Episode #34: How Too Many Choices Can Hurt Your Customer Experience

Overchoice (a term originally coined by Alvin Toffler) describes the scenario where people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with too many options. I recently experienced this phenomenon firsthand when buying a new couch that offered, essentially, an infinite number of choices.

In today’s episode we’ll talk about choice constriction, online/offline experience synchronization, and the benefits of faux fur. It’s a Lovesac fest.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the CXM Experience, where experience is the new brand. So today we’re going to talk about a recent shopping experience I had that’s got both online and offline components and some very interesting learnings in our age of the pandemic. And just do a deep dive on a couch, basically, for the next 10 minutes, we can have fun. And then I will end with a prediction about CXM and CRM, we’ll come back to that in a few minutes.

So I want to talk about couches. So I’m just moving into a new home in Florida. And I didn’t expect to actually move in, came here on vacation, decided to stay for a year. So basically, a couple of suitcases and a few things that we brought down for the month. But otherwise, really need everything, including a couch. And don’t really have a great couch back in New York that we want to ship down, so we’re kind of in the couch market anyway. And so I thought this is a good opportunity to find a new couch.

So I have walked by their store on Lexington Avenue a few times. And my lovely fiancé has gone inside and gotten the pitch a few times. And we’ve kind of fallen in love with the concept of a new type of coach called a Lovesac. They originally made beanbag chairs. And they’ve gone out into this new market, which is this rearrangeable and expandable couch, that you can change into different shapes. So what I want to do is I’m going to describe it for a second, just so you know what I’m talking about. And then I’ll walk you through the experience with the pluses and minuses and learnings.

So the Lovesac couch, it’s a fairly interesting idea. So what they’ve done is they’ve created a very small number of pieces. So they’ve got form boxes, so the boxes that are on the bottom, and they’re 29 by 35. And then there are seat cushions, 29 by 35. And then there are backs, which I guess are I think they’re 35 by like 24. And then there are sides, and backs and the sides and backs are actually exact same piece, same size. And they are what they are, they’re kind of 35 by 35, I think. And those few pieces, make up this couch system. And essentially, you take these different squares, and you can rearrange them into any couch you want, you can buy more you can, you know, change them around. The covers come on and off. So you can wash the covers if something happens. But more importantly, you can also change your covers if you want to. So instead of buying a couch that you might throw out in a few years. Instead, what you’re buying is a couch system. It’s a couch platform, if you might think of it that way, where you can keep modifying, adding changing. And I assume over time, they may add other shapes and other forms to it. There are little wooden pieces you can get for the arms that allow you to put a wineglass on a coaster, or a deeper one that would take a tumbler, and then there’s a wooden piece that sits over one of the 29 by 35 ottomans if you have a separate piece, and that allows you to turn that into a table.

And so really interesting concept, right? So it’s kind of like Elfa and other systems like that, where buy one piece and you have it forever, and you keep adding to it. I’ve got an Elfa system in one of my apartments, and there are pieces in that Elfa system that are for sure 16 years old. And there are pieces in that system that are two years old. I don’t know which ones are which, like they’re all mixed together. But it’s composed of many different generations. Same thing with Lovesac. And they actually call their system “sactionals,” playing off the Lovesac name. So some very clever marketing.

And if you go to the site, you can get an overview how it works. They show you lots of different shapes. They call it the world’s most adaptable coach and discover how sectionals are built to last and designed to evolve. And they pitch it very much on this idea of lasting forever, making an investment in something that you’ll have for a really long time. And they pitch a lot of the features and benefits of it.

So let’s talk a little bit about the buying experience and some good and bad, and some thoughts for them as they continue down this journey. And I’m doing this out of deep love, because I just bought one of these. And I really want them to be super successful because I want to be able to add to my sactional over time. And so that means they need to stay in business for a really long time.

First thing, which is interesting is, like any new product, they’re very much in love with the product. And it was interesting, when you go to the site, they talk about how it’s rearrangeable, they talk about how it’s machine washable. They actually have a picture of a bottle of wine pouring itself onto the arm. And you know, I can imagine that happening, knocking over something. They talk about how it can be washed, and you can toss things in the washing machine. They talk about how easy they are to change, you can rearrange them and put them in new shapes. What’s fun as you can click on a couch, and it’ll show you all the different finishes Believe it or not, we decided to get faux fur, there’s going to be a fur couch. And the fur’s reversible and the reverse side is like a cracked leather. So some parts will be cracked leather, like the pieces we don’t sit on. And all the stuff that we sit on will be fur. So that’ll be super fun. And it was really fun picking all the different fabrics.

But what’s interesting about their site, and what’s interesting about how they talk through it is that they don’t actually show any people on the couches, it’s all just the product itself. They have some additional features too, like you can add power outlets and stuff like that. Now, clearly, this was pretty successful, because we went in to go buy it. But there’s an interesting problem that they’ve created, in that there are almost too many versions. And I was a very motivated buyer. But I was slightly paralyzed by the alternatives. And so what we decided to do is we decided to go into a store because I couldn’t possibly make a decision online.

So there’s a Lovesac store in the Palm Springs mall, just north of us here. And we went in. It’s kind of funny. We got there, and we had called ahead and someone had said you should just come in and see us. And so we said, Great. So we went up to go see them and when we got there we found out that you can’t just go in and see them, you have to make an appointment. And this whole thing with appointments at stores is really touchy right now, it’s really not well managed on websites. It should be front and center on the website, front and center everywhere else. But you can’t tell that that’s something you need to do.

So anyway. So we stood there in front of this closed lock door. Begged our way in because they didn’t have anyone there at the moment, had a quick appointment, got some orientation, and then made an appointment for much later in the day. Went off and did a bunch of errands and then came back at the end of the day. And as I told you, ultimately very successful because we ended up purchasing it. But what was interesting to me is how hard it was to go through the purchase cycle. So we’re standing in there and looking at the different versions. And there’s three different types of fill for the seats. And there’s different types of fabrics. And there’s literally hundreds of different fabric types and different configurations. And you can buy as many pieces as you want or you don’t want and it was dizzying.

And so they had this little helping kit I guess or like a little kind of thinking kit, which is a grid. And then they have these little blocks, little wooden blocks that were the shapes of the couch. And so I casually mentioned, hey, it’d be really cool if we could get some of those blocks to play with. And they’re like, yeah, we sell them. Wow, cool, right. And so, for 20 bucks, I got a set of blocks. And so my fiancé and I went back to Palm Springs, we ended up going to a sushi restaurant. Sat there and started playing with the blocks. And we sat there and we probably built 100 different couches while we’re sitting there having sushi. And it’s so funny, because we spent a lot of time doing this, and had some really good discussions about it and you know, calm discussions and stuff. But it was interesting, we couldn’t really decide on exactly what kind of couch we needed. Because one of the problems is that while you know the size of each piece, there’s no total dimension. And so it’s hard to… it’s not impossible, but it’s harder to quickly translate to your room back to the couch. And every time we tried to do one of those translation points, there was friction. You can see the friction in the thinking and the creativity.

So then we go back. I’m carrying our blocks with us. And we met with the store manager, someone named Kat who was amazing. We thought Kat was incredible and she was really helpful. And she was showing us how the couches go together and how they work and she showed us all the different fabrics… discovered whether we had children or animals. And we’ve got a puppy and so they’re you know, here’s how to manage with animals. These fabrics work well, these don’t work as well. So superduper helpful and got us to the fur. We picked the actual covering but we still hadn’t actually picked the couch. At this point, you know, we’re kind of lost. And the website was also…there’s a tool in the app. Not great. But there’s a tool in the app… also doesn’t provide total dimensions. And so we’re playing with that. And, and it’s again, just massively overwhelmed by the choices.

Finally, we had this epiphany, if you can call it that. And the Epiphany was, why don’t we just pick a layout? And why don’t we pick a layout for a common situation. And so the layout that we picked was a layout that would be like, cuddling in front of the TV. That was the layout we picked. And we said, okay, let’s make that. So we made that. And then we said, Well, what can that turn into? Because the configurability allows you to have it to be a TV couch, but also you want to maybe have people over. And so Kat was able to say, boom, boom, boom, now you can have two separate nice couches, for people to come over… lots of room. And then boom, boom, boom, and you can make it into a bed too. So this one configuration was bed, two couches, and the TV couch. And was, which was great. And so that’s what we ended up buying, and we’re very happy with.

It was interesting to me, though, is the choice constriction is a really interesting thing in experience. And I’m thinking that it would have been so much better if what Lovesac had done is they’d said, What’s your primary use of the couch? Are you having company over? A cuddling in front of the TV? Or are you going to be sleeping on it? You’re using it as a bed? It’s like, okay, cuddling in front of the TV. Okay. Here are the two best cuddling in front of the TV configurations. Which do you prefer? I like that one. Boom, great. There’s your cuddling in front of the TV couch. Here’s like the three… Do you have a dog or not? No dog, yes, dog, then here’s like 10 fabrics that are good for dogs. Great. Pick one. And then it would be… see the other things that you can make with this configuration. You can have two couches, you can have one coach and an ottoman, you can have a bed. Like these are all the other things you can make out of it. But primarily what you’re buying is the TV couch. That would have been amazing. And I think the adaptability is almost too much. They almost kind of narrow it in with some kind of wizard that allow you to sort of zero in on it.

What was also interesting is how the online and offline experiences are separated. Because we’ve been online many times, there was not a good connection between the store visit and anything we had done online, there wasn’t a connection between the app and anything we’ve done in the store visit. After we made the appointment, my fiancé got an email saying thank you for coming for the store visit. We purchased, right? It should have been thanks for coming to the store visit and buying. But they didn’t say that. So this is the separation of systems, you can see there’s probably some silos already in this relatively young company that exists that don’t allow them to tie together the fact that our visit turned into a significant purchase. And now they should be trying to sell us more.

So anyway, just a bunch of thoughts on Lovesac. Really excited about our couch. It apparently comes in pieces. So I have to like assemble it all together. So I’ll tell you what that experience is like when that happens. But very interesting new product, check it out. And Lovesac if you’re listening, think about the site a little bit. Think about some guided purchasing help, both in the store, on the site. And you got to do a better job of integrating the appointment stuff so people aren’t disappointed.

So predictions, I’m going to start with something that I’ve been saying, but I’m going to put it in as a prediction. So here is my prediction for 2021: In 2021, there’ll be broad scale recognition that CXM, customer experience management will be the next thing after CRM, which was customer relationship management. CRM was invented 30 years ago, it’s done a great job. 30 years of great progress. But CRM systems are just simply not capable of pulling in all the information that’s necessary to truly know a customer in a personal way. To truly know someone the way I’ve been talking about Lovesac needing to know me, right? They’re probably using a CRM system, which is why it seems so stupid about who I am. If they’re using CXM, they know a lot more about me. And eventually they’ll see me posting and tweeting about them and all that should be part of their database. CXM will be the evolution of CRM systems and CXM will be the natural thing that comes after CRM. CRM is not going to go away. But CXM will be the next level system.

That’s the prediction for today. And for the CXM Experience I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you next time.