How Can Businesses Overcome the Consumers Choice Overload Paralysis

Choice overload (also called overchoice) refers to the cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options. There are a few reasons for why it becomes stressful to determine which option is the best one. Most of us feel upset about the opportunities that we miss and when it’s unclear which option is the best, we are more likely to regret the decision we eventually finalise. Therefore, by streamlining consumer choices, we can create a better consumer experience for shoppers. 

Businesses are faced with two options for this paradox of choice. The obvious one is to reduce your product range and then also, practising consultative selling and guiding consumers through a “decision funnel.” The challenge for retail businesses is that cutting down on your product range is not always practical or the best solution. It’s easy to implement guided selling into your business if you’re a brick-and-mortar store: you just train your salespeople to be more consultative.

However, in the case of e-commerce stores there are no salespeople who can help. This doesn’t mean you can not guide them towards the right purchase decision though. We have listed some ways businesses can guide purchase decisions and increase sales as an e-commerce business:

  1. Cut. Less is more.

This may sound easier said than done, but many examples do show that it can be worth the effort. There have been many examples where websites increase revenue, lower costs, and improve customer experience by cutting down the number of choices presented to their customers. A good example would be that of Procter and Gamble deciding to go from 26 to 15 different kinds of Head & Shoulders, which increased sales by 10%. One way to reduce supply is to ask your employees to describe the difference between two seemingly similar products. If they can’t, customers won’t be able to either. 

  1. Concretize.

In order to actually understand the difference between choices, customers must understand the consequences linked to each choice. Product Descriptions and product pages must be of high-quality for this reason. The product photography should feature the item from multiple angles, being used (this helps shoppers imagine how it would fit into their lives), next to “reference” items that establish the size of the product, and so forth.

  1. More categories lead to lesser choices.

We can handle more categories than we can handle certain choices. For example, the selection of magazines in a supermarket were seen as both bigger and better when 400 papers were divided into 40 different categories, than when 600 newspapers were divided into 20 different categories. Categories help us separate things. It is therefore important that they are made to say something to the person who makes the choice (the customer).

  1. Smarter e-store navigation. 

Most online stores default to category-based navigation. That works really well for some stores but if your product categories are broad (e.g. shirts, pants, socks), or your customers have complete information about the products you’re selling, category-based navigation isn’t that helpful. That is because we generally don’t think of products in terms of discrete categories. We think of them in terms of what we hope to accomplish by buying them. For example, if a store divides printers into laser and inkjet, that does nothing to help anyone but the most expert shoppers make a decision. Instead, mapping your store navigation to different needs, benefits, or user personas is more helpful.

The bottom line is, if you reduce complexity and confusion for your customers, it smooths the way to increased consideration, higher engagement and more revenue generated. It takes a brave marketer to execute most of these ideas but the fact that they have been successfully implemented by most brands confirms that it’s worth a try!

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