When it comes to ecommerce and to improve your conversion rate, offering more choices is better, right? Not always.
You can actually overwhelm your customers with too many choices, causing them to freeze up and not make a decision at all. This is called choice overload, and it can hurt your sales.
In this article, we'll discuss what choice overload is, how it affects customers and simple strategies you can use to avoid it. We'll also explore how using a product configurator can help you please your customers by offering more choices, without overwhelming them.
Table of Contents
What is choice overload
Have you ever asked the bartender for the scotch menu in a pub only to be handed a book with 37 options? It gets pretty hard to decide right? Or what about when you fire up Netflix or Disney+ to watch a movie and you end up not watching anything at all after spending thirty minutes scrolling through titles? That's choice overload.
Choice overload, also referred to as ‘overchoice’, is a phenomenon that occurs when people are presented with too many options to choose from. It can cause them to feel overwhelmed, confused, and even stressed. Studies have shown that choice overload can lead to poorer decision-making and even anxiety.
3 examples of choice overload
Let's looks at a few examples from scientific studies:
A study on online dating, found that people who were presented with more than 20 potential matches were less likely to find a partner than those who were given only six options.
In a landmark study by Sheena Iyengar from Columbia University and Mark Lepper from Stanford University, customers were presented with either 6 or 24 kinds of gourmet jam to sample and purchase in a grocery store. The researchers found that the customers who were given only 6 options were way more likely to purchase a jar than those who had to choose between 24 flavors. In fact, they were 6 times more likely to make a purchase. Now that's a significant conversion rate improvement!
In another experiment from the same study, Stanford students were either given 6 or 30 topics to choose from to write a two-page essay in exchange for bonus points. Only 60% of the students who chose from 30 topics completed the essay while 74% of the students who had just 6 topics completed it. Furthermore, the students who chose from 6 topics produced significantly higher quality writing according to the graders.
Why offering too many options can hurt your sales?
If customers are presented with too many choices, they may become overwhelmed and not make a decision at all. This can lead to lost sales and revenue for your business. Customers may also become frustrated with the purchasing process and simply decide to take their business elsewhere.
In addition to causing customers to not make a purchase, choice overload can lead to lower satisfaction. Studies found that when people were given too many choices, they reported feeling less satisfied with their decision regardless of what they chose. Additionally, participants who were given more choices reported feeling more conflicted and less confident about their decision.
What factors contribute to choice overload?
There are a few factors that are contributing to choice overload:
- The number of options available. The more choices there are, the more likely people are to feel overwhelmed.
How difficult it is to compare the options. If the options are very similar, it can be difficult to decide which one is best.
How important the decision is. If the decision is very important, people may feel more pressure to make the perfect choice.
If people feel like they don't have enough information about the options, they may also experience choice overload.
When there is a time constraint to make a decision, this can also lead to choice overload.
How to avoid choice overload
Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies you can use to avoid choice overload and most likely improve conversion rate:
- Offer a limited number of options
The ideal option quantity would be around five to seven. If you offer fewer options, it will be easier for people to compare them and make a decision. If you have ever watched a Kitchen Nightmares episode with Gordon Ramsay, you know that he almost always revamps the menu with a limited number of options. That's a very smart way to avoid overwhelming customers and increase sales.
- Make it easy to compare the options
Ideally, people need visual cues to help them compare the options and make a decision.
- Make sure the options are different
If the options are very similar, it can be difficult to decide which one is best.
- Provide enough information about the options
If we go back to the scotch menu example, providing some information about each scotch, such as the origin and flavor profile would most probably help the customer make a decision.
- Categorizing the options
Categories help people to make a decision without feeling overwhelmed.
- Starting with the easier choices
Starting with the easier choices, containing fewer options, and then moving on to the more difficult ones, containing more options, can also decrease choice overload. I will help build momentum and confidence. When customers have invested time in making a few choices, they are more likely to see the value of completing the task and less likely to give up.
- Provide a default option
This can help people who are feeling overwhelmed by the choices to keep going without having to make a decision. This strategy could even be amplified by adding labels such as "recommended" or "popular."
How a product configurator can help reduce choice overload and improve your conversion rate
Product configurators and customizers are a great way to offer more choices without overwhelming your customers. They are essentially a tool that's designed to make choices easier.
Product configurators give customers the ability to see how the product they are interested in would look with different features. They can also add and remove features to see how it would affect the price and content can be added to describe each option. So basically, a product configurator provides essential information and makes it easier to compare options.
Using a product configurator software, you can organize your choices within different groups, allowing customers to focus on one thing at a time. It also makes it easy to place easier choices at the beginning of the customization experience to help reduce choice overload.
However, a product customization experience containing too many steps and options can also overwhelm customers and lead to abandoned carts. That's why it's important to keep the customization process short and sweet and to experiment with the choice architecture to find the sweet spot for your business.
In conclusion, choice overload can have many negative effects on customers, including poorer decision-making, lower satisfaction levels, and even anxiety. It can also lead to customers abandoning their purchase altogether.
Luckily, there are a few simple strategies you can use to avoid choice overload and improve conversion rate, such as offering a limited number of options, making it easy to compare the options, and providing enough information about the options.
Using a product configurator like Kickflip is another excellent way to reduce choice overload by allowing customers to see how the product will look with different features and customizations.