More Choice: Is It a Good Thing?

decision treeToday, while I was trying to decide which channel to watch on TV, I came across a choice of 1273 different options. Funnily, I wanted to explore them. Discovering that I was on the middle of the list, I decided to go to the top of the list, and start with the letter "A". It wasn't long before I discovered how absurd this decision was since there was no logic in the arrangement of channels, and the alphabetical order had nothing to with my preferences.
Although my decision was indeed absurd, it was the only logical thing to do. There is no other classification through which the viewer can make their choice.
A famous study outlines how bad it is to give consumers a lot of choices. They are more likely to buy when given few choices, and they are more likely to be satisfied with their choice. Of course choosing from six choices is much easier, safer, and more comfortable than choosing from 24 or 30.
While this makes sense, the validity of these findings loose their power when faced with the virtual world of, not only more, but infinite choice.
This is demonstrated thoroughly in The Long Tail, which shows how infinite choice leads to more sales, and more satisfaction, if and only if coupled with a mechanism of filtering and ranking.
Amazon was taken as an example in which customers are faced with literally millions of products, but they have the power to filter according to their taste, they can read other people's reviews, and they can see the best sellers in the tiniest of categories.
If you want to present your customers with a decision tree, make sure they are faced with a limited number of choices in each stage, and make it easier to navigate through your store, website, or company.
Keeping in mind the streets we drive in could be a good metaphor. Although there are a million different possible way to go to a certain place, you only have three or four choice to choose from on each crossroads. This is how you should plan your website navigation and make use of the infinite choice presented to your users.