OMP #49: The Role Of Choice In Buyer Behaviour

Customers love choice.  Most of us like the thought of a rainbow of options, all available immediately.  Companies who understand this offer us lots of choice so that we can buy exactly what suits us.

That’s why we may be presented with hundreds of choices if we want to buy a VW Beetle, or a Dell Laptop, or configure our phone with just the right ringtone.

However, as you know when you are hungry and are presented with a 200 item “Chinese menu”, sometimes choice can be a nuisance.  You just want food.  Now!

In fact, there is some interesting research about offering lots of choice that proves it can be counter-productive to a sale.

Researchers came up with a clever test.  They set up two jam displays for shoppers:


a.        The first display carried 6 standard flavours.

b.       The second contained 24 more unusual flavours such as “Little Scarlet”.


They then observed the stand most likely to attract the most customers – especially the paying ones.

Let me put it to you first:  Which stand was most likely to attract customers – the bigger or the smaller?

Correct – the one with the bigger, more unusual range.   Lots of choice.

In fact around 60% of customers stopped at the bigger display – whereas only 40% stopped at the display containing 6 jams.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the research so far, right?  A bigger display with more choice seems obviously more appealing.

However the next set of results were most interesting:

When they looked at how many customers purchased jams, the opposite effect was the case:

The display of 6 jams attracted a sale 30% of the time, whereas the display of 24 jams attracted a sale with just 3% of customers.

So customers like the allure of choice, but when it comes to share of wallet, less choice = more sales.

Is there a way you can use this information in your business?  Yes, of course there is!

The message is simple:  use a dazzling array of choice as the way to entice customers to your offering.  But then work calmly and efficiently to reduce the amount of choices until there is one that the customer really wants.

Via your skills of questioning, listening, observation of body language and your tenacity you will guide a purchaser through all the varieties onto the sensible choice that they will have difficulty saying “no” to.

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