Contemporary internet shopping conjures a perfect storm of choice anxiety. Research has consistently held that people who are presented with a few options make better, easier decisions than those presented with many. . . . Helping consumers figure out what to buy amid an endless sea of choice online has become a cottage industry unto itself. Many brands and retailers now wield marketing buzzwords such as curation, differentiation, and discovery as they attempt to sell an assortment of stuff targeted to their ideal customer. Companies find such shoppers through the data gold mine of digital advertising, which can catalog people by gender, income level, personal interests, and more. Since Americans have lost the ability to sort through the sheer volume of the consumer choices available to them, a ghost now has to be in the retail machine, whether it’s an algorithm, an influencer, or some snazzy ad tech to help a product follow you around the internet. Indeed, choice fatigue is one reason so many people gravitate toward lifestyle influencers on Instagram—the relentlessly chic young moms and perpetually vacationing 20-somethings—who present an aspirational worldview, and then recommend the products and services that help achieve it. . . .
For a relatively new class of consumer-products start-ups, there’s another method entirely. Instead of making sense of a sea of existing stuff, these companies claim to disrupt stuff as Americans know it. Casper (mattresses), Glossier (makeup), Away (suitcases), and many others have sprouted up to offer consumers freedom from choice: The companies have a few aesthetically pleasing and supposedly highly functional options, usually at mid-range prices. They’re selling nice things, but maybe more importantly, they’re selling a confidence in those things, and an ability to opt out of the stuff rat race. . . .
One-thousand-dollar mattresses and $300 suitcases might solve choice anxiety for a certain tier of consumer, but the companies that sell them, along with those that attempt to massage the larger stuff economy into something navigable, are still just working within a consumer market that’s broken in systemic ways. The presence of so much stuff in America might be more valuable if it were more evenly distributed, but stuff’s creators tend to focus their energy on those who already have plenty. As options have expanded for people with disposable income, the opportunity to buy even basic things such as fresh food or quality diapers has contracted for much of America’s lower classes.
For start-ups that promise accessible simplicity, their very structure still might eventually push them toward overwhelming variety. Most of these companies are based on hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital, the investors of which tend to expect a steep growth rate that can’t be achieved by selling one great mattress or one great sneaker. Casper has expanded into bedroom furniture and bed linens. Glossier, after years of marketing itself as no-makeup makeup that requires little skill to apply, recently launched a full line of glittering color cosmetics. There may be no way to opt out of stuff by buying into the right thing.
Which one of the following best sums up the overall purpose of the examples of Casper and Glossier in the passage?
- They are facilitating a uniform distribution of commodities in the market.
- They might transform into what they were exceptions to.
- They are exceptions to a dominant trend in consumer markets.
- They are increasing the purchasing power of poor Americans.
A new food brand plans to launch a series of products in the American market. Which of the following product plans is most likely to be supported by the author of the passage?
- A range of 25 products priced between $10 and $25.
- A range of 10 products priced between $5 and $10.
- A range of 10 products priced between $10 and $25.
- A range of 25 products priced between $5 and $10.
Based on the passage, all of the following can be inferred about consumer behavior EXCEPT that:
- too many options have made it difficult for consumers to trust products.
- consumers tend to prefer products by start-ups over those by established companies.
- having too many product options can be overwhelming for consumers.
- consumers are susceptible to marketing images that they see on social media.
All of the following, IF TRUE, would weaken the author’s claims EXCEPT:
- product options increased market competition, bringing down the prices of commodities, which, in turn, increased purchasing power of the poor.
- the annual sales growth of companies with fewer product options were higher than that of companies which curated their products for target consumers.
- the empowerment felt by purchasers in buying a commodity were directly proportional to the number of options they could choose from.
- the annual sale of companies that hired lifestyle influencers on Instagram for marketing their products were 40% less than those that did not.
Which of the following hypothetical statements would add the least depth to the author’s prediction of the fate of start-ups offering few product options?
- With Casper and Glossier venturing into new product ranges, their regular customers start losing trust in the companies and their products.
- Start-ups with few product options are no exception to the American consumer market that is deeply divided along class lines.
- An exponential surge in their sales enables start-ups to meet their desired profit goals without expanding their product catalogue.
- With the motive of promoting certain rival companies, the government decides to double the tax-rates for these start-ups.
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