What makes us decide to buy or not buy something?
There are the obvious factors, like if we feel that we need it, if we have a coupon that's about to expire and so on. I'd like to share a less obvious factor: the way in which something is presented. Specifically, how many options are presented.
We take it as a given that people like to choose. We don't like being forced into choices and we feel good when we can pick what we want.
This is a universal truth of human behavior. It has to do with the perception of control. People feel better and experience less stress when they believe their choices are within their control.
Like most good things, however, there can be too much of a good thing– too much choice.
When consumers are faced with too many choices, they often buy NOTHING.
I experienced this the other day myself. I was standing at the grocery store looking at a bunch of different salad dressings. I was tired and everything sounded the same. I couldn't decide so I figured I would make my own and didn't buy any salad dressing.
What's the best number of choices to include?
It depends on the nature of your product or service and target market. On average, an ideal number is 3. If they are 3 options in order (small, medium, or large bundle of services) people tend to take the middle one.
Exceptions to this rule:
There are times when you can get away with more choices. A couple exceptions are based on:
When you're already committed to get something, it's okay to have more choices because you don't have the option of nothing in your mind.
When you regularly frequent a product or service, you may like more choices.
If you are familiar with all of the products and services, you may enjoy having many options.
A good example of these exceptions is a restaurant menu. It's unlikely that a patron will leave a restaurant because they can't decide (commitment) although they may get frustrated so you don't want to overwhelm them with choice here.
If a patron regularly goes to the restaurant (frequency) and is knows most of the dishes (familiarity), she may enjoy seeing new options such as specials.
How can you use the psychology of choice to consolidate, refine, or improve your offerings and influence consumer decisions?