Dazed by choice: How less is more in online product offerings

When it comes to choice…

Human nature is a bit of a paradox. We crave an unmethodical life in order to avoid boredom, yet we thrive in a structured environment. We believe more choice is crucial to us shaping and therefore having control of our own lives, yet the more we have to choose from, the quicker we can become confused and discouraged. Autonomy and Freedom of choice are ‘critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy’ as psychologist Barry White has famously observed, yet he goes on to note that ‘though (we) have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.’

This is very clearly reflected in today’s digital landscape, and specifically on ecommerce and digital product sites. An emerging trend we have noticed is that by streamlining and offering fewer products, companies very often experience a greater conversion rate than when there are more products on offer. As noted in the Globaldata report last year, modern day life is giving us:

too many demands on time, too much information, and too many choices…(which leaves) many consumers choosing to either completely or partially adopt a lifestyle of simplicity.

According to the latest Kingram Red research, 60% of Irish organisations have no vision for their success in a digital world. This lack of vision is hurting them and has resulted in many websites that are cluttered with products and calls to action, leaving visitors baffled and indecisive. These are the sites that experience the highest bounce rates.


I cannot count the number of times I have been searching for a product (a search which at the start, I did not think would be very complicated) to then become completely overwhelmed by the amount of products on offer. Recently, I was looking for a camera on a site featuring a large amount of the same type of camera. I like to think that I’m a competent enough person, and yet I found myself completely lost in a jungle of cameras as far as the eye could see with no sign of rescue. I am no expert on cameras so I had no idea which features or indicators I should scan for in order to inform my decision or even cut down the search criteria. To me, each of these thirty cameras looked exactly the same. I found myself getting frustrated, a touch panicked and ultimately just giving up. How was I to know if I had purchased the right camera if I did purchase one? What if I skipped over one that would change my life and could shoot rainbows and unicorns into the sky? (not that that is possible but I’m at a loss for a camera feature example, again: not a camera person).

When a customer cannot see or find what they need in a few seconds, they often leave the site. It is for this reason that UX, or User Experience design has risen to such prominence: companies have realised that the way in which consumers interact with their site is crucial to their bottom line. As well as websites being streamlined however, companies need to look at how the products themselves are presented, and think about streamlining these and cutting down the sheer number of products on offer. Studies have shown that when people are overloaded with options, they tend to go with the safest one. For consumers however, the safest choice is very often to not buy anything at all.

too many choices can…be overwhelming and could lead to lower conversion rates. — Sid Bharath

An effect of de- consumerism mentioned in the Globaldata report, is that now consumers do not necessarily want to own more products, and are instead choosing more meaningful, memorable experiences. They discovered that consumers find living a less complicated and cluttered lifestyle to be important in creating a feeling of wellbeing, which is not hard to believe at all. In the same way, when customers are browsing through websites with well thought out and pared down product offerings, a sense of calm is created: an environment which encourages these visitors to stay on the site and make a purchase.

aaaahhhh too manys

When browsing a website, and presented with three options for the product type you are looking for, would you feel happier and more secure in your decision after purchase, then you would be if you had to pick from thirty products as I had to in my ill-fated camera search? Having fewer options available gives the customer time to look at, consider, and contemplate each, so that they will be more confident in their decision if they do decide to buy one of the products. If I had been presented with 3 cameras of the type I was looking for, and therefore given the time and space to consider each properly, I may very well have bought one instead of becoming confused, disgruntled and eventually abandoning ship.

If you are looking to simplify and refine your digital product offering, weed out those products that aren’t working or performing and put more time and energy into those that are. To do this, test your revenue versus your operating expenses in your business cases each year for each product. Review the mechanisms they employ to determine and deliver on their customers’ success, as well as the methods used to evaluate and measure the same.

By testing your processes, as well as talking to the customer and utilising properly installed insights and KPI reporting, you will pull ahead of the pack and have a simplified, refined, and better product offering for your customers. Customers will stay longer, engage more with your products, and leave with both a better impression of your company and hopefully a camera in their basket.