Drowning your customer in choices. Is it good for business?

What is a sure way to discourage your customers from purchase? What affects customers purchasing decisions when they shop online, and how can your business make those decisions easier?

We are living in the age of everything, we consume more, we want more and we have a limitless amount of choices. Businesses want to provide their customers, with excellent service and meet their every wish, or at least do a great job guessing what that wish may be. That attitude is a sure path to your business’ success. Or is it?

Decision paralysis

The human brain is brilliant; however, there are some cognitive biases and some ways of thinking which stop us from seeing clearly. And one of them is decision paralysis — our topic for today.

The fact is that you surely want to offer your customers the best options and give them as many choices as possible. But it could be tricky and here is why. Decision paralysis basically means that the more options or choices we have the more stuck and lost we are. We simply lose our ability to pick one item, deeming it best for us. The issue becomes even more serious when the options are more similar to each other. The overwhelming amount of choices makes us feel more stressed and anxious because we don´t know what to choose. Moreover, if we do not have enough information to help us lean toward the choice we’d rather step out of the situation altogether and not make any decision at all.

That very phenomenon is often the cause of your online shoppers leaving your website or e-shop before making the purchase. Too many tables, numbers, pictures, colors, questions, actions… Your customer does not know what to do, how to compare the parameters of your products. It’s great to be able to offer choices, however, you need to make it easier.

So what is the hack?

Just imagine you and your darling are discussing where to go for dinner. Suppose, you want to have a romantic weekend in Paris, see Eiffel tower and have a delicious special meal, oo-la-la.

You don’t know Paris all too well, so you probably use Google search. However, there are too many options and you don’t know which one is the best. You are facing the possibility of missed opportunity to try something very special from French cuisine. You spend so much time making decisions that you end up picking the nearest restaurant that looks good enough. Costly, time-consuming and, moreover, upsetting, because you don’t know if you chose the best. So what could you have done differently?

Ask for a recommendation. Not Google, not anonymous web discussion, but ask someone personally. Someone you can trust. Maybe you have a friend who knows the place and can recommend the most delicious meal in Paris. (And we will tell you a secret — even that friend of yours who lived in Paris for 20 years doesn’t know every option). The only favor he did for you — he made your decision easier by reducing the number of options.

And this is exactly what your customers seek for when shopping online

Reduce redundant graphics

Make your visual as simple as possible. Clear design with one significant element would catch your customer’s eye sooner. Use something that really stands out — for example, your daily promotion or the newest product.

Show clearly the differences between options

Use simple tables to show your customers the advantages of every product. Make comparisons of several different, but similar products next to each other with clearly visible pluses and minuses.

Pave an easy path to personal advice

“People buy from people” is the mantra everybody in sales knows and repeats tirelessly. A personal advise a salesperson can offer a customer is one of the most important steps in selling/buying cycle. It’s not difficult to get such advice in a physical store, but everything changes when it comes to online shopping. Virtual shoppers don’t get the same opportunities. Unless… Unless they are able to connect with a real salesperson who can help them with consultation and advice.

A live video connection is an answer. OKTIUM video call from online shopper straight to a salesperson would enable that dialogue, minimizing the costs of customer’s decision making.

Little experiment

The world of science found a proof of this phenomenon. The experiment consisted of arranging two preserve tastings stations in a grocery store: one with 24 kinds of marmalade and jam offered for testing, and another with only 6. After tasting, the customers were given a discount coupon to buy the jam of their choice from the testing station.

Needless to say, the customers were more attracted to a table with 24 types of jam (60% vs 40% attracted to a smaller testing station). However, when it came to choosing their favorite jar for purchase, the table with 6 options actually sold 30% more jam. The table with 24 options sold their jam to only 3% of their customers.

(Source: Schwartz, B. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. xi, 265 s. ISBN 0–06–000569–6.)

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