Better Sales: How To Increase Sales by Offering LESS Choice

How To Increase Sales: Offer Less Choice

Who would have thought that offering less choice could actually increase sales?

Well it does and you don’t just have to take my word for it either, I’ve got a bit of research for you and a few examples to back it up.

You might also have heard me using one of my favorite quotations around here. Wow, I just had a look and I’ve cited this expression 3 times already (The Only Two Trends That Matter, 12 Kick-Ass Marketing Lessons From Al’s Tea Shoppe, How To Avoid Procrastination) – well that’s what I’m talking about here too – at the risk of wearing it out, here it is again:

The confused mind always says “No”

What can I say? I love a good quote.

So on to the examples then – I’m going to tell you about the jam experiment and about something that the strategy consultancy McKinsey discovered.

P.S. Here we’re obviously looking at things from a sales point of view, but from a consumer point of view having less choice does tend to help avoid procrastination

Offering Less Choice: The Jam Experiment

The Jam Experiment is a study conducted by a couple of students (Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper) at Columbia University exploring how we deal with choice.

In short, the experiment split shoppers into two groups – one group was shown a stall displaying 24 different flavors of jam, the other group was shown a stall displaying only 6 different flavors of jam.

Though there was very little difference in the taste testing, when it came to the sales stats for both of these market stalls, there was a 10-fold difference.

30% of those who visited the stall that offered only 6 choices actually purchased jam
3% of the people who visited the stall that offered 24 choices made purchases

You see – it’s the confused mind.

(couldn’t resist just one more time).

So even though people may shop around, and even test (as in this example) the goods where there is an abundance of choice, having too much choice seems to stifle their motivation to buy.

Here is one of the originators of that experiment, Sheena Iyengar giving a talk covering this experiment and a little more about how we make choices:

Making Choice Easier: 3 x 3 Choices Beat 9 Choices

A major consulting firm (I think it was Mckinsey) discovered that in strategy discussions with clients, rather than presenting the clients with 9 options if they instead presented them with 3 x 3 options (i.e. 3 options each with 3 sub-options = the same 9 options) then they got much better results.

i.e. by breaking one overwhelming choice of 9 possibilities down into two separate choices each with 3 possibilities, they significantly aided their clients decision making process.

I have had this research in the back of my mind for some time but unfortunately can’t say for sure where it came from. I’m pretty sure it’s Mckinsey but Google didn’t tell me when I tried to find out just now. If anyone reading this knows the origins of this research, please do let me know.

Marketing Takeaway: How Can You Use This Information?

So how can you use this information?

Easy peasy… and by the way, I happen to think this is actually something that we can use every day on several different levels.

Make it easier for your customer.

Give them less choice (Jam Experiment example) or at least make that choice easier for them (McKinsey research example).

P.S. You don’t have to be a business to use this either. This applies just as much to selling an idea as it does to selling a jar of jam.

Want someone to take action or make a decision? Make that decision as easy as you can for them or give them less choices.

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