With so much data and so many technologies available to help enhance the digital experience, there’s a tendency for brands to throw everything at their consumers and see what sticks. The logic behind this approach has traditionally been based on the assumption that consumers want choice. More choice is always preferable. But is it really?
There’s growing evidence to suggest that the opposite may in fact be true. Choice may be valuable, but too much choice can be detrimental to a good experience. In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper from Columbia and Stanford Universities published a study about consumer decision making when purchasing jams. They found that, while a large selection of 24 types of jam initially generated more interest, people were actually far more likely to purchase a jar of jam from the small display with just 6 choices than from the large display with 24 choices of jam. Iyengar and Lepper noted that as both the number of options and the information about them increases, people react by focusing on fewer choices and processing a smaller fraction of the total information available.
Clicktale’s own consumer research supports this idea, showing that an abundance of choice can lead to a lower propensity to buy. For example, when testing two different versions of the same product page (one with rich product details and the other with only basic information), we discovered dramatic differences. Customers visiting the page with only a limited set of variables and a very short description were more likely to convert. Clicktale’s results also show that streamlining the number of options provided to customers is particularly effective for “nice-to-have” products, such as chocolate as opposed to functional products (e.g. mortgage).
What are the implications of these findings for brands looking to build great digital experiences? The first one is the need to “declutter” all customer touchpoints and allow visitors to see the information about products and services that they really need to achieve their goals.
The second is to strike the right balance between offering enough choice and providing convenience. Consumers will always demand choice but they will also seek out focused, timely and helpful information. A good digital experience means understanding consumers well enough to know which choices will enhance their experience and which will leave them confused, disoriented and less open to a purchase.
The key here is the need to develop a deeper understanding of customer behavior and intentions. This includes uncovering how a customer interacted with a digital touchpoint in the past, and where the stumbling blocks were. These insights can then shape the development of the digital customer journey as well as the overall experience. But this only happens when brands commit to understanding their digital customers on a more human level and make understanding behavioral data a strategic element of building a great digital experience.