Is it just me or is buying consumer products like toothpaste and laundry detergent almost paralyzing? The choice has become out of control and goodness knows that a couple of months later when you go back to buy the same version, they’re certain to have changed the packaging. But is that good for business?
Having too many choices can create an experience that’s downright frustrating. And if it’s related to a business decision, there’s risk that you’ll put the decision off until you have more time to really wade your way through the options. If you run a small business, pay special attention to the concept of choice overload when you build product and service options. More choice doesn’t translate into more sales or even a great experience.
Some time ago, I had a conversation with a commercial photographer and she was telling me that her projects seemed to take an extended period of time to close. She told me that even simple projects like professional head-shots might take months to get paid. She’d take the photos, send the proofs out for review and it would take forever to get the client to respond. During our conversation, we discovered the clients weren’t able to quickly decide on the photos they wanted re-touched because there were so many choices.
The same thing happened in a famous sampling study that took place in grocery store. In some instances, 24 different flavors of jam were available for tasting. At other times, they offered only six flavors. Interesting results. When they had 24 choices, it enticed more people to try the jams, but fewer purchases. Those with a more limited choice were far more likely to buy.
Customers expect the business to be an expert in their field and only offer the choices that are most appropriate. Think Costco. They only offer a couple of quality options in any category. This creates faster decisions and a more efficient buying process.
Apple is also a great example of a company that prospered and created a true differentiation when it reduced its product offerings. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the first thing he did was simplify the product line to just four. Even though the Apple store attracts many, many people, they really have a very slim product offering.
Too much choice causes confusion and inhibits the decision-making process and people don’t act. Take a look at your own product or service offering. If the buying cycle seems to take longer than expected, consider how you might tighten that process and still create a great experience.