More options equals more money—right? It would seem to track at first glance that the more choices a customer has, the more they will purchase, and the wider the range of customer you will attract. If this makes sense to you, you’re not alone; this was the dominant marketing theory for many years.
But research shows that offering more options don’t mean more people will buy. After a certain point, adding on more options tends to cause choice paralysis, and consumers presented with an overwhelming number of choices usually choose not to choose at all. This happens in part because the customer faced with ten options has an exponentially greater amount of comparing, contrasting, and contemplation to do than a customer presented with two options. The amount of math the customer will have to do to adequately assess the pros and cons of ten choices can be so overwhelming that they will simply walk away.
A study was performed to see how strongly consumers are impacted by choice paralysis. The same jam company set up two tables in a grocery store—one offered 24 options, the other only 6. The table with 24 options even offered a 1$-off coupon, but while customers sampled from both tables, they purchased more consistently from from the table with only 6 options. In fact, the difference was almost a factor of 10: 3% of customers who sampled from the 24-option table made a purchase, whereas 30% of those who sampled from the 6-option table bought a jar.
Another study selling 401K plans shows the same trend. One service offered two packages to choose from, and the other offered ten. More people chose the two-package service. When customers did choose the service with more options, they tended to make poorer financial choices overall.
This phenomenon can be especially damaging for a small business. A small niche with strong focus allows the business to focus on branding and recognition. Offering too many choices not only contributes to choice paralysis, but also decreases the power of branding. A business that sells one single item or type of item is more memorable and recognizable when that item comes to mind than a business that sells many items. Less is more, especially when the competition comes in the form of global conglomerates the size of amazon and Walmart. More options distract from the desired goal, so retaining focus is very important.
The less is more mindset can (and should!) be successfully applied to your website. A one-page landing site significantly decreases customer confusion and choice paralysis, streamlining conversion and increasing revenue. Buttons for social media sharing is one example of cutting down the potential for choice paralysis. Do you really need buttons for Facebook, twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, buffer, google +, email, et cetera? Odds are your users aren’t going to need (or want) that many options. Condense down to the platforms your business most actively monitors and those that are the most popular with your users.
The number of entry requests in form fields are another small but significant areas that can be positively impacted by harnessing the power of choice. By asking for a phone number, you will lose 5% of conversions. For requesting a street address, another 4%. If you don’t really need that information, don’t ask for it—it will lose you conversions.
So keep your choices trim and your business moving. Less really is more!