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Is choice a bad thing?

We love choices! – Actually, we don’t. We hate them!

Ah choice. Look at all these lovely things. So many pretty things to choose from. But what should I choose. Oh no, I don’t know what to choose. TOO MUCH CHOICE I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I’ll leave.

Choice is a terrible thing. We all crave it, but once we have it we don’t know what to do with it. It can make us panic or make us nervous. What shoes to wear with an outfit, which T-Shirt goes with these jeans…the worst thing is standing in front of a shelf at the supermarket and you’re looking at 20 different choices of the same product.
How do you choose which is best? Having multiple different prices for the same products doesn’t help the matter. Even if you have a favourite brand, they’ll offer you the seemingly same product, but in different packaging, with only the most miniscule of difference.

TED held an interesting talk on this topic in 2005 but it’s still very much relevant today as we have even more choice than ever. Personally I don’t agree with everything he says, but some of the core messages can be adapted into the world of ecommerce and are relevant there.

Too much choice could make us leave.

Few things are worse than visiting a site and being overloaded by all the products that they are selling on the front page, or straight after clicking the category page it comes up with just too much information. Sure, in our mind we love the idea of having a choice, as choice gives us freedom, but when it really comes down to it we feel more constricted by it. The expectations we have of all the choices available are incredibly high. We just expect the choice we make to be great, but we also think about what could have been if we’d chosen the other very similar item.

The way to deal with it, is by just showing a limited amount of products on your home page, maybe just your best sellers, the ones you know that sell very well. By looking at past sales history this should be easy enough to figure out. It might very well be worth testing whether slimming down will convert into more sales, especially if you’re offering a lot of products that are very similar or essentially the same, but just by different brands. It could also reduce the amount of returns that you might be seeing, as people will be less likely to question the purchase that they’ve made because they had less to compare it to in the past.

You could also have your personal recommendations on the front page and that way your customers will slowly explore all the things that you have on offer. You can then slowly introduce them further into your site through well organised categories, that don’t overload the customers’ senses.

Another way is by displaying related products underneath the products that you’re selling. You help the customer, as they don’t have to search through lots of categories. They can organically explore more parts of your site by clicking on products perceived to be related to the product they’re currently buying.

Enough of the fluff

You should aim to de-clutter your shop and make it easy as possible for customers to find what they’re looking for. Reiterating what’s already been mentioned, plus a few more tips, here’s what you should aim to do:

  • Avoid listing too many products on your home page. Focus on what sells well and what you know your customers are looking for.

  • Upsell by using related products on your product pages.

  • Use product filters to help your customers narrow down their search


Author: Sönke Dökel is an Online Marketing Expert at ekmPowershop.com, the UK’s leading hosted eCommerce website solution.

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