The fewer the choices you offer, the more you will sell.

paradox of choice in supermarketWe like choices.

In fact, one of the cornerstones of a democracy is our right and our freedom to make choices. We vote for the leaders we want. We choose where to live. We choose the church we go to. Or we choose not to go to church at all.

We also like all the choices we have as consumers.

We like to be able to go to a 16-screen movie theatre, so we can choose the movie we want to see. We like to have hundreds of TV channels to choose form, instead of just three or four.

As marketers and copywriters, we could be forgiven for believing that our prospects and customers will respond positively if we offer them as many choices as possible.

And up to a certain point, people do like choices when they decide to buy something.

But all is not as it seems. More choice doesn’t actually lead to increased sales. In fact, we can easily become confused and even irritated when faced with too many choices.

I know for myself that when I’m looking for shampoo in a supermarket, my grumpy-meter starts to redline when I look at shelves stacked with dozens or even hundreds of choices. What I ready want is a small shelf, with one bottle and a label that says, “Regular Guy Shampoo”.

The other downside of having too many choices is that it increases buyer’s remorse. I bought an Android phone, but maybe the iPhone is better. I booked a vacation in Mexico, but maybe the one in Costa Rica would have been better. I picked up the sundried tomato salad dressing, but maybe the roasted garlic one would have been better.

This is odd. We love to have plenty of choices, but also become confused when faced with too many choices.

There is some solid psychology behind this. If you want to, you can learn all about it in an excellent book by Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.

This paradox of choice has a direct bearing on how successful your sales pages are, either offline or online.

A few years back I was involved in some testing of a sales page for a fairly expensive subscription service. We figured that while some of our prospects would have enough money to buy a full year’s subscription in one shot, others would be better able to manage a quarterly or monthly payment option.

We offered all three options in the usual way. That is to say, the total payable was lowest if you paid in one shot, more if you paid quarterly and more still if you paid monthly.

You would think our prospects would appreciate the variety of choices. But testing showed that they didn’t. Offering three choices depressed our conversion rates.

Was it the number of choices, or the prices? Hard to say. So we made the final price the same across all three options. But that didn’t help our conversion rates. It wasn’t the prices that people didn’t like, it was the complexity of the choice we asked them to make.

As soon as we removed the quarterly option, and brought the choice down to annual or monthly, conversion rates went up. This was even true when we upped the price of the monthly option.

The paradox of choice is also true when you offer multiple levels of service, between Free and Pro or Enterprise, for example. If you offer too many, people’s eyes glaze over and they don’t know which to choose. And if they choose one from a large range of choices, they might soon worry they should have chosen one of the other options.

Something similar happens when you apply scarcity or deadlines. Woot.com sells only one product per day, and sells it only until 11:59PM. They do well because they make the choice simply – buy this one item right now, or don’t. The choice is simple, not complicated.

Prospects are most likely to buy when you actually limit their choices. Give them just one or two choices, and make them buy it now. Choose it or lose it.

In some ways, in a world where we appear to love being spoiled for choice, this is confusing. Yes, it’s a paradox.

Do some testing with your own copy and offers, and you will likely find that reducing people’s choices will increase your sales and revenues.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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3 thoughts on “The fewer the choices you offer, the more you will sell.

  1. Great article, Nick! This is one of those counter-intuitive notions that can make a huge difference in results. thanks!

  2. This has really made me think -even more- about editing down my list of services to A: The ones I enjoy providing the most, and B. the ones the clients keep coming back for. I guess many of us think that by offering more options we’re more likely to increase our chance of to make a sale.

    In some cases that may be true-say in a restaurant-when you’ve already taken a table. Although the menu’s over packed and overwhelming, you’ll choose something and eat. You kind of have too. You sat down, your committed already. But I can imagine that potential clients for your business can scared off my excessive amounts of choice. Or worst still, imagine you can’t do ALL of those things you offer ‘well’…and leave to find a guy who ‘specialises’. Great article, and food for thought. Thanks

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