Analysis Paralysis: Why You Shouldn’t Do Many Similar Items

How many items should you offer in your eCommerce store? If you provide customization, then how many choices should you give your customers? Custom products are all the rage now, so you want to pick a company that gives you endless opportunities to create exactly what you want. Regardless of how many options the printer gives you, you should dwindle your ideas down into a smaller selection of items, especially items that are not similar. It may seem that more choice leads to more sales, but research proves otherwise. When customers are given too many choices, they tend to buy less. This is called the paradox of choice.

When it comes to custom clothing and personalize gifts, there are so many options to choose from, including:

  • Bags
  • Aprons
  • Swimwear
  • Leggings
  • T-shirts
  • Hoodies and sweatshirts
  • Posters in canvas prints
  • Throw pillows
  • Hats
  • Beach towels
  • Engrave jewelry
  • Jackets
  • Blankets
  • Laptop cases
  • Face masks
  • Drinkware
  • Stationary

From these options, you can choose the best type of product to tailor to your brand. When you reduce how many similar items you put in your eCommerce store, you are more likely to increase your profits.  It may seem hard to believe, but science to backs this up.

Science In Sales

In 1995 a famous jam study was conducted at a grocery store by Columbia business professor, author, and consumer psychology researcher Sheena Iyengar. Professor Iyengar focuses her research on choice and how people make decisions in their everyday lives. The study was performed at Draeger’s Market, an upscale grocery store in California known for selling almost ridiculous options of different types of products. In fact, it was so well known for providing variety that tourists would shop there just to be in awe of their choices! So the researchers wanted to know if more choice necessarily meant higher sales.

So they set up a booth at the front of the store with samples of Wilkin & Sons jam, a company that offers dozens of jam flavors. To reduce the chance of bias, actual employees of the store ran the sample table while Professor Iyengar’s graduate students hid in the store to observe results. The store employees, who did not know a study was being conducted, initially placed all 24 jam flavors on the table and offered customers a coupon if they tried a few flavors of jam. But later on, many of those shoppers who tested the flavors did not purchase a jam after they went to the jam aisle, even with their coupon. The graduate students noticed that the consumers would stand in the jam aisle and consider their choices but eventually leave.

However, when they reduced the number of jams on display at the sample table to only six, and still offered the coupon to anyone who did the taste test, the researchers noticed the customers were ten times more likely to purchase one of the jams that they tested. This study led to discovering the psychological phenomenon known as “choice overload.” Iyengar coined the term “paradox of choice” to describe the phenomenon that the more choices you offer customers, the more overwhelmed and unmotivated they are to complete a sale.

How To Choose What To Offer

All of the items on the list above serve a different purpose or can be worn in different ways. A bag is functionally different from a hat, laptop case, or face mask. By narrowing down what types of items you will offer to ones that serve different purposes, you don’t give your consumers excessive options to choose from.

Knowing your audience will help you to determine what items you should offer. If your target audience is women, you can offer dresses or skirts in addition to bags, hats, face masks, and other items. But if your audience consists of athletic women who you want to be seen wearing your brand, then printing customized sports bras for them would be a great choice. Is your target audience more tech-savvy? Then they may be more connected to and get more use out of phone cases and laptop cases. Your consumers will be more likely to buy something that fixes a need they have.

Setting Up Your Store For Success

If your consumers have to make different choices, then present them in three groups, experts suggest. When you give them chunks of choices to make rather than endless options, they can confidently make a decision and are more likely to complete their purchase.

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