• Larissa Lewis

Are you losing sales by giving customers too much information?

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

Our brains make nearly 35,000 decisions a day - and wading through endless product features to determine why your offering is worth it will not make the cut. Your website should help customers through the process of making the best choice, not assign them a hefty research project. Let’s look at some of the best ways to help customers through the decision-making process!

The truth is clear; yet many businesses still choose to ignore it. Businesses frequently assume that by offering more information and choices it will make their customers (or potential customers) happier. It’s easy to assume that by providing 20 cell phones in a product line that there will be “something for everyone!” But in fact, it’s quite the opposite! When faced with a large offering of product options or data-points, customers are increasingly likely to do exactly what you don’t want them to do- abandon the decision-making process entirely and not buy anything at all. Yes, you can give too much information.

The interesting read, “The Art of Choosing” outlines how psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper tested this exact point. In this classic experiment, the researchers set-up two display tables at a local market, both sampling jams and both providing a $1 coupon off your choice of flavor. The difference between the two displays was that one offered 24 jams, while the other table offered only 6 different flavors of jam. While the table with a larger variety attracted more interest, fewer customers ended up making a purchase. Shockingly, 30% of customers who visited the smaller table ultimately decided to buy a jam, while a mere 3% of those faced with a daunting 24 options decided to buy! How do we apply this key finding to highly-technical offerings?

A product may have one hundred amazing features and specs, but that won’t close the sale. Instead, the right handful of features positioned as the answer to a customer need or solution to a problem is far more effective.

Even though ‘choice’ may sound like a compelling offer, it can actually drive the brain into an overwhelmed state where someone may feel as though no decision is the right one - so why bother at all? Similarly, a website that is simply an ‘information dump’ is as exhausting as wading through a heap of product offerings.

Think more is always better? Too many product options overwhelm customers and negatively influence their decision to buy.

It’s crazy to assume that most customers will do this brain-exhausting research! Simply put, most customers will not click around every choice on your website, wade through a long list of features, or self-compare technical minutiae to conclude which choice is right for them. Instead, you need to consider what customer need a particular data-point satisfies. A product may have one hundred amazing features and specs, but that won’t close the sale. Instead, the right handful of features positioned as the answer to a customer need or solution to a problem is far more effective.

Think of your website as a conversation. If you’re speaking face-to-face with someone, you’re unlikely to inundate them with numbers, figures and disconnected stats off the top of your head. So why would you do that on your website? To better connect in person you might ask, “so what kinds of photography are you into?”, or if discussing a new battery that works even in the lowest of temperatures, ”what weather conditions do you work in during the winter?”  Think of your website as the digital version of an in-person conversation between a potential customer and yourself or your best salesperson.

Your website should help customers through the process of making the best choice, not assign them a hefty research project.

What kinds of tools can we use on our website to replicate the powerful in-person conversations that assist customers through their decision-making process?

A popular way to sort your products by customer need instead of product specs, is with a product selector or quiz that puts your customer first. These are tools that ask questions about the customer in order to whittle down the list of suggested products. Instead of radio buttons asking “do you want a bulb that is 10 lumens, 15 lumens, 100 lumens or 500 lumens?”, a quick quiz provides options for the customer to pick from, depending on conditions the product might be used under. “Do you need this for reading a menu in a dark restaurant, an emergency flashlight for the house, for outdoor walkway lamps or to run on darkened trails at night?”

People love answering questions about themselves. So much so, sites like Buzzfeed have built entire business models on it, humorously providing readers quizzes like, “Answer these questions and we’ll reveal if Tom Holland will Marry You”and “Go shopping for snacks at Target and we’ll guess which ice cream flavor is your favorite.” Although these are amusing cases, here are some quizzes that walk customers through a set of questions to cut down large offerings of complex products into a streamlined list tailored to their needs.

Brooks: Shoe Finder

I’ll admit that you’ve probably seen this example from us before; but as a runner, it is one of my favorite examples. Instead of just letting me click aimlessly around the site and self-research which shoes are good for running on the roads as opposed to trails, or which are good for low arches or high arches, Brooks asks relevant questions like  “Where do you want to run?”, and “In the past six months, have you had any pain or injuries in these areas?” Their questions are conversational, and while I’m happily answering questions about my running, the quiz is eliminating bad choices from my list of recommendations.

Canon: Find the Perfect Lens

Have products that are upgrades to something the customer already owns? This guide from camera manufacturer, Canon, results in a list of lenses that work best for my unique needs. It starts by asking what camera model I presently own, then asks what kind of photography I am interested in shooting. Instead of listing out a self-aggrandizing long list of lens models to sift through (EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM! EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM! EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM!), they translate tech-y features into easy-to-answer questions that are important to me.

Cisco: Small and Medium-Sized Business Product Selector

Sorting through networking, security and collaborative tools for my business might seem like a daunting task. Cisco knows that customers might not know what they’re looking for; as one of their questions asks if my company has an internal IT team at the ready or if I go it alone. In my case, going it alone means I might need a little more help when it comes to Cisco products. Their quiz is straightforward and easy-to-follow, making this highly-technical product offering feel more curated just to my individual needs.

Command: Are you Decorating or Organizing?

If you’ve been to a Target home improvement aisle, you’ve likely seen the long display of Command hooks, each with a different weight capacity. Instead of translating that long aisle into an equally long digital list for the web, Command starts by asking about my general project. I might not know that I need a hook for 4-5 lbs, but I do know if I am looking to “organize my space”, “hang cleaning tools and supplies”, and then, more specifically, if I’m looking to “hang a mop or a broom.”

After the jam study, Iyengar continued on to say, “When consumers say they want more choice, more often than not, they actually want a better choosing experience.” Perhaps if the jam study started out with a representative asking what customers were planning to use the jam for (croissants, bagels, etc.) and then asked if they preferred sweet or tangy jams, the 24-jam display table would have seen greater sales results.

Providing the right product recommendations is the key to closing a sale. It is important to make the shift towards conversing with our customers about what matters to them, rather than simply talking up product data points.


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