We’ve all been there. Standing amidst a sea of choices for something as simple as hand soap. Anti-bacterial or antimicrobial? Foamy or liquid? Lavender or sun-kissed orange? Dermatologist tested or kid friendly? There are so many options, your brain starts to short-circuit a bit.
Customer choice has long been a dependable strategy in business success principles. The theory is that the more choices you give your customers, the more likely they’ll buy. However, recent research shows that too many choices actually hinder instead of help…fatiguing their brains and causing them to freeze and flee—empty-handed.
“Making decisions takes work,” says Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. There are over 200 varieties of biscuits, soups and cereals alone at our supermarkets. When consumers were asked to compare chocolate chip cookies from a jar of ten and a jar of two, the jar with two cookies scored higher than the jar with ten. Although the cookies were identical, the choice from the small range was perceived as more valuable, desirable and attractive.
“Clearly there are costs to having too much choice,” says Kathleen Vohs, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. In her years of studying the effect of choice on consumers, she says too many choices leads to “decision fatigue,” which makes even pleasant choices mentally draining.
When customers are faced with option overload, they feel paralyzed because it’s harder to make that “informed” decision. This also leads to buyer’s remorse as the variety offered is a reason for consumers to be unhappy with the decision they made. Many people would rather not choose than make a complicated choice.
So what’s a business to do?
Create a “less is more strategy.” Be selective with your offerings and don’t overwhelm with too many choices. In a study on jams, researchers offered either a selection of 6 or 24 flavors. When 24 jam flavors were offered, only 3% of customers walked away with a purchase. When 6 jam flavors were offered, over 30% of customers bought jam. Lesson learned—reducing the amount of choice can be a simple, cost-effective way to increase inventory turnover and up sales.
When working with Schmidty’s, a salon for men, IMAGEHAUS put this strategy to work. We narrowed their five different facials for men down to one and facial sales increased by 42%. They also reduced the cost of inventory they needed to have on hand.
Choice is an effective marketing tool that requires balance and fine-tuning. In today’s economy, companies and consumers are being forced to make “more of less” every day, making this balancing act a very important consideration. A consideration that just might make the difference in your bottom line.
Variety may be the spice of life, but overdoing it can be too much for most to handle.