Freedom from Too Many Choices

Robyn Greenspan

Updated · Mar 27, 2002

There’s no better marketplace than the Internet. If you need authentic Polish cucumbers in brine, a fender for your 1972 Pontiac Catalina, genuine tartan blankets from Scotland, an out-of-print novel, or a love connection, you’re likely to find it somewhere in cyberspace.

Shoppers that have very specific needs, such as the aforementioned ones, often have an easier time finding merchandise online than customers that browse through pages of goods looking for the “perfect” gift or just something to satisfy a shopping craving. Online shoppers are often presented with so many buying decisions they are likely to purchase nothing at all rather than exert the brainpower; a head-spinning assortment of products can defeat the purpose of online shopping convenience.

In fact, some research has indicated that consumers may actually want less, rather than more options. “Although extensive choice is initially more enticing than limited choice, limited choice is ultimately more motivating,” says Sheena S. Iyengar in “Choice and its Discontents.”

If your site presents page after page of product listings where visitors have to read, think, scroll, compare, scroll back, and read again, ad infinitum, they will likely become frustrated and click away in discouragement. Simplifying your site or arranging items in a matter that doesn’t overwhelm the customer can be done by using a series of selectors, whereby you present your customers with narrowed down choices that are based on their own criteria. Set up your Web store so customers can shop by gender, department, price, occasion, color, size, or any other method that pertains to your inventory.

Taking some items off your virtual shelves and rotating your stock is another method for limiting consumer choice. Make a thorough assessment of your product catalog and decide how much of any one thing you really need to sell. If a customer is not looking for something specific or the items presented don’t immediately result in an impulse or emotional purchase, too many choices may not be such a good thing. Do you really need to offer six sweaters of slightly varying shades of green, nine different types of bottled water, or calculators by 15 manufacturers?

Reprinted from ECommerce Guide.

Robyn Greenspan
Robyn Greenspan

Robyn Greenspan, an independent researcher and speaker, is interested in innovation, market trends and information technology. She was a participant in the AI Summit and also took part in the IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing, International SOA Symposium series and the International Cloud Symposium series. She graduated from Temple University. She was previously the communications and research manager for the AMS, an internationally recognized professional association that advances knowledge in the IT and business management areas.