This past weekend, I visited a local nursery renowned for a huge selection at great prices, sold by the flat. I was intent on buying container gardening plants for my new home, and was open to suggestion regarding what to get.
“Wow!” I thought, as I looked the price list. “These prices are GREAT. Why didn’t I come here years ago?”
But then I started making my way through the dozens of greenhouses. Flowers and vegetables were in separate sections, but aside from that, there wasn’t a lot of organization, and barely any signage or plant tags. Light requirements, height, color … who knew? Since many plants weren’t yet in bloom, you had to rely on leaves for identification. And since I was shopping for different light conditions than I had at my old house, I was out of my element.
By the end of the second greenhouse, I was completely overwhelmed. I got in the car and drove to the nearest garden center, where I easily paid twice as much, if not more. Having limited choices, organization by attributes, and information on individual plants made all the difference.
A couple decades ago, it was commonly believed that choice is good, and more choice is better. But more recent studies suggest that an abundance of choices actually confuses customers, slows the time to purchase, and depresses sales. If customers have to work too hard to make a decision, they won’t make a decision at all.
Keep this phenomenon in mind when selecting merchandise. Whether you’re selling online, through a catalog, or at retail, convey what’s special about each product. For instance, explain that this carrot grows well in rocky New England soils … this one is especially sweet … and this one keeps longer than any other.
It’s ok, and often helpful, to limit the number of choices. You’re the expert: it’s up to you to guide your customers towards the products that best meet their needs. It’s hard for customers to decide among more than 4 or 5 options. Go beyond that, and you risk losing the sale.
If your business specializes in one particular category, where a wide selection is key, subcategories are imperative. Make it easy for customers to drill down by multiple attributes to find the choices that best fit their needs. Give them the fastest path to the best 4 or 5 options that suit their needs.
In selling, as in many other things in life, less is often more.