Design Your Customers’ Decisions

There is a vital lesson buried in the August 19, 2009 Jet Blue announcement that they were suspending sales of the $599.00 “All You Can Jet” promotion they’d debuted only seven days before. Any student of Behavioral Economics could have predicted that an “all you can eat” approach would inspire vastly different behavior than if Jet Blue had charged a lower fixed fee plus $1 per mile. Similarly, over a decade ago when AOL switched to a usage-independent flat price, connection time increased four times more than they anticipated.

“All you can eat” is an entirely different price than “very, very cheap.”

Traditional economics says that lowering the marginal price from $2 to $1 should have a similar effect to lowering it from $1 to $0 — but experience and experiments have both shown that the traditional demand curve acts in an odd manner when we reach $0 marginal cost. Jet Blue’s executives should have known better. But the Jet Blue management team is not alone.

Many executives assume their customers are more rational than they really are. For example, most leaders believe in enhancing the options given to customers, but increased choice can actually freeze decision-making by overwhelming the shopper. Excessive options is a key reason that an average of 60% of all online shoppers abandon their purchases mid-stream.

Read more at Design Your Customers’ Decisions – Harvard Business Publishing, 26 Aug 2009

Flickr photo credit: pawpaw67