Choices are past, Focus is present

The late 90’s and early part of this millennium saw an explosion of Global exchange — exchange of information, cuisines, brands. Globalization became a phenomenon. Restricting the discussion to the evolution of Internet companies, various business models emerged that aggregated offline information and made it accessible to users. The classified era made way to e-commerce and now food commerce.

Explosion of Choices

At a high level, for most models that spoil the users with choices, the key conversation factor has been better assortments . E-Commerce portals rushed to add each and every brand on their inventory. Some pushed the envelope further by bringing foreign brands to domestic markets under exclusive arrangements. The efforts were rewarding. (

Content & news curation saw a similar trend 3x faster. Earlier, Users used to subscribe for individual blogs, or curate their RSS readers to create choices for themselves to consume. Digg / Reditt started aggregating these content for the users under different categories.

Decision Fatigue

While on one side, users rewarded these models for providing them with choices, the other side saw a sheer explosion that went through a tipping point. If you look at a typical user journey across the day, the number of decisions a user has to make, the number of options a user has to process before he /she can commit to a final agreement is, in itself, baffling. Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision-making. One of the effects of decision fatigue is decision avoidance; another is reduced ability to make trade-offs. Price comparison is the biggest benefit and curse of the Internet and if users feel impaired to compare prices, either they make irrational choices (not a good customer experience in the long run) or postpone their decisions.

Focus as a business model

Typically, the eye candy of these startups are high earning, young professionals in urban cities who have disposable income but less time. E-Commerce responded to this by introducing flash sales (more about flash sales). Flash sales force users to focus on limited inventory with deep discounts valid for a limited period of time. Typically, such models involved launching similarly new deals each day.

Personal shopping startups like Outfittery are trying to create fashion bundles — preselected assortments of trousers, shirts, innerwear, and shoes for professionals who don’t have time to shop.

The other new generation of startups trying to get user attention to make money from their lack of attention are UMOD services — urban mobile on demand services. These companies have standardized offerings, standardized pricing; the user just taps a button and the company makes a series of decisions for the user (in favor of the customer, they promise). From Helpling sending the highest rated cleaner to clean your house, to Zipjet picking up laundry and getting it cleaned by your nearest cleaner. HelloFresh takes it to the next level where it not only answers what to cook, but also saves you the hassle of grocery shopping, packaging the right quantity of groceries and ships them along with recipes.

The lack of attention is not the only opportunity, it’s also the lack of patience — high performers need the right solution, right now. This puts a lot of pressure in fast turnaround services. EatFirst takes the turn around cycle to next level where it boils your whole hunger craving to two dishes — one with meat or one without — delivered hot and fresh within 15 minutes.

All of the above is by no means the future, this is the present.

Rise of the machines

Another part of this present is recommendation systems. Companies like Amazon and Google are investing billions of dollars on building intelligent systems that leverage the data they have on your behavior. They try to understand context of your presence in not only the virtual world (how you landed to a website/app) but even the physical world (where are you present, at what time of the day & week) to automatically curate your consumption basket. E-commerce is transforming from reactive to proactive. These recommendation systems will find you what you are looking for, sometimes even pre-emptively.

Key Take Away

As a product owner or business owner, keeping up with these shifts it would pay off to

  • review your user journey across your product
  • reuse as much data you have about the individual user
  • be bold, prempt decisions on behalf of the user
  • give user a much richer choice (ultimate choice is to say yes or no).
  • learn from user responses
  • repeat the whole cycle.

Disclaimer : The views are personal . I currently work for Rocket Internet SE and worked with Zipjet, as a part of Rocket Internet SE.

Photo credits : Carlos GZG