More Choice = Fewer PurchasesMay 21st, 2012
Lots of choice may seem like a good thing, but it won't make people buy more of your stuff.
Ten years ago, researchers at Columbia and Stanford Universities published the results of experiments in which they studied the effects of choice on action. They discovered that when people are given limited choices, they are more likely to take action (making purchases or writing essays, in the study) than they are if they are given an 'overwhelming' number of choices.
(The study has become a little famous as 'The Jam Study' - because the first experiment they did involved 24 different types of Wilkins & Sons jam - and you can read the full text here.)
I've read the study - so you don't have to! - and while I think it has some limitations (small sample size, relatively trivial situations, and simplistic decision-making models), there are some other interesting conclusions:
- People who were given no choice were less happy with what they were given than people who were permitted to make choices
- Consumers' stated preferences were for more choice. However, when they were given more choices, they became less satisfied with their selection
- People can find choosing among 'too many' alternatives to be both 'enjoyable and overwhelming' simultaneously
What this means for B2B marketing
I work with a lot of SMB (small/medium business) companies. I'm often called in when they want to do a new (or first) website, and this coincides with a redefinition of their value proposition and service offerings.
One of the biggest problems I encounter is that many SMBs - even the ones which have had some success - have a really hard time narrowing down the number of services they want to offer. Even when they know that 85% of their business comes from one or two specific service offerings, they're afraid that if they don't throw in all the other things they can do (or could do, if only they found a client to offer them to), they'll somehow miss out on a Big Opportunity and leave money on the table.
Except that when you try to put every possible service offering on your website, or try to make your value proposition too inclusive ("We help people"), you simply end up overwhelming your potential clients - and driving business away.
Things to keep in mind:
Limited choice is a positive influencer of action and satisfaction: It's a good idea to communicate that you can provide more than one service. In a B2B SMB environment, I'd suggest that it's probably very important to offer more than one service, or your potential customers might think that you're too limited to become a strategic partner in the long term.
Too much choice causes frustration: The Jam Study saw a high correlation between 'overwhelming choice' and 'frustration', even when the consumers liked the products/options they were given. When it comes to B2B services, which involve products and services much less inherently enjoyable than the jam and chocolate used in the study, the potential for business-killing frustration becomes greater. If you're selling something that already tends to cause frustration or anxiety - photocopier maintenence, computer repair, financial services - you want to make your choices as simplified as possible.
More choice = less opportunity for the 'Aha!' moment: When you're creating marketing for any channel, you want the target to see the message and immediately say "Aha! This is the right product/service/company for me!" When the consumer is instead faced with an interminable list of possible services, you reduce the chances that they'll immediately see that you deliver the one they're looking for.
Too much choice leads to a muddled message: I've written before about the importance of clarity when it comes to your message. The #1 barrier to a clear message is trying to accommodate 8 million service offerings in one value proposition or on a homepage. Concentrate on your core competency and you'll do better at getting your message across.
Remember: There's nothing to stop you from expanding the services you sell in the long run, but it's easier to gradually introduce existing clients to new products and services over time than to try to hit them with everything you've got all at once and risk driving them away.
Permalink | Tags | Comments