Keep it simple – Trading is not complicated

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To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple

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May 2020 Issue

Executive Summary

Marketers see today’s consumers as web-savvy, mobile-enabled data sifters who pounce on whichever brand or store offers the best deal. In response, they’ve ramped up their interactions with customers. But for many consumers, the rising volume of marketing messages isn’t empowering—it’s overwhelming. Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage.

What do consumers want from marketers? Simplicity. After surveying thousands of consumers and interviewing hundreds of marketers and other executives, the authors find that the single biggest driver of customer “stickiness” is the ease with which consumers can gather information about a product and confidently and efficiently sort through their available choices. They offer three tactics marketers can use to simplify consumers’ decision making and help them navigate the purchase journey.

Companies should minimize the number of information sources consumers must touch as they move confidently toward a purchase. They should provide trustworthy sources of product information and recommendations. And they should offer tools that will help consumers weigh their options by identifying the product features that are most relevant to them.

Companies that avoid bombarding customers and instead focus on simplifying consumers’ decision making will rise above the din, and their customers will stick by them as a result.

Marketers see today’s consumers as web-savvy, mobile-enabled data sifters who pounce on whichever brand or store offers the best deal. Brand loyalty, the thinking goes, is vanishing. In response, companies have ramped up their messaging, expecting that the more interaction and information they provide, the better the chances of holding on to these increasingly distracted and disloyal customers. But for many consumers, the rising volume of marketing messages isn’t empowering—it’s overwhelming. Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage.


Learn how simple—or complex—the decision journey is for your customers with an audit found at

That’s a key finding of Corporate Executive Board’s multiple surveys of more than 7,000 consumers and interviews with hundreds of marketing executives and other experts around the world (for more detail, see the sidebar “About the Research”). Our study bored in on what makes consumers “sticky”—that is, likely to follow through on an intended purchase, buy the product repeatedly, and recommend it to others. We looked at the impact on stickiness of more than 40 variables, including price, customers’ perceptions of a brand, and how often consumers interacted with the brand. The single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was “decision simplicity”—the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want from marketers is, simply, simplicity.

About the Research

Over a three-month period, Corporate Executive Board conducted pre- and postpurchase surveys of more than 7,000 consumers in the U.S., the UK, and Australia, covering a wide range of ages, income levels, and ethnicities.

Respondents were asked dozens of questions about their attitudes and purchase experiences across a variety of price points and channels in categories including apparel, cars, luxury goods, onetime items (such as airline tickets), and ongoing services (such as cell phone service).

Questions explored shopping duration, effort required, purchase-related research, the consumer’s state of mind, his relationship with the brand, the frequency of his interactions with the brand, and the likelihood of repurchasing and recommending.

In addition, we interviewed 200 CMOs, brand managers, and other marketing executives representing 125 consumer brands in 12 industries globally, asking about their strategies and beliefs concerning drivers of stickiness.

Consider the marketing activities of two digital camera brands. Brand A’s search engine strategy is to pick up any consumers who are searching common digital camera terms and direct them to the company website. There they find extensive technical and feature information and 360-degree rotatable product photos, all organized and sortable by model. In stores, shelf labels list key technical attributes, such as megapixel rating and memory, and provide a QR code that takes consumers to a mobile version of the brand’s website, where they can dig more deeply into product specifications.

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Brand B’s search engine strategy is to first understand the consumer’s intent and where in the search process she is likely to be. Why does she want a camera? Is she just starting to look, or is she ready to buy? The company guides those in the early stages of investigation to third-party review sites (where its cameras get good marks) and directs consumers who are actively shopping to its own website. User reviews and ratings are front and center there, and a navigation tool lets consumers quickly find reviews that are relevant to their intended use of the camera (family and vacation photography, nature photography, sports photography, and so on). In stores, Brand B frames technical features in nontechnical terms. Instead of emphasizing megapixels and memory, for example, it says how many high-resolution photos fit on its memory card. The QR code on shelf displays leads to a simple app that simulates one of the camera’s key differentiators, a photo-editing feature.

The highly detailed information Brand A provides at every step on the purchase path may instruct the consumer about a given camera’s capabilities, but it does little to facilitate an easy decision. Brand B simplifies decision making by offering trustworthy information tailored to the consumer’s individual needs, thus helping her traverse the purchase path quickly and confidently. Our research shows that customers considering both brands are likely to be dramatically more “sticky” toward Brand B.

Making Decisions Simple

For a marketing organization, what does it take to acquire sticky consumers?

Our study found that the best tool for measuring consumer-engagement efforts is the “decision simplicity index,” a gauge of how easy it is for consumers to gather and understand (or navigate) information about a brand, how much they can trust the information they find, and how readily they can weigh their options. The easier a brand makes the purchase-decision journey, the higher its decision-simplicity score. Brands that scored in the top quarter in our study were 86% more likely than those in the bottom quarter to be purchased by the consumers considering them. They were 9% more likely to be repurchased and 115% more likely to be recommended to others.

Shifting the orientation toward decision simplicity and helping consumers confidently complete the purchase journey is a profound change, one that typically requires marketers to flex new muscles and rethink how they craft their communications. Some practical lessons can be drawn from brands that are leading the way. The processes of aiding navigation, building trust, and making it easier to weigh options often happen simultaneously, or at least aren’t strictly linear, but for clarity we’ll discuss them separately below.

What Consumers Really Want

Businesses broadly misjudge what consumers want from them online. In particular, marketers often believe that consumers interact with them on social media to join a community and feel connected to the brand. But consumers have little interest in having a relationship beyond the merely transactional.

Their top reasons for connecting online: to get information and discounts, and to buy things.

Aiding navigation.

In demanding ever more attention from overloaded consumers, brands ultimately lead them down unnecessarily confusing purchase paths. Creating a more efficient path means minimizing the number of information sources consumers must touch while moving confidently toward a purchase. The savviest brands achieve this by personalizing the route.

This approach is especially foreign to marketers because in many cases the simplest, most confidence-inspiring learning path involves touchpoints that are outside a brand’s direct control. Often what a consumer needs is not a flashy interactive experience on a branded microsite but a detailed exchange with users about the pros and cons of the product and how it would fit into the consumer’s life.

Marketers face two practical challenges here. First, how can they detect where a given consumer is on the purchase path and what information she most needs? Second, how can they ensure that consumers they direct to third-party information sources will come back?

To answer the first question, frontier marketers are using big data and sophisticated analytics to map consumers’ purchase paths. One electronics company has gathered data from four major sources—social media monitoring, ad-effectiveness and campaign-tracking information, clickstream analysis, and individual consumer surveys—to identify common purchase paths. It studies the resulting maps to determine the volume of traffic on various paths, which paths inspire the most confidence, which touchpoints are best suited to conveying which types of messages, and at what points consumers lose confidence or defect.

Too Much Information

Over the past two decades, a wide range of experiments have shed light on how an excess of information and choice impairs decision making.

One of the most common consumer responses to the excess is to forgo a purchase altogether. In a classic experiment, Sheena Iyengar, then a doctoral student and now a professor at Columbia Business School, set out pots of jam on supermarket tables in groups of either six or 24. About 30% of those who were given six choices bought some jam; only 3% of those confronted with 24 choices did. As the psychologist Barry Schwartz demonstrates in The Paradox of Choice, an excess of input leads to angst, indecision, regret, and ultimately lowered satisfaction with both the purchase process and the products themselves. Dozens of related lines of research confirm what now seems like common sense: Too much choice or too much information can be paralyzing.

Consumers themselves say they’re overwhelmed. A 2004 survey conducted by the market research firm Yankelovich found that two-thirds of respondents felt “constantly bombarded with too much marketing and advertising.” (And it’s safe to say that eight years later, the bombardment has only increased.) The implication for marketers is clear: Aggressive engagement that overloads consumers’ already-saturated brains may backfire. But the hundreds of marketing executives we interviewed told us that their engagement strategies were designed expressly to achieve more-frequent interaction and deepened relationships.

Compounding the overload problem is the human penchant for overthinking trivial decisions and second-guessing. The explosion of messages and product data feeds this tendency, one consequence of which is a “spiral of discontent.” Research by the University of Florida’s Aner Sela and Wharton’s Jonah Berger shows that the more challenging a decision is to make, the more important people imagine it to be. Think about consumers trying to choose among an array of poorly differentiated products, such as digital cameras: The difficulty of wading through the choices increases the perceived importance of the decision. This in turn causes people to spend even more time and effort on the decision, which further increases its apparent importance. A trivial purchase decision can thus spiral into a disproportionately complicated and time-consuming one—and the process creates consumers who are less happy, not more. Indeed, 41% of those we surveyed expressed anxiety about the purchases they’d made, and 20% conducted research after the purchase, still looking to validate their decisions.

Brands pursuing decision-simplicity strategies make full use of such information to assess where consumers are on the path and to direct them to the best touchpoints. Certain auto manufacturers, retailers, and travel brands have been sifting through consumer search data to learn how search terms and the type of search platform (say, mobile versus desktop) indicate consumer intent and position on the path. They’ve found, for example, that 70% of those using a mobile device to search are within a few hours of making a purchase, whereas 70% of those using a desktop are roughly a week away.

Moreover, by analyzing search terms, companies can discern what information the consumer most needs next. Someone who searches a general term like “luxury sedans” is at an early stage compared with someone who searches a specific phrase like “BMW vs Audi.” Decision-simplicity marketers would guide the former to the latest auto reviews for their sedans and the latter to an enthusiastic owner community. If the late-phase consumer was using a mobile device (indicating that he was probably out and about), the search engine would serve up a paid link to a dealer locator with a click-to-call feature that enabled him to easily set up a test drive.

Building trust.

In the context of decision simplicity, “trust” isn’t about trusting the brand; it’s about trusting the information gathered. Marketers often miss this point and put their efforts into activating brand recommenders who simply focus on product features and benefits. Consumers also need information about an adviser’s decision criteria and brand usage.

What does trusted advice look like? Consider the current “haul video” phenomenon among teenage girls. After shopping at a mall, many girls upload YouTube videos of themselves talking about their haul (purchases). In the videos, they discuss not just what they bought but also why, and how they plan to mix their new items with the rest of their wardrobe. This takes the complicated world of teen clothing and accessories—a world fraught with danger from shifting trends and overwhelming choice—and simplifies it, by showcasing fashionable peers who offer trustworthy guidance. In essence, the “hauler” cuts through the seemingly infinite options and provides decision-making criteria. J.C. Penney and American Eagle have capitalized on the phenomenon by hosting unbiased haulers on their sites and in their digital communications. Neither retailer requires that the haulers show only brands purchased at its store, and the haulers are transparent about their links to the companies (Penney, for instance, gives its star haulers gift cards).

Information about the adviser also helps build trust. Disney has done an outstanding job in this regard with its Walt Disney World Moms Panel. A selected group of Disney World veteran moms answer questions from consumers who are planning Disney vacations. In one recent case, a consumer asked about good viewing places for the parade; she had two children who wouldn’t be able to stand the whole time. She got perfectly tailored advice from Jackie S. With 25 Disney World trips under her belt, Jackie has the experience to make her information credible. Consumers can get a further sense of her reliability by reviewing her profile on the Disney World website and reading about her family, her hometown, and even how she met her husband. Such details matter: They help consumers assess the trustworthiness of the advice they’re getting and allow them to judge how well that advice applies to their own situations.

The lesson for marketers: Build cadres of trustworthy advisers rather than simply developing recommenders who will push the brand. Then aggregate their advice and make it easy for consumers to discover and use it, as J.C. Penney—whose haul videos get hundreds of thousands of views—so successfully does.

Making it easier to weigh options.

To help consumers evaluate choices, most brands describe their differentiating features and benefits. Some go a step further, offering buying guides containing side-by-side brand or product comparisons. For example, a bank might compile a catalog of its checking account options that lists the features of each one. Both approaches provide lots of information, but neither offers much guidance, leaving the consumer as confused as ever about the “best” choice.

Brands need to take a different tack. Except in cases of low-value products, consumers increasingly expend most of their effort learning about and weighing their choices. For items costing more than $50, a quarter of customers report that most of their effort is spent on product research. About 20% say that most of their effort is spent on comparison shopping.

The marketer’s goal is to help customers feel confident about their choice. Just providing more information often doesn’t help. Instead, marketers need to provide tools that allow customers to identify and weigh the features that are most relevant to them. A classic example is De Beers’s use of the “4 Cs” (cut, color, clarity, and carat) to frame the complex and often vexing comparison of diamonds. The 4 Cs simplify the buying decision by giving consumers confidence that they are weighing the essential features of the diamonds they’re considering and making an informed choice.

However, many brands have made the weighing process harder by introducing a dizzying array of SKUs. Crest’s website, for example, details 35 types of toothpaste. Although a consumer can sort them according to a few characteristics—“flavor experience,” “dentist inspired,” “fresh breath,” “classic”—there’s little to help her figure out which features are most important to her and which paste is her best choice. Are “dentist-inspired” pastes better in her case than “classic” pastes? Buying guides of this sort make the mistake of appearing to offer guidance while actually complicating the decision process.

Marketers, especially those with an abundance of SKUs, need to help customers control the weighing process. Herbal Essences does a good job with an online decision guide to its shampoos. The guide provides substantial detail but also makes narrowing and tailoring one’s choice an easy, transparent, step-by-step process. One-click questions about hair type, length, and texture (straight, short, fine, thick) and other needs (color treatment, volume) allow the visitor to rapidly sort through more than three dozen offerings to find the ideal one.

Many brands lead consumers down confusing purchase paths. The savviest ones simplify and personalize the route.

Technology can also address consumers’ weighing woes by allowing them to sidestep the process altogether. Consumers are likely to feel confident about recommendations that are based on their own purchasing data or other past behavior, because those things are typically accurate gauges of preference. and—clubs for shoe lovers—collect “personality” information on each member, such as favorite fashion icons and general shoe preferences (heel size, color, and so on) and tailor suggestions accordingly. The Spanish bank BBVA makes personalized recommendations for financial products after assessing individual consumers’ spending behavior—as reflected in credit card histories and questionnaires—and comparing that behavior with the spending of peers. In each case, the company eliminates much if not all of the hassle of weighing choices by providing a likely best choice at the outset.

Putting It Together

No company that we know of has fully integrated the three components of a decision-simplicity strategy—but Intuit is among those out in front. Consider its software product TurboTax. Tax prep is complex, and consumers have a range of options, from accountants to software programs to pencil and paper. Within software itself, there’s a potentially bewildering array of choices. Intuit has made a concerted effort to simplify those choices by helping consumers navigate, trust, and weigh information along the path to purchase, as we’ll describe below. Christine Morrison, the head of social media at TurboTax, says, “We’ve seen dozens of areas where simplifying decisions for consumers pays big dividends.”

TurboTax created a customer forum, called TurboTax Live Community, where visitors can ask product, tax, and support questions and share information. It contains a database of answers provided by customers and experts. To ensure relevance, an algorithm serves up the five most common answers to a given question. For example, a user on the mortgage-deductions screen will find answers to questions about deduction limits and how to calculate deductions for the purchase of a house. TurboTax users don’t pay for the software until they file their taxes; Live Community helps drive conversion by shepherding consumers through the tax-prep process to completion, providing the right information at the moment it’s needed. To date more than 12 million users have engaged with the community.


Intuit provides more than 160,000 unfiltered user reviews and ratings on the TurboTax website and helps consumers find the most relevant ones. The ratings range from one star to five; the inclusion of low ratings boosts consumers’ confidence, showing them that Intuit isn’t cherry-picking its reviews. Consumers can use the “folks like you” tool to sort evaluations according to reviewers’ marital status, life situations, and major tax events. They can find reviews written by friends or family by connecting to Facebook or Twitter—TurboTax encourages customers to post on either site when they’ve completed their taxes, and the postings constitute what are in effect consumer-generated, highly trusted banner ads. The conversion rate of those ads is 30% higher than that of TurboTax’s regular banner advertising.

Weighing options.

The TurboTax home page shows basic product choices arrayed side by side for easy comparison. It includes a “help me choose” function that allows consumers to go through a 30-second “check the boxes that apply” exercise. This not only guides them to the product most suited to them but also shows why that product is their best choice.

In addition, Intuit lets consumers filter user reviews by prior tax-prep method so that they can read what reviewers with similar tax-prep histories have said about switching to TurboTax. This helps them answer the question “What would it be like to change to TurboTax from what I use now?”

Given the rapid expansion of social and mobile technologies, marketers will have ever-increasing opportunities to bombard consumers. And if history is any guide, that’s exactly what they’ll do. But in their aggressive efforts to engage with their customers, they’ll only make the decision journey more complex and confusing. Marketers who focus on simplifying consumers’ decision making will rise above the din, and their customers will stick by them as a result.

What Does Keep It Simple In Trading Actually Mean?

What Does Keep It Simple In Trading Actually Mean?

Everywhere on the web you can read that you have to keep it simple if you want to become a professional trader. However, trading isn’t simple and you can’t just eliminate indicators, “clutter” and all the rules from your trading and then suddenly become profitable.

The (mis)belief of keeping it simple can be a very dangerous one if a trader fails to put it into the right context. Using the excuse to “keep it simple” to justify trading without a set of fixed rules can will lead to inconsistent trading results. Keep it simple should not be an excuse for the lazy traders to avoid putting in the work.

The following 4 stages are the typical stages any trader goes through on his journey. Knowing where you are can help you eliminate false thinking and help you get to the next step sooner.

Confused complication

When new traders start out, they really have no idea what they are actually doing. Typically, new traders buy the first best system they stumble upon. Usually, the first systems traders go through are heavily indicator-laden because all the fancy lines give the impression that this is the professional way to go.

New traders often believe that the more tools they use, the better the trading signals they get will be. Then, they try to come up with all the indicator based rules until they are so confused that the decision-making process becomes a real pain.

It is not uncommon to see “paralysis by analysis” at that stage because of all the contradicting signals the different indicators and tools provide.

Confused simplicity

The next step on a trader’s journey is the “freeing from the indicators”. It is such a common theme to see traders go from complete indicator-madness to pure price action trading. At that stage you can hear traders say “I can finally see what is really important”, “price is king and indicators are lagging”, or “only trade what you see.”

Confused simplicity refers to a state where traders still don’t know what they are doing, but they believe that a complete turnaround will probably be the cure for their problems. Needless to say that trading off of blank charts is not going to suddenly turn a losing into a winning trader.

The system-mindset and the negligence of risk management, money management and position sizing are typical characteristics at those early stages.

Lazy simplicity

After a lot of frustration and a long time of inconsistent trading results, the intentional and lazy simplicity starts to take over. This means that traders are somewhat clueless how to start making money as a trader; indicators didn’t work and price action did not work either – what is left to try?

Lazy simplicity typically leads to pure gambling. At this stage, traders are only hoping to somehow stumble over a trading system that will work right from the start. Traders don’t want to put in the work anymore and are only looking for the easy way out.

Lazy simplicity is often the final stage for most traders before they give up and/or lose their trading account. The traders who do not give up and make it to the next stage are often rewarded for their endurance and their tenacity, and professional trading is within reach.

To avoid the pitfalls of lazy simplicity and to help you overcome this dangerous phase, here are the top 5 tips to make it through:

  • Stay away from system-hopping
  • Use reasonable risk and money management principles
  • Be aware of emotional trading
  • Start tracking and reviewing your performance
  • Shift your focus from only looking at trade entries and focus on all aspects of a trading method


Effective simplicity

This is often referred to as the aha-moment when traders finally stop looking at trading entries alone and understand that a trading method is more than just hunting signals.

During the final stage, traders start building their own trading system. They combine what they have learned throughout their trading career and put together the tools in a meaningful way. Traders also start to realize that it does not matter whether they use indicators or price action; both are essentially the same and it comes down to applying what the different tools tell you.

Keep it simple in trading with rules and clarity

As we have said earlier, simple does not mean easy and it does not mean trading without rules. It is quite the opposite. Professional simplicity can only be reached when a trader is 100% clear about his trading system and approach. In the new context, simplicity then means certainty.

A trader who is clear about his approach and who has a set of fixed rules follows a repetitive trading routine. Certainty and rules eliminate guesswork, confusion and it helps traders make better and faster decisions. The following checklist depicts the different aspects of a trading method and routine; use it to create more certainty and simplicity for your own trading.

Component of your trading method What you need to know
Entry criteria How does your perfect trade look like?
Stop loss rules Where do you place it? When is your trade idea invalid?
Take profit rules Do you use a fixed target? Do you trail your stop? What signals an early exit?
Position sizing Do you always use the same amount? Do you vary based on the quality of the setup? Do you add to trades and how do you do it?
Trade management How do you manage the trade? Do you actively move stop and profit orders?
Risk management How do you deal with losing and winning streaks?
Pre-market analysis Do you write a trading plan? When do you do it?
Post-trading analysis How do you review your trading day? Do you update your trading plan?
Performance review When do you review your past trades? How do you keep track of your trades?
Improvement process How do you analyze your trading? How can you find weaknesses and how do you make tweaks and adjustments?

Only if you are 100% certain about each point, you can reach the state of effective simplicity. Making trading decisions will become much easier and it will eliminate inconsistent trading results. Take the time to define your own system. The reason why most amateur traders fail is because they have no idea what their trading system is all about.

If you are looking for guidance and you are not sureВ how to take your trading to the next level, we offer a 12 week trader development program together with the most sophisticated trading journal out there on our partner site Edgewonk.

Keep It Simple Sayings and Quotes

Below you will find our collection of inspirational, wise, and humorous old keep it simple quotes, keep it simple sayings, and keep it simple proverbs, collected over the years from a variety of sources.

Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.

Charles Dudley Warner

Just keep it simple. When you over-think what you’re wearing, that’s when wardrobe malfunctions tend to happen.

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Simplicity is the glory of expression.

Live simply, so that others may simply live.

Keep it simple and keep it real. The more basic we see our connection to God and Spirit, the easier it is to feel like you’re a part of it

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.

Stay low, stay quiet, keep it simple, don’t expect too much, enjoy what you have.

To keep it simple, why did God choose me? Because He felt like it!

The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.

Simplicity is, as simple as you make it.

Everything seems simpler from a distance.

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

Life is simple. You just have to stop trying to figure it out.

It must be a balance in everything we do, not too much of everything, keep it simple, not complicated.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

Keep it simple. You don’t want to overdo it with too much makeup or crazy, over-the-top hairstyles. Let your natural beauty show through.

The greatest truths are the simplest things in the world, simple as your own existence.

Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count.

The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.

You try to keep life simple but it never works, and in the end all you have left is yourself.

Keep it simple and focus on what matters. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed.

Simple and to the point is always the best way to get your point across.

Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.

Arnold H. Glasow

Do what makes you happy. Keep it simple. Do the research. Work hard. Look ahead.

A person with taste is merely one who can recognize the greatest beauty in the simplest things.

Barbara Taylor Bradford

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Clare Boothe Luce

Keep it simple, when you get too complex you forget the obvious.

Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.

Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.

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