I'm one of those people who tend to disassociate in the face of abundance. If I was a superhero, "too many choices" might be my kryptonite. Turns out I'm not alone.
In a TED video about the "art of choosing," psycho-economist Sheena Iyengar describes my deer-in-headlights paralysis as "choice overload." According to Iyengar's research, Americans make an average of 70 choices a day.
We're often overwhelmed with the task of comparing and contrasting prospective choices. The more we have to weigh, the harder we have to lift. And if the choices aren't presented to encourage smoother decision making, choosing is all the harder. Under these circumstances you can end up making an unsatisfying decision. Or no decision at all.
Iyengar had me thinking of the ways choice overload relates to content development and merchandising. The connection is pretty clear: to go shopping is to make a series of choices, and those choices are influenced by how product content is (or isn't) presented.
Though we can't always control the frequency of making choices, we can make the process easier.
Iyengar offers some useful points in her TED talk, which I suspect she also presents beautifully in her book, The Art of Choosing. I'd like to spotlight her four techniques for helping manage choices and how they might translate to smoother "choosing" experiences for online shoppers.
CUT: Get rid of redundant options like too many similar products. And limit repetitious information, which can lead to cluttered product pages and overwhelmed shoppers. From an SEO angle, cutting or reworking redundant content can improve your search result rankings.
CONCRETIZE: A challenge of online shopping is that you can't hold the product in your hand. Compensate for this by presenting your product three-dimensionally. Explain features and benefits clearly so shoppers see how your doodad stands out from the others. And use images and other media so shoppers have an accurate, concrete view of the product.
CATEGORIZE: Iyengar says people can "handle more categories than they can choices." When you have multiple variations on an item, help shoppers discern the differences by creating categories and filters. This provides a way for shoppers to narrow the pool of possible purchases and reduces choice overload.
CONDITION: Using the example of an automaker selling customized cars, Iyengar describes how a selection process beginning with the fewest choices (4 gear shifts) yielded better shopper engagement and lower fatigue rates than the process starting with many choices (56 color options). The point? We can handle complex decisions, but we need to be primed for them. When dealing with complex or custom products, start small to give shoppers time to digest their choices.
Levi's Curve ID "Fit Finder," an online questionnaire that helps you find flattering jeans to fit your body type, illustrates the four above techniques. The graphics, pithy descriptions, and user-friendly interface create a relatively smooth choosing experience. If you've ever found yourself standing in front of a massive wall of impeccably folded jeans in cubby holes wondering where to start, you'll probably appreciate this guide. Try it out for yourself.
By improving customers' choosing experiences, we can allay overload and increase customer satisfaction and sales.