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How to prevent choice paralysis on your site in 6 steps

how to combat choice paralysis on your eCommerce site

Choices. Choices. Choices.

As consumers, we love them—but perhaps not as much as we think. In fact, 54% surveyed consumers said that they stopped purchasing from an online retailer because choosing a product was too difficult.

Turns out that too many options can lead to anxiety and mental fatigue. Hence why it’s essential that your eCommerce website design makes product discovery easy as much as it does autonomous.

In this blog, we’ll cover the top ways to account for choice paralysis and ensure that your website isn’t inadvertently frustrating shoppers. Keep these tips in mind when optimizing your site.

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6 ways to prevent choice paralysis within your online store

Once you've identified potential problem areas within your website, it's time to take action. Here are six ways to optimize your site to ensure that the shopping experience is stress-free.

01. Limit the number of choices based on product type

Before limiting (or increasing) product choices, consider the type of product that you’re offering and its intended use. As noted earlier, items that meet a functional need may require fewer customization options than those that meet a personal need.

For instance, VelociRAX’s vertical bike racks only come in one color scheme. The only choice a buyer needs to make is “how many bikes do I need to carry?” The decision-making process is straightforward and simple, focused entirely on the functionality of each bike rack.

homepage showcasing VelociRAX's bike racks

By comparison, WigsByTiffani offers their wigs in various lengths, colors, sizes, and styles. In this case, offering a more extensive assortment allows shoppers to find a wig that expresses their personality and meets their unique preferences.

homepage for WigsByTiffani

02. Highlight your best sellers

Simplify the choice for buyers by recommending popular items. Showcase high-rated products above the fold of your site. Create ribbons allowing users to easily identify top products. Or, experiment with pre-populating search bars with the most commonly chosen options.

If your item requires customization—e.g., requires a user to select certain features or styles to add it to their carts—suggest standard default options. Aim to guide users to the right decision as opposed to leaving them to flounder between options on your site.

03. Create product collections tailored to specific buyers

In addition to providing standard product categories (e.g., women, men, shoes, clothing), consider group products by features, occasion, or special purposes that appeal to various types of customers.

Uncommon Goods employs this strategy well. Home to hundreds of specialty and handmade goods, Uncommon Goods makes it easy for buyers to shop for everything from “high school graduation gifts” to “eco-friendly” items. Each of these collections are given their own landing pages, allowing customers to browse without distraction or having to select filters on their own.

By grouping items in this way, you can satisfy your consumers’ desire for more extensive product assortments while making product discovery easy.

04. Improve your website for better conversions

When managing an online store, you should expect to optimize your website routinely for better performance, usability, rankings, and conversions. Keep in mind that a few of these website enhancements can be particularly helpful in minimizing choice paralysis.

For instance, adding live chat, embedding product videos, and following other eCommerce design trends can help to streamline the decision-making process. Beyond this, consider taking these step:

  • Revisit your website navigation. Are there ways you could further segment your products? What are the top collections you should feature?

  • Highlight customer reviews and UGC. Encourage customers to share feedback and consult other user-generated content to inform their decisions.

  • Provide size charts, alongside other helpful resources to help customers easily decide between various options.

  • Integrate product search. Use a feature like Wix Site Search that recommends products based on a user’s query (plus minimize the total number of search results shown at a time to minimize assortment overwhelm or decision fatigue).

example of wix site search feature

05. Prompt faster decisions

It’s not uncommon for users to overthink their decisions—and in that period, lose confidence in their purchase or become distracted by another competitor. For this reason, encouraging fast decisions can help to prevent decision paralysis.

To do so, promote scarcity where appropriate and provide additional value to your buyers. As an example, you can launch a limited-time sale that prompts quicker decisions while making customers feel that they’re walking away with a good deal.

Remove other purchase decision hurdles, such as any doubt they may have about buying a product that they’ve never seen in person. Make your return policy straightforward and easy to find. If appropriate for your business model, consider offering free returns and/or free shipping. Either of these can help to reduce perceived risk even further.

06. Compare similar products for your customers

Your users may not always have the time or patience to differentiate between multiple options effectively.

For example, high-ticket electronics, appliances, and furniture can be difficult to compare if you’re not as familiar with how they’re built or what defines a high-quality option. And because the higher price tag causes a greater sense of risk, anything you can do to guide customers towards the right decision can help.

Offer comparison charts that break down product details in a digestible way. Convert jargon into more everyday language and explain the benefits—not just the features—of your products to help buyers understand the differences that they’re bound to see.

Common causes of choice paralysis

Too many choices

A study of more than 793,000 clients found a 2% decrease in conversions for every 10 additional options offered for a specific product.

Naturally you may ask “how many is too many?” Well, that depends.

If consumers are searching for products to satisfy a utilitarian or functional purpose (think: a car for commuting to work), they often care less about having options, according to several Harvard Business Review studies.

On the other hand, if consumers are shopping for pleasure (think: a “pleasure-car” or a swimsuit for the beach), then they’ll likely prefer a larger assortment. This difference lies in how much personal preference and uniqueness come into play. In the former scenario, consumers are less likely to see their preferences as different from the majority of other buyers and therefore expect to spend less time weighing multiple options.

Unfamiliarity with your product

If there’s one scenario where simplicity is key, it’s one in which your customer could use expert guidance to complete a purchase. For example, let’s say you sell electric toothbrushes. The average joe isn’t studying the best bristles or brushing motion for optimal cleanliness and gum health.

If you present 20 options of toothbrushes that more or less look the same, then buyers may feel bogged down by the time it takes to research the advantages of each. That, coupled with other factors like price, could hinder the decision-making process.

If products are priced similarly or have high price points to begin with, then consumers are even less likely to reach a comfortable decision on their own.

Too many steps

Shopping is often an emotional, impulsive activity. Most of us expect to see a product that “speaks to us” as opposed to going through the steps of analyzing and selecting each detail of the product ourselves. And when it comes to checking out, we’d prefer not to be bombarded with additional questions or instructions.

In the same vein, a decision-making process that involves too many steps and prolongs checkout (i.e., an exhaustive survey, endless customization options, or extra questions regarding shipping and handling) could deter shoppers.

Information overload

While it’s generally a good idea to provide as many product details as possible—how and when you present those details can massively impact the decision-making process. For instance, long, unfocused product descriptions that inundate buyers with information can lead to fatigue.

By contrast, presenting that information in bite-sized bits between product descriptions, charts, images, various site pages, and more can have a more positive effect.

How to recognize the signs of choice paralysis

Identifying choice paralysis in your consumers' behavior primarily boils down to your available data. Look for these signs in order to spot potential issues.

Sift through your analytics

Use data collected by your eCommerce platform (like Wix Analytics) or analytics tools (like Google Analytics). Look for patterns in buyer behavior that may help identify potential decision-paralysis issues:

  • Are users dropping from certain steps within the buying process?

  • Are they spending a lot of time on specific pages without buying?

  • How do conversions and on-page behaviors differ depending on the type of item being bought?

  • What customer questions do you receive the most?

  • What products are purchased least and most often? Are there noticeable differences between their product pages?

Use heat maps

Heat maps allows you to see where your consumers linger on your site, and which pages and features they engage with. Use a tool like Hotjar or Mouseflow to analyze user sessions and see where they drop in the process.

Consider whether or not visitors are following the paths that you intended for them to follow during the buying process.

Gather consumer feedback

Don't be afraid to ask consumers for feedback. Set up surveys, emails, or interviews inviting them for feedback on their recent shopping experience. Ask your buyers if they found what they were looking for, which information was helpful, and what else could’ve helped them in the decision-making process.

Take notes of areas where consumers struggle so that you can make the necessary improvements.

Don’t let choice paralysis bring your sales down

Using the methods discussed above, you can alleviate some of the stress customers may feel when making a purchase decision. The last thing you want is for customers to freeze up and abandon your site altogether.

For help figuring out how to build an eCommerce website, check out Wix’s eCommerce website builder. Choose from 500+ templates that were designed with UX in mind, plus gain access to tools for streamlining everything from catalog management to website design. Learn more about your eCommerce website cost, too.

Geraldine Feehily

Allison Lee

Editor, Wix eCommerce

Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.

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