line is that a focus on core messaging, leveraging brand trust, and understanding that the way different groups of target customers process the decisions they make will all lead to more effectual strategies in creating standout and connecting with consumers.
When done right, this will help them to combat customers’ decision-making fatigue and ultimately create more positive experiences in a cycle of trust and upward growth – and that’s something brands will never get tired of.