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Too many choices may cost you sales.

The paradox of choice is a book and a debate raised by author and psychologist Barry Schartz back in 2005, where he raised the issue of too many choices leading to indecisive buyers, poor expectations, over expectations and overall complication in today’s modern lifestyle. Studies have been done which support these theories and even more studies have been done, which disprove these theories, but this paradox of choice can and will affect your marketing efforts as an affiliate marketer and online business owner.

Will the Paradox of Choice cost you money?

What is the paradox of choice

The world we live in has become excessive when providing us with choices. There are hundreds and thousands of variations of products and services and combinations of those products and services all there to supposedly improve our lives. More choices equals more freedom, equals more wealth or something like that. We as consumers love the fact that we can choose from 100+ brands of peanut butter or the 20+ different colours for our new sofa. These choices make us unique, make us feel that we bought what we wanted, as we wanted it and how we want it to represent out individuality. The problem is, that when faced with so many choices, we also set ourselves up for disappointment. The below video is a little long, but explains this beautifully…

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

A ‘True Story‘ that inspired this post

Have you ever tried to organise a company social event for a large group?

At the beginning of the month, my wife asked me if I would be prepared to help out at their company and do the cooking for their team building event. I said yes (I have past experience) and was astounded by how many times the menu changed in the short period I was involved, prior to the event date. After inquiring, my wife told me that the venue and the menu had been changed several times before she’d even approached me too get involved. When I asked why; it all boiled down to the staff being given too many choices…

Initially, the event organiser had asked the group where they would like to go (make suggestions) and what kind of food they’d prefer to eat. No matter what some of the group recommended, their choices didn’t suite other members of the group. Venues that were nearby for some, were too far away for others. Food choices that appealed to most weren’t suitable to others and activities being planned were too strenuous for some and not exciting enough for others.

The fact that they were allowed to choose had apparently stalled this particular groups social event for almost an entire year. Eventually my Wife’s Boss told the group they were having the event at a premises that was walking distance from the office. He told them they were having a Braai (BBQ) and he told them they were having Lamb Chops, Chicken Kebabs and Chicken Wings with an assortment of salads. All the food would be Halal (the group includes a few Muslim’s) and anyone that didn’t like it, could stay at work.

Basically, once the individual choices where taken away, they were able to have the function, which had been planned and postponed several times already because it didn’t suite someone’s choice. At the end of the day, they all had fun and the event was a success. Had they been left with choices, it was doubtful that this event would have taken place at all. Bottom line is: They had 2x choices…
Take what was on offer or stay in the office and work.

At the actual event, it was the event organiser that mentioned the phrase: The Paradox of Choice to me while discussing the above events. The Blogger in me I immediately thought this was a great blog topic and to my surprise; I found this was in fact a publication by the already mentioned Barry Schartz.

How these ‘choices’ negatively affect affiliate marketers

As online business owners, we work in an environment where things happen quickly. People are bombarded with offers and choices via e-mail, ad banners, on their mobile devices, within Skype or other IM Chat Applications. People want to make a quick, informed decision and move on, yet by offering users choices affiliate marketers or online business owners can in fact loose a sale instead of making a sale. Generally what happens when you give a user too many choices, is that they over analyse the options/features available to the point of ‘Analyses Paralysis’; they get overwhelmed with all the information and instead of taking action, they decide to think about it and come back later. In most cases, they don’t come back!

Even if they do make a decision later, most won’t remember where they initially found the information. After all, they saw an Advert or Link somewhere online, followed it, read the info, got overwhelmed with the choices and closed their browser without bookmarking the page. Lets face it; a simple Google Search will get them back to the product/service they were looking for and it will in all likelihood not be your page, but that of a competitor or probably the vendors page, resulting in you NOT getting commission.

The flip-side > Offering more choices

In 2009 a post on titled: Is the Paradox of Choice Not So Paradoxical After All? goes into detail on the different arguments regarding the paradox of choice and it is well worth reading to get insight on the other side of this debate.

To summarise what the above mentioned post surmises, is that offering a lot of choices is in fact a good thing as it empowers your potential clients with making an educated decision before buying.

In my opinion there is a time and place for both and if your online business is in the eCommerce Space or even an Amazon type affiliate store, then I’d have to agree with the fact that you need to offer choices. In this space, people want and expect choices; if you don’t offer choices, you will not get any sales. This is a completely different business model and since behaviour is different, so too is the expectation and reaction to choices…

Let’s face it, if you were to setup an Amazon Affiliate Store and only offer One product in One Colour at One Price; you would be wasting your time. What about an online shoe store only offering one pair of shoes in brown and size 7 – It’s not going to work!

Online Marketing and limiting choices

If you have been online for any period of time, I’m sure you have seen and heard of things like Squeeze Pages (optin pages) and Sales Pages. These are the tools of choice (excuse the pun) for the vast majority of successful online marketers and product vendors. The reason for this is because they work and they work because they don’t offer users any other choice but that of the required action.

A Squeeze Page (or Optin Page) is specifically and purpose designed to do ONE thing and ONE thing only and that is to get the user to sign-up onto an e-mail list. If a potential lead faces a Squeeze Page he can do one of two things:

  1. Sign-up for the offer
  2. Don’t Sign-up (by leaving the page)

A Sales Page is setup to do a similar thing… It presents the potential customer with the option to buy the product on offer. There may be one or two price point options, but other than the legal requirements, there are no other links pointing anywhere else. Again, you have two choices…

  1. Buy the Product
  2. Don’t Buy the Product (leave the page)

A good sales page is written with the sole purpose of enticing the potential customer to buy a specific product. There are no choices to look at different products or to buy upgrades etc. The product may have upgrades, but these are handled on their own page within the sales funnel. Personally, I hate Sales Funnels, but the simple fact is that they work.

If you have an e-mail autoresponder sequence to promote products/services to your subscribers, then, only offer ONE product (or service) within any single mail sent. You can insert your affiliate link in varying formats, but discuss only one topic and ensure that it’s linked to only one related product.

eg. If your topic is about WordPress security, include a link to ONE Security Product/Service

Comparison Shopping and Choices

Again, on the other side of the fence, is comparison shopping where one has to highlight different options. For example; you may be informing your users about different WordPress Directory Themes available. In such circumstances you would need to showcase the different themes on offer and let you users view all these themes, giving them the choice to choose. Again, this is a different approach requiring a different result where choices are critical. I personally intend doing posts of this type in the near future as I feel these can have a very positive result to my future affiliate commissions. Another angle is doing review posts where you compare one product against another, give the end-user two or three choices of a related product. In this instance the choices are available but limited to a niche product/service. DO NOT offer choices of unrelated products/services!

Example: One of my clients asked me to build them a Landing Page for their new online business. However, when I learned of his strategy, I was shocked to hear that he wanted me to build a page offering 4x completely unrelated affiliate products. The product line up included a Financial Product, an Insurance Product, a Social Media Product and a Gaming Product. I told client, who is also a friend, that this won’t work but he is still instant I do it (which I will; if I don’t knock some sense into him first).

Take a look at the above example from a potential customer’s point of view. You see an advert about a Financial Product and it directs you to a landing page, where you expect to see a professional offer for a Financial Product (the product you saw advertised). Now you are faced with a page that gives you 4x unrelated choices… One is the product you were interested in, but do you trust a company or vendor selling Financial products on the same page as Games (or Social Media stuff too).

What will most likely happen, is a loss of trust and in 90% or more of cases that sale is lost. Also lost is the time or revenue spent to get that visitor to the page in the first place. Limit the choices and if you have to offer choices, make sure they are related offers (i.e. in this example; 4x financial products/services could work).

Conclusion: When if comes to the paradox of choice, you need to consider both approaches based on your business model. I don’t believe any one argument is 100% correct and that both are valid arguments. Personally, I think that if you want a specific action carried out only offer one choice (eg. Optin Form). If the choices you are presenting can confuse, overwhelm or intimidate a potential buyer; only offer one choice. If you are offering choices, make sure the products or services are related. Nothing will disrupt your business as much as giving your potential clients a mix of unrelated choices.

p.s. Once again, I’d like to hear your thoughts, so please comment below.

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 Posted on : 02/11/2015 - Last updated on Nov 1, 2015

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