Ah! I can't decide!

various jars of fruit jam

Too many choices can lead to purchase paralysis.

Choosing the colour of your new Kitchenaid mixer, the style of your next iPhone case or what flavour of ice cream to buy is usually a fun part of the shopping experience. But can choice also be a bad thing? A study suggests that too many options can lead to overthinking, indecision and sadly, leaving without making a decision, or a purchase.

In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper published a study that would disprove the assumption that more choices are better. The hypothesis being that the more choices you offer, the more customers you are likely to please.

The study...
They set up a tasting display of exotic jams at an upscale food market.
1. Shoppers saw a display with 24 varieties of gourmet jam.
2. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table with only 6 varieties of the jam.

Results...
Although more people were attracted to the large display than the small one, people who saw the small display purchased more often than the ones who saw the large one.

"Nearly 30% of the consumers in the limited-choice condition subsequently purchased a jar of Wilkin & Sons jam; in contrast, only 3% of the consumers in the extensive-choice condition did so." - Iyengar and Lepper, When Choice is Demotivating.

One thing is for sure, we enjoy having choices because it gives us a sense of control and satisfaction once we've made our decision. However, offering too many choices can make us become overwhelmed by the thought of making the right choice. Many choices means taking more time to examine and compare. Over time, that initial feeling of excitement slowly dwindles down, leading us to eventually walk out the door without making a purchase.

When contemplating the number of options you want to offer to your customers, remember this study and make sure you don't overwhelm your customers with too many choices.

Morty Silber, CEO

Mad Strategies Inc.
a Wizard of Ads Partner