Actionable Optimisation #21 – The Paradox of Choice

 October 6, 2020

By  Will

Can Too Much Choice Be Damaging Conversion?

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The paradox of choice can be a frustrating one for marketers, especially with ecommerce.

You want to provide all the options to cater to all tastes, preferences and requirements, but by providing too many you can actually cause a conflict in the customers mind, and reduce the chance of a conversion.

Some choices are easy.

Customers know the size of clothing they need. So if you’re offering everything from XXS to XXL, you need not be concerned, because a customer will only likely be needing to decide between 2 different sizes.

Colours become slightly more complicated.

Customers will have certain colours they like, and some they dislike. Someone looking for a t-shirt may be happy to choose blue over red. The issue comes when you offer multiple variations of a colour. 

The customer was looking for a blue t shirt, but now they’re having to decide which blue will look best on them, and whether they blue being shown will really be that blue when it turns up.

Again, not a huge problem, people tend to have shades that they like and dislike.

So then comes ‘style’.

Then you ask them to choose the style of t shirt they want.  Is it v-neck or crew cut? Long sleeve or short sleeve, slim fit, long fit, baggy fit.

Some have obvious differences, and some may not. When the option is clearly labelled its a bit easier, but when a brand uses their own style name and doesn’t clearly outline the differences, this is where conflict is created.

This is where the customer begins to question their decision.

The key is decision simplicity.

Customers don’t want to have to think about their purchase, they don’t want to answer questions along the way.

Choosing their size isn’t a question.

Choosing a shade of blue is, and choosing between different ‘models’ is.

In the famous Jam example, Iyengar and Lepper found that 30% of customers made a purchase when presented with 6 options, but only 3% would purchase if there were 24 options.

Similarly, Proctor & Gamble found that decreasing the available choice of a product increased revenue by 10%.

Barry Schwartz, who wrote  the Paradox of Choice thesis provided several great examples of how reducing options and decisions increases sales. You can read more about it here on PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/is-the-famous-paradox-of-choic

It’s definitely worth asking the question of whether all these options are relevant and necessary, but as with everything...test and learn.

Paradox of Choice


Will is a Customer Journey Marketing consultant, specialising in CRO, CRM and Customer Experience. Will has over 7 years experience working across a range of consumer facing businesses and has worked for huge brands such as MyVoucherCodes, Europcar, JackpotJoy, Virgin Games and Virgin Bet.


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