The starving donkey: Why restricting your products on offer might actually boost your sales

The story of the apocryphal starving donkey is well known among school children — faced with two equally enticing food choices, the donkey…

Semantics3    1 mins

The story of the apocryphal starving donkey is well known among school children — faced with two equally enticing food choices, the donkey eventually starves, unable to make a choice between the two.

In a relevant New Yorker article, Maria Konnikova makes the case that presenting consumers with a multitude of choice makes them less likely to pick one; and conversely enough increases choice-anxiety.

When a consumer is presented with a wide selection of good deals (in this case, say a selection of similarly priced electronics goods), anxiety skyrockets primarily because of FOMO — “Fear Of Missing Out”. When you make a choice from a selection of exceedingly great choices, you won’t be happy. When you’re forced to commit to a choice, all you will think about will be the choices that got away.

An archetypical first world problem.

This problem gets worse when you’re selling high value products. Faced with a choice between an expensive DSLR, and an equally expensive camcorder, consumers experience high anxiety — devaluing the experience of shopping. Some might not even end up buying, preferring to go elsewhere to find a deal (which they might actually end up taking because there are less options)

What does this mean for e-commerce?

Well, this makes a stronger case for the curated shopping experience — restrict, or curate your products on offer, and enhance the shopping experience. For example, instead of showing 20 different-but-similar products, show 20 different products that have different specifications, all of which have a lowest-price guarantee. Your job is to help the customer find the product that best matches her/his needs, not to just give them the best price.

And that might just nudge your shopper to the checkout tab.

Published at: August 07, 2014

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