Imagine you are pushing the shopping cart down the aisle at your local supermarket. As you round the corner you see the free sample table.
Unbeknownst to you, this is a classic research experiment by researchers at Columbia and Stanford (read original research here (PDF)) to determine how the number and complexity of choices we give to customers affects their purchasing behavior.
At a grocery store they set up a free sample table.
On the table they had a display of 24 jars of jam. They tracked how many people visited the table. They gave those folks a coupon for a discount off the purchase of the jam. Then they tracked how many people went on to purchase the jam.
They then repeated the experiment with a table of 6 jars of jam. Again tracking the numbers of people at each stage.
Which table do you think attracted the most visitors? It was the table with twenty four jars of jam.
That begs the question, which table lead to the most sales?
The table with six jars of jam.
In fact, the people that visited table with six jars of jam were ten times more likely to purchase than those that visited the table with twenty four jars of jam, even though both had been equally encouraged to make the purchase through a discount incentive.
The people that visited the table with twenty four jars of jam were just so overwhelmed with the number of choices that they simply walked away without making a purchase decision.
Likewise, your customers are overwhelmed by the amount of choices you are giving to them. How many of your customers are simply giving up and walking away?
Try experimenting with the number of options you give to customers at any one time. Reduce the number of choices and you’ll help more people arrive at the point of sale.