Content | Business | Design

The Convenience Effect, or Making Yourself too Accessible

In Business & Marketing on May 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

Have you ever heard of the choice effect? The choice effect suggests that when one is faced with an overwhelming total sum of choices the final decision is less likely to fulfill the expectations of your desires (the reason for this choice to begin with). The convenience effect is similar. Broadly stated, the convenience effect suggests that when ‘X’ is too convenient, ‘X’ provides diminishing returns.

I live with four guys and it’s easy for things to messy. Here’s a simple exercise I carried out in my apartment: after a cleaning binge, I moved the microwave from the kitchen counter to a shelf that is higher up (requiring a chair to use). My housemates don’t use it as much because it is more difficult to reach (cost). This means that those who do use the microwave get more out of it (returns); particularly a cleaner experience, but the time is always reset and all of the working parts (tray, door, etc.) are accounted for too. These are small differences, but they matter. The choice effect doesn’t work in this case because it’s not a matter of choice but accessibility.

One example in business is monster.com and theladders.com. Monster.com provides services for all job seekers and employers and theladders.com provides services for 100K+ jobs and 100K+ people. The difference here is a simple barrier to entry, or participation. It’s important to find the right barrier to entry for yourself or your business to get results. Higheredjobs.com is another market that exercises this strategy.

There are some examples that defy the convenience effect, like Wikipedia where anyone can contribute content. But other measures are taken to keep the convenience effect in check, like moderators. Craigslist is a good counterargument: high accessibility and ease of use, with few controls in place to manage content. This comes at expense to the user who must filter search results and posts to find value. (A bad experience.)

Finding the right level of convenience can make or break the glass ceiling. I’m not suggesting your business should move its microwave but it’s an analogy for the way you should be thinking about your business. How is your business “accessible” to the target market? How is your business “accessible” to employees? Each analysis will be different depending on the resources available and results that are desired. Think of how you can manage barriers to entry and accessibility—to create quality returns—and you will master the convenience effect.

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