One mistake that’s killing online product sales

- July 19, 2017 2 MIN READ

If your online product sales could be better, you might be making this one, crucial mistake. Fix it and your sales could soar.

Last weekend my partner and I decided to order Thai takeaway from a local restaurant. The food is delicious there, and we enjoy supporting this family-owned microbusiness.

However, there’s another small restaurant nearby, and in a fit of Saturday night wildness, we decided to try that restaurant instead. I know, crazy stuff, we immediately took our blood pressure.

Not aware of the food they offered, we visited the website, and were thrilled it had a ‘pay and pick up’ facility. All we had to do was choose some yummy dishes. Easy! Well, not quite. We hit a roadblock.

The roadblock had nothing to do with a lack of tasty-looking dishes. In fact, it was quite the opposite! They had tonnes of dishes, which was actually the problem. To explain, the problem was for the business, not us. Having a large selection of delicious food in our beautiful country is a First World luxury. The reason it’s a problem for the business is because there was too much choice, which led to indecision, and finally to abandonment of the website. In the end, it was just quicker and easier to order our trusty Thai.

Too many products can kill sales

When you offer too many products it can lead to overwhelm and inaction, especially when offering many similar products. Given most people like to make fast choices online, it’s important to facilitate simple and seamless decision-making processes.

Here’s the proof

A popular experiment features in the book Yes! 50 secrets from the Science of Persuasion, written by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini.

In the experiment, behavioural scientist Sheena Iyengar and social scientist Mark Lepper prove that too many product choices can negatively affect sales.

The experiment involved setting up a supermarket display where customers could taste and buy gourmet jam, all made by a single manufacturer. On certain days, the display had a large choice of 24 gourmet jam varieties. On other days, only six varieties.

The results are fascinating. Only three percent of people bought jam from the display with 24 flavours, while a whopping 30 percent bought jam from the display with only six flavours.

So you could say, more jam caused a jam! Or in other words, too much choice created a mental gridlock leading to customer inaction.

Are there exceptions to the rule?

Yes, there are websites with stacks of products that perform quite well. Maybe yours is one of them. But if not, consider looking at the amount and types of products you offer.  Are there a few products that are similar? Can you trial selling just one rather than all three? The changes could decrease indecision and increase sales.

Less is more

Having too much choice can be a blessing and a curse, that’s why in the case of online products, sometimes less is more. That is, less pain, more purchases!

What are your thoughts on this article? Do you think too many products can kill sales?