A friend of mine in London recently decided to replace the paving behind his house with a lawn for his daughter to play on.
As he was looking for a low maintenance solution he opted for artificial grass.
A few years ago this would have been a simple case of measuring the space and placing an order.
But these days the artificial grass industry is highly competitive, and so my friend found himself with ten small squares of fake turf laid out on his kitchen table.
They ranged from pristine luscious green through to unkempt patches with dead blades woven in for added realism.
“I think I am supposed to match the grass to my personality,” my friend told me, sounding slightly overwhelmed. “No one who knows me would believe that I maintain a lawn like a bowling green, but some of these look like they came from a park in Chernobyl.”
As consumers we have never faced more choice. Almost every item we buy comes in countless varieties.
To give one example, I recently discovered Colgate sell no less than 48 different kinds of toothpaste across ten separate brands, including Colgate Total, Colgate MaxWhite, Colgate Sensitive, Colgate Enamel Strength and – my favourite – Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection plus Sugar Acid Neutraliser (!).
Encounter that in the supermarket and it is amazing anyone buys anything.
All this choice has created an opportunity for curators. At the top end of the market this is perhaps best exemplified by Selfridges, who serve as tastemakers and stock products that are on-trend and unlikely to go down badly as gifts.
This is in stark contrast to Amazon, which as the “everything store” is perfect if you know exactly what you want, but headache inducing if you are not quite sure.
Spotify, as a universal jukebox, solves the problem of overwhelming choice with human-curated playlists coupled with algorithmically driven recommendations.
The latter works surprisingly well, and points to a future when artificial intelligence will help guide more of our decisions.
Not that we will necessarily be happier with our choices. The grass is always greener, after all.