Netflix knows that choosing a movie can be frustrating.
So too does a behavioral economist.
Choosing a Movie
The Wired headline said, “The 49 Best Films on Netflix This Week.” Tempted, I took a look, wasted 15 minutes, and got nowhere. Because every film had a detailed paragraph-long description, I stopped after five.
To help people like me, Netflix has taggers. The NY Times says there are 30 taggers, Working together in one room, their job is to select several words per film. They’ve debated whether falling in love. looking for love, or finding love is best and concluded all three were fine:
I would head straight to this one:
But not this film:
Eliminating all choices, Netflix also tried “surprise me.” When that did not work for most viewers, they moved on to “Match.” Using a percent, the Match button tells us how much we will like a show.
Netflix needs to know what you watch, where you paused, what device you used. They are aware of when you binged. Then, amassing their data points, they know (before you do), what you want. On your end, it is easy.
Our Bottom Line: Decision Fatigue
According to Netflix, if we don’t hit play in 53 seconds, we move on. As a result, they know they have to help us decide through a default or a catchy brief tag. The reason is choice fatigue. Barack Obama told Michael Lewis that he wore a gray suit every day to save his energy for the important stuff. Leaving a mall, the big shoppers could do fewer math problems than those that shopped less. Car dealers know to give us option packages rather than a long list of alternatives.
Behavioral economists like to tell us that sometimes more is less. We pay a biological price for making decision after decision. Depleted, our brain is tired.
For that reason, Netflix gives us tags.
My sources and more: Reading about the Netflix use of tags, I realized the decision fatigue connection. Then, Wired had more about the data they need to assist our decision-making. Even McDonald’s knows to limit its choices.