When are too many choices not too many choices?

Kelly Herd is a PhD student at the Leeds School of Business. Kelly’s expertise is in the area of consumer behavior, creativity, and innovation. I asked her when is “too many choices” not too many choices? Her response:


Kelly’s research highlights a limitation of the emerging belief that providing consumers with “too many choices” is perilous (e.g., cause dissatisfaction or avoidance). Her research shows that when people want to show their unique identity, they appreciate a limitless supply of options — that way they can find the the one-of-a-kind thing that asserts their independence.

………………………………One of kind


Herd, Kelly B. and C. Page Moreau, “Identity Representation in Customization,” Under review:

While it is agreed that contemporary consumption is a process of identity construction, the majority of research related to identity has focused on why certain products are chosen or why they become significant over time. Consumers now have the opportunity to construct representations of their identity and build them into products via customization. In this paper, we use three studies to demonstrate that consumers‟ identity motives interact with factors under the firm‟s control (i.e., design freedom) to influence product evaluations, product meaning, and satisfaction. All three studies engage participants in real customization tasks across three different product categories. Our findings highlight the power of personal identity motivation in influencing consumers‟ evaluations of their customized products, an effect that endures over time. Our research suggests that customization options offering a high degree of freedom (i.e., image upload) are only effective when certain identity motives are driving customization. Such a finding is important for firms striving to maximize the profitability of customized offerings.

Contact Kelly for the paper.