When coming up with variations of your product, it can be tempting to keep making more. After all, more choices mean that more people will find something they like, right?
In some cases that might be true, but most of the time fewer choices will lead to better outcomes.
A 2000 experiment from psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper helped to prove this. In their experiment, they were in a supermarket where they offered coupons for $1 off jam.
- One day, they had 24 varieties of jam, 145 stopped by to check them out, and 4 purchased.
- Another day, they had just six varieties of jam, 104 people stopped by, and 31 purchased — a nearly 10x improvement!
Following up on that experiment, from the Harvard Business Review:
Other studies have confirmed this result that more choice is not always better. As the variety of snacks, soft drinks, and beers offered at convenience stores increases, for instance, sales volume and customer satisfaction decrease. Moreover, as the number of retirement investment options available to employees increases, the chance that they will choose any decreases. These studies and others have shown not only that excessive choice can produce “choice paralysis,” but also that it can reduce people’s satisfaction with their decisions, even if they made good ones.
More than products
This goes beyond just selling jam. As I mentioned last year, reducing options on your website can have a huge impact on how people use it.
This only works to a point, though. I suspect if the psychologists had gone further and had a table with just one option for jam flavor, things wouldn’t have gone as well. Giving people some choices is helpful, but giving too many choices can be paralyzing.
In many cases, simply providing three options is often the right number. That said, it varies a lot depending on the situation, so play with various levels to what works best for you. For the web, this is why we spend time digging deep into Analytics to really see what works best. If you’re selling jam, the analytics can be a lot easier to measure but the impact can be just as great.