Canadian Rental Service

Features Business Intelligence
Editoril: Septmeber 2010

Having choices is good. Most people seem to be happiest when they have more than one option. However, the funny thing is that having too many items to choose from has been shown to make people miserable.


August 23, 2010
By Mike Davey

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Having choices is good. Most people seem to be happiest when they have more than one option. However, the funny thing is that having too many items to choose from has been shown to make people miserable.

It’s logical to think that if having some choice is good, then many choices is better. Like many things that seem logical, it’s also completely wrong. That’s why a good friend of mine refers to logic as “ignorance by numbers.” Logic can only take you so far. It will never take the place of diving in and finding out.
The common-sense approach is to assume that the people who really care about having a wide variety of options will benefit, and the rest of us can simply ignore the 49 kinds of screwdrivers we don’t need. However, research suggests that this assumption is wrong. While people do appreciate having more than one option, they don’t like having to compare the fine details of 50 different things to figure out which one is best. Making an informed choice between two heaters is usually pretty easy. Making an informed choice between 300 of them is almost impossible.

I’m not trying to suggest that you limit the number of lines you carry. After all, you’ve got different customers with different needs. But there are ways to present your customers with enough options to please them, but not so many that they become unable to choose.

This is especially important when it comes to your website. People frequently use websites to shop for deals and to do research. A big part of the reason they do this is that it’s easier than showing up in person or picking up the phone. So, one of the main goals for your website should be to make it easy to use and navigate. The best (and easiest!) way to do that is to keep it simple.

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Keep your front page uncluttered, just as you keep the front room of your store. Links to common categories are helpful. Showing every single item in a category is not. It’s confusing and may make your customers seek out a site that’s easier on the eyes. As in your store, the customers will have a chance to dive deeper into a category once they clear the door.

It should also be pointed out that it usually isn’t necessary to stock every item under the sun. Rather than presenting your customers with a dozen different options, stick with as few as possible.

Reducing the choices within a category may seem counter-intuitive, but it will help your customers to more easily make decisions and determine what they need. You may find that making your customers’ experience simpler will keep them coming back.

There’s also the question of stock. Reducing the choices within categories may save you money and increase profitability in the long run. The chances are good that you regularly crunch the numbers and eliminate items that are clearly unprofitable. However, some items that are on the razor’s edge may also need to be trimmed. If you’re barely making money on something, consider the other costs in keeping it around. Not only is it another choice your customers need to make, it’s another product that your staff needs to be knowledgeable about. In every case, ask yourself: is it worth it?


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