Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “You can never have too many shoes!”?
Well, that just might not be true.
Popular psychology indicates that you CAN have too many choices – of just about anything, including shoes.
The Father of the American automobile, Henry Ford, knew this concept well.
So way back in 1902, the rise of the motor car was in full swing – in Europe that is. That year, only 314 cars had been produced in America – while France had mass produced over 23,000 cars!
Wow – now that’s quite the output difference!
The man credited with working out how to create a mass market for cars here in America was Henry Ford. He started with the premise that for more people to be able to afford cars, cars needed to be cheaper. This idea sounds simple enough, but in reality, it meant bringing the cost of a car down from around $4000 (twice the average annual income) to less than $1000.
In 1908, Ford introduced the "assembly line" for motor vehicle construction here in the US. And the first car model to be produced on the production line was … you guessed it - the Model T. But Ford didn’t offer his customers a myriad of customizable choices of his new automobile.
In fact, he was quoted as stating, “People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black”.
Why just black?
Was the black color Henry’s favorite?
Did he have some Illuminati-inspired plan for everyone to be driving around in matched cars?
Did Ford Motor Company only have access to black automobile paint?
No, no, and no.
You see, the Model T only came in black because spraying different colors would have required a break in the production line, meaning increased costs, more staff, more equipment, a more complicated process, and the risk of the wrong color being applied. It would have cost Ford more money (sticker price and manufacturing costs) – not good for a pioneering start-up like Ford motor.
But truth is, too many choices – like eighty-five different color options for your new Vespa – may make it hard for consumers to complete the 5 stages of purchasing decision and “just buy the darn thing!”
Less Choices = More Sales
So let’s look at how limiting options (aka choices) can actually improve your sales…
Have you ever heard of paralysis by analysis?
Maybe you’ve even experienced it.
I know I still encounter such an “Oh gosh, so many choices!” moment on a regular basis, especially with my Google searches.
Well, it turns out too many choices can paralyze consumers’ purchasing decision. People want purchasing processes to be as stress-free and possible, and adding too many choices can turn something that should have been simple – like selecting a car color – into something overwhelming.
Today we’re going to take a look at a research study demonstrating this consumer phenomenon.
Bottom line: 100+ options isn’t always a good thing.
The Somewhat Infamous Jam Study
In 1995, Professor Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and her research assistants set up a booth of samples of Wilkin & Sons jams in a California gourmet market.
The results were surprising:
Whoa – 30 vs. 3 percent!
What a difference. Sounds like the small assortment wins!
After the study, Dr. Iyengar concluded “…the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory, but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.”
So whether you’re marketing Model T’s or gourmet jams, the takeaway message here is that more is not always better. In fact, as we concluded from Iyengar’s Jan Study, offering lots of choices can actually decrease sales – not good.
Marketers need to keep the options simple. Don’t overload your customers with too many choices, as too many choices can lead to less sales. More is not always better!
About Hannah Becker:
Becker Digital is a full-service Marketing and Public Relations Agency dedicated to empowering mission-driven organizations to reach their goals. We apply our expertise in community development, social media strategy, and public relations to connect organizational clients with today’s always-scrolling online users.