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<title>Customers given too many choices are 10x less likely to buy </title>
<p>
For 10 years, Columbia professor <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/~ss957/">Sheena Iyengar</a> has been studying choice. For her research paper, “<a href="http://www.columbia.edu/~ss957/whenchoice.html">When Choice is Demotivating</a>”, they ran a great test:
</p><p>
They set up a free tasting booth in a grocery store, <strong>with six different jams. 40% of the customers stopped to taste. 30% of those bought some.</strong>
</p><p>
A week later, they set up the same booth in the same store, but this time <strong>with twenty-four different jams. 60% of the customers stopped to taste. But only 3% bought some!</strong>
</p><p>
Both groups actually tasted an average of 1.5 jams. So the huge difference in buying can't be blamed on the 24-jam customers being full. :-) Lessons learned:
</p>
<ol>
<li>Having many choices seems appealing (40% vs 60% stopped to taste)</li>
<li>Having many choices makes them 10 times less likely to buy (30% vs 3% actually bought)</li>
</ol>
<p>
Surgeon <a href="http://www.gawande.com/bio.htm">Atul Gawande</a> found that 65% of people surveyed said <em>if</em> they were to get cancer, they'd want to choose their own treatment. Among people surveyed who really <em>do</em> have cancer, only 12% of patients want to choose their own treatment.
</p><p>
So, if you ask your customers if they want extensive choice, they will say they do - but they really don't.
</p><p>
I recommend the book “<a href="http://sivers.org/book/ParadoxOfChoice">The Paradox of Choice</a>” if you're interested in this.
</p>
<h3>Where does this NOT apply?</h3>
<p>
In “preference matching” contexts, <strong>where people come looking for something they already know and prefer</strong>, extensive selection increases the likelihood they'll be successful in their search. (For example: a menu at a Chinese restaurant.)
</p><p>
Many tests have shown that <strong>when people are given some choice versus none</strong> (choosing between six possible activities versus being assigned an activity), having some choice increases motivation and enhances performance.
</p>
<h3>How do we use this info?</h3>
<p>
Online stores often offer too many choices on their front page. Lists of dozens of new arrivals, top sellers, sale items, and categories.
</p><p>
Artists showcasing their art (music, essays, photos) often present a giant list of everything they've done.
</p><p>
But all of us could come to these conclusions:
</p>
<ul>
<li><strong>Only present 3 to 6 choices at a time</strong>. (No less than 3. No more than 6.)</li>
<li><strong>Only show your deep selection when people are searching for something specific</strong>.</li>
</ul>
<p>
My favorite example of this is Firefox's <a href="http://www.mozillazine.org/misc/about:config/">about:config</a> feature. Those hundreds of intimidating options are hidden from most people, but there for the few who need them.
</p>
<img src="http://sivers.org/images/jam.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="http://www.flickr.com/photos/red5standingby/1482641869/" />
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