I’ve heard this phrase “The Paradox of Choice” many times, I’ve read about it in books, heard in mentioned in conversation and there was even a Ted talk on it. I understood what the basic concept was, which is that more choice creates more uncertainty and less happiness, but not until recently did I pick up the book to get the full story.
The famous experiment everyone always hears about from this book is this: Researchers set up a display of exotic jams in a grocery store. In one condition 6 jams were on display, in another there were 24 jams on display. The larger display attracted more people, but only 3% of those people bought some. The 6 jam display was purchased by an astounding 30% of people that stopped there. This is pretty counter intuitive since we live in a world where more choice is always better.
In his book, Barry Schwartz points out the incredible amount of options we face in everyday life. For example, a regular sized grocery store has over 30,000 products, and a big box gadget store will have so many car stereos, car speakers, and other accessories, that there are on average 6,512,000 variations of car stereo you can build. So after citing some more stats, he clearly demonstrates how overwhelmed we are in our daily lives as a result of all of our options.
The funny thing is, we think we want more choice because it will help us make a better decision, but the data shows that we are generally less satisfied with a purchase, or less likely to make one in the first place, if there are too many choices. Even having the option to return your product adds a new choice that one has to make, and can cause buyer’s remorse. Now I’m not suggesting that it would be a good strategy to stop accepting returns (although we all wish we could!), but we need to remind ourselves that less is more in many cases.
So this is just one small portion of the book and I highly recommend it to anyone, even if you’re not in e-commerce, because it will help you identify some ways you are wasting your time making un-important decisions. So what can we do to use this knowledge and increase our conversion rate? Here are some tips:
- Don’t overwhelm the customer. Keep your pages from getting too full of graphics that are all fighting over the consumer’s attention.
- Be selective in your product offering. You don’t need to add a bunch of products to your site just to fill out space, especially if they are going to confuse your customers. Stick to only the best/highest converting products.
- If you do offer a large amount of products, categorize them into smaller groupings. The results can be dramatic. With this strategy you can have your cake and eat it too.
- Offer fewer child variations. In addition to looking at the parent product selection, look at your product pages. Your customers could easily become frustrated with too much choice and abandon cart.
Of course this all only applies to the world outside of Amazon. Luckily though, this is a realm where Amazon can’t compete! Curated stores like onekingslane.com are jumping up everywhere and they have an average offering of a few hundred products at a time, this is all the proof you should need. And lastly, should you need more reasons to revamp your offerings, think about the cost involved – barely anything! You don’t need to hire some fancy new software company to do this for you and get a consultant, you can simply change your offering and measure the difference, and that’s the sort of edge we’re all looking for in today’s economy.