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How to prevent choice overload on your ecommerce site

Emily Corke
Emily Corke
Senior Content Marketing Manager
How to prevent choice overload on your ecommerce site

There is such a thing as too much choice. While you might have done your best to attract and cater to as many customers as you can, it might be having the opposite effect on your sales. Overloading your customers with too much choice on your online site could be costing you at the “add to cart” moment.

Purchasing and research decisions are everywhere we look and many cause anxiety for customers. Everything from the right milk brand and the best white t-shirt to the more considered purchases like washing machines and phones.

You need to grab your customer’s attention while giving them the best possible customer experience. In short, you need to know where you are overwhelming your customers with choice and how to prevent it. We have a few tips for you.

What is choice overload?

The anxiety described here is what we call choice overload. It is when your customers might be paralysed by indecision, causing them to leave or have a bad experience on your site. With so much choice at their fingertips, overwhelmed buyers could feel less confident in their purchases or satisfied in the product because of what could have been.

Here are some areas where choice overload is common:

Where there are too many options to consider that all differ slightly with no superior choice. For example, if you sell televisions, are they left choosing between too many high-quality, attractive options?

When customers find navigating a website difficult. If the customer can’t find all your products, compare them, and decide, they will most likely abandon ship. The length of time and the user journey between finding a product and clicking “add to cart” is too complicated and overwhelming.

When they lack the right shopping assistance in the purchase decision. If a customer was struggling with the milk choices or baffled by the sheer amount of washing machines to buy, they would ask a shop assistant. In the digital world, customers are missing the help they would find in-store.

The proof is in the numbers. We recently conducted some research around the most difficult products to buy online and found two of the most common challenges to be ‘confusing product specifications’ (21%) and ‘not being able to ask a sales assistant for guidance or advice’ (21%).  

The good news is all the circumstances where choice overload might be prevalent are within your control to change. Here are some actionable tips you can implement.

Where are your customers falling off your site?

One of the first areas to explore is where customers are typically bouncing or leaving your site. You are already ahead of the game if you use and understand your data correctly but if not, start by looking into your preferred analytics tool. Other than your analytics program, there are other areas within the business you can investigate.

Where are you getting the most customer service requests? Are you seeing any significant drops on certain product pages, or any products returned more than others?

Using the data and resources about your customer experience, you can identify a category where traffic is high, but conversions are low. If you have a product category with high traffic and low conversations, there is something preventing customers following through to a purchase. Choice overload is a common reason.

Website design: Can you make decisions easier?

Online customer experience is everything in a saturated market. This starts with the design on your website. It is your virtual shop front, and first impression and product searches will make or break an experience.

Are you presenting your products in the best light? Can you improve the way your products are found, positioned, and bought on your website?

Are product descriptions detailed enough for your customers to make a choice? If your product descriptions leave your customers feeling like they need a degree in televisions to understand them, consider working on these to make them more accessible to everyday customers.

Consider going back to basics with important functionalities on your website along the user journey. When it comes down to it, the most efficient way to reduce choice overload is to provide fewer choices on first search. You could eliminate choice overload by showing the top-selling products or categorising products by need or objective.

When you are sure your website design is not the cause of choice overload, turn to providing the right level of assistance next.

Get the helping hand from technology

Think of the in-store experience. You might be more easily influenced to complete a purchase through an interaction with an assistant, guiding you to the most relevant product.

On a website, the same applies. Consumers may be more likely to complete the checkout process if they receive interactive content that allows them to engage and learn more about a product.

You can do this with a guided selling tool. At Ve, we define guided selling as simulating the in-store consultation process to help customers find and purchase the right products online.  By offering an onsite guided selling tool, you can simulate that in-store experience, giving the relevant advice at the right time to demystify technical products specs of the different choices available.

Imagine being able to use a tool, like our Digital Assistant, to show up on the pages with high traffic and low conversions with the product recommendations or assistance customers need to make their choice. You could ask your customers questions and feed them products in two to three steps instead of pages and pages of search results.

Final thoughts: Choice overload can be prevented

The secret to eliminating choice overload is making effective use of the tools and tricks of the trade in design and making the purchase decision easier by simulating the in-store experience online.

Shoppers only have so much energy to spend on choosing a product. Highlighting the relevant product features or characteristics, making products easy to find and interacting with your customers with effective tools will reduce their anxiety and improve your conversions.  

Our latest solution in Digital Assistant, Help Me Choose, allows you to create branching customer engagement flows, preventing choice overload among other issues. Find out more here.

Request a demo today