Reducing Options can Drive Online Conversions

A case of too many options

Something happened today, which I'll get to in a minute, that drove me to write about online conversions. Before I get to that, let's chat for a second about situations with tons of options.

I don't know if you know this, but the Cheesecake Factory menus is as long as it is, on purpose. Here's how explains it:

According to Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, authors of the book “Talk Triggers: TheComplete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth,” the menu is part of the restaurant's business strategy: it's a talk trigger, or “a built-in differentiator that creates customer conversations.”

When people eat at The Cheesecake Factory, they discuss the scope of the menu with their friends or post about it on social media. In other words, it's like built-in advertising.

If you've never seen how big their menu is, you likely don't know what I'm talking about. But it's filled with more than 200 items and is pages and pages long. In fact, I once timed myself reading the entire menu and it took me 18 and a half minutes. For a menu!

So the Cheesecake Factory has a crazy long menu, with tons of options, but most people don't end up struggling with picking something. And that's a good thing.

But sometimes a ton of options can have the opposite effect. It can cause analysis paralysis. In other words, it causes us to freeze. That's what happened to me inside of Marianne's Ice Cream shop in Santa Cruz. As you can tell (if you clicked that link), they offer more than 100 ice cream flavors. It's cool if you like ice cream (like I do), but it's also really, seriously, challenging.

I'm clearly not the only one who has felt this way, as the Wall Street Journal wrote about people getting paralyzed with 55 lunch options. When you're talking about online conversions, not making a decision is the worst thing you could ever do!

Driving Online Conversions

If you sell products online, the thing you want is to give people the right amount of choices. Normally I tell folks that 3 options is the best. That's because most of us remember the early online experiments that showed us 3 pricing options drove online conversions better than anything else.

But you know what matters more than someone else's experiment? Your own data. And if your options are creating the kind of paralysis that Marianne's does, then you need to make a change. Even if it bothers people who don't like change.

Remember when I told you something happened online today that drove me to write this? Well today the WooCommerce folks took their product options from 3 down to 1. And right away people started complaining.

Now, let's be clear, no one likes it when change happens (unless you're getting married or having a child). But you know what you like even less than change? Not making a change when you know you need to.

The name of the game here is not revenue or profit. Some of the price points they took away would have given them more revenue and profit. No, the name of the game here is “being helpful” and the way you measure that is via conversions.

In other words, if people can find and choose the product they want (which is the reason why most of us went to three options in the first place), then we know we've been helpful, and the way we measure that is via online conversion.

Additionally, and they're the only ones to have this data, you have to look at the distribution of products being sold. It wouldn't surprise me if they were selling 5 site and 25 site licenses all that much. So when you aren't selling a ton of units at those price points, and those additional options are getting in the way of conversions, what do you do?

You reduce the number of options to make decisions easier.

There's good news for all!

Here's the great news – which resulted in some immediate conversion goodness for the folks at WooCommerce. I logged into my account and looked at some of my subscriptions. (Now I normally just ignore expired subscriptions because I can always buy products later.) But now since 5 site licenses are no longer on the menu, and I have a few plugins where I need that, I went to those subscriptions and toggled the switch to keep the subscription active.

In other words, for existing customers who still want to keep a 5-site license, it's still available. I was even able to toggle active a subscription that had already concluded its subscription period.

So for new customers, they get less choices which likely helps them convert better. And for existing customers, they get access to their older 5 and 25 site licenses.

For me, that's a win-win.