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Overcoming analysis paralysis

Do you ever feel the modern world gives us too much choice? Which Netflix film shall we watch next? Which similar looking phone should I buy? How can I choose a pizza when there’s 50 of them on the menu?

Decision making paralysis (also known as ‘Analysis Paralysis’) is becoming ever more common. Experiments have shown how having too much choice can actually make people less likely to buy.

Analysis Paralysis was most famously illustrated by the The Jam Experiment carried out at Stanford University.

One day at a local market 24 types of jam were offered on display. On another day only six were shown. Even though the biggest display attracted more interest, sales were almost ten times better with six jams available.

People were simply more likely to buy when they had fewer options to choose from.

The Jam Experiment shows us that too much choice reduces conversion.

Digital dithering

Online commerce makes the situation worse. Web users are more likely to leave the purchasing process when they’re overwhelmed. And for many that means the moment is gone and the purchase is never made.

So what can you do about it?

We believe that the answer is effective web design. Creating an experience where your customer quickly understands their choices, and therefore confusion or dithering, are less likely to occur.

We’ve got four suggestions for overcoming Analysis Paralysis on your website:

Hide your less popular choices

It might seem counter-intuitive. You want to show everything to everyone at the same time. It doesn’t feel right to relegate some products to another page. But it will increase sales.

Show the things you know are popular, and then make it easier for the user to explore other options in more depth. Have an expand button or simply ‘See more options’. For every option you remove, the rest become more prominent and are more likely to sell.

For example, our client Lexus has a large number of models and grades of cars. Rather than showing all variants to the customer, we initially display the primary models. This allows customers to then dig deeper should they wish.

Give them a nudge

This requires ‘choice architecture’, where you decide what to show and how – considering the layout, sequence, range and design – to help customers make decisions. It uses the principles of Nudge Marketing: influencing decisions indirectly through suggestion and reinforcement.

Motivations such as loss aversion, fear of missing out and association can help shape behaviour. There’s nothing underhand about this, but rather it’s allowing people to make simpler decisions by making some choices easier than others.

For instance, working with LNER we simplified the ticket buying process and included information - such as seats remaining - to help people make their ticket choice. It was a light nudge but also a useful pointer.

Make suggestions

Why not create a user journey where the customer tells you what they're looking for? That means you can direct them to the right product or a much more limited range of choices. Ask them: ‘What kind of socks are you looking for?’ or ‘Which colour would you like to wear?’. It will save users time and make them feel like they’re choosing a product based on logic.

Avoid information overload

Too much information can further pack your customer’s brain with confusion. Our short term memory holds only seven items and just one more can make a big difference. Try and limit your page navigation to five items so visitors are less likely to miss important links.

If you're describing your products then keep it simple and highlight the salient facts. It should be easy at a glance to see what the benefit of buying might be. If you really want to provide a 200 word description of your socks then make that an option for those who are genuinely interested.

In summary, keep it simple. 

We advise our clients to optimise their websites by rationalising product ranges, giving products and services room to breathe. Limit the initial choices, but also provide the option to explore more choices, if they’re available. It might seem paradoxical, but sometimes less is more.

— Claire Robinson, Customer Experience Director

If you'd like to discuss how we can remove analysis paralysis from your website then get in touch, using the form below.

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