Is Having Less Choices Better for Sales?

You’ve heard the saying “Less is More,” but is it true?

Well, according to several studies conducted by various Universities, there is some truth behind that statement.

One study from the University of Toronto “found that lists of available investment options proved to be of higher quality than longer ones.”…”Although the paper focuses on pension plans for its example, its findings can be applied to other situations where a “menu” of choices is offered, whether that’s financial options or even a restaurant menu.”

In another study conducted by Claudia Townsend of University of Miami, “found that even though consumers prefer to see products visually, when the choice set is large, and presented visually, shoppers spend less time examining each individual option as well as the entire choice set. They also become more haphazard and less systematic in their examination compared to when words are used to describe the choices. With this “choice overload,” consumers are less likely to make a choice, which means no purchase.”

From such studies, you could conclude that a large selection of choices may actually work against what you are trying to accomplish (making sales). Options can be a good thing, but when presented with too many choices, people have a harder time making a decision and may even become confused.

I tend to agree with this theory because it does make sense from a psychological point of view.

Also, I’ve seen from experience how having too many choices can affect people and their decision making. Here’s one real world example: Last week, our company decided to buy lunch. We were given two restaurant choices: One was a sandwich shop, and the other was a Chinese restaurant. Everyone was given a menu from both restaurants. Initially, everyone was interested in Chinese, but things quickly changed as everyone began looking through the menus. The sandwich shop had a basic menu with maybe 10 sandwiches and a few side dishes. The Chinese restaurant on the other hand had hundreds of entrees to choose from. Guess what happened? 4 out of 5 people decided to order from the sandwich shop. Those that switched couldn’t decide what to order because of “choice overload.” The one that didn’t switch really likes Chinese food.

Here’s another example. Why do you think In-N-Out is so darn popular? I know, I know…those burgers and fries are yummy. But, you see how limited their menu is? It is very basic and offers a small selection. How many In-N-Out commercials have you seen on TV in the past year? None as far as I’m aware. How many Carl’s Jr or McDonald’s commercials have you seen? Hundreds, if not thousands right… So, why is it that whenever you drive past an In-N-Out, it’s always packed inside, and the drive-thru is backed up into the parking lot? I’m not saying it’s all due to their easy-to-choose menu, but I would say it does make a difference in the decision making process when people are looking for places to eat. People know what to order there. Simple and delicious.

So how does the “Less is More” theory apply to your business? Well, if you own an ecommerce site, you might want to re-examine how your site is structured and look at how you are presenting your products to your potential customers. Is your site clearly laid out and easy to use? Are you overwhelming your visitors with too many product options? Remember to apply psychology into everything you do, including web design and content because it does ultimately make a difference on your bottom line.

What is your opinion on this matter?

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