Commercial websites have two basic objectives:
- Sell something immediately, or
- Build a subscriber base to sell to them later
Evidence suggests that websites that offer fewer choices have better conversion rates.
More choices don’t lead to happiness
Barry Schwartz talks about the psychological implications of having too many choices in his excellent book “The Paradox of Choice”, and argues that being faced with too many options may lead to anxiety and ultimately to a less happy existence.
A confused mind always says no
There is too much information and too little time to sort through it these days. Too many companies/brands/products are competing for our attention and we don’t know who to trust. In this environment, we often make the wrong choice or no choice at all just to get it over with.
How to sell more by offering fewer options
The Marketing Experiments Journal has some interesting evidence of how less is more, but ultimately it’s the conversation behind the message that is more important that conversation in a multi-product offering.
Fewer choices mean more attention
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that people pay more attention to pictures selected from smaller arrays of choices. This study has important implications for websites: presenting too many choices (like product shots, advertisements or news items) may reduce the attention that readers give to each option, negatively affecting click-through rates and sales.
What we can learn from mini sites
Mini-sites are one-page websites that feature a long, killer sales letter aimed at just one thing: selling a product. The only clickable choice is usually a “Buy Now” button. It is not surprising that the conversion rates of mini sites are extremely high.
While not every commercial site will lend itself to the mini site format, they are nevertheless an excellent example of how reducing choices and eliminating distractions can lead to better results.
How to unclutter your website to focus on conversion
- If you publish a content site or blog make each web page extremely focused and present only one relevant offer (preferably a high margin product) on each page. Avoid putting advertising such as Adsense ads on a page where you are also promoting a high margin product.
- If you have a catalog-style website try to limit your offers per product category to just a few. It is best to divide your products in three clearly defined groups (Good, Better, and Best). My experience with consumer goods tells me that offering more than three quality/feature levels per product type confuses customers and kills sales.
- Don’t use distracting features like icons showing your subscriber count, every feed reader chicklet under the sun, your Flickr photo groups, etc. They are the Web 2.0 equivalent of the animated gifs and visitor counters of yesteryear. They don’t add value and distract your visitors from performing more important tasks (like buying something).
- Study the Google Adsense heat map to learn which sections of the page receive the most attention (usually the left margin and the content area), and place links to high margin sections of your site in those areas.
- Place a subscription box in a high attention portion of your pages, so that your visitors can sign up for regular updates, special offers and free content. If you’re just beginning to build your brand, growing your subscriber/customer base should be one of your top priorities.
- Link to relevant products using text links from within your content. Text links embedded in your content have a higher click-through rate than graphics or banners located elsewhere, and result in better conversion rates. Don’t abuse this technique though. Link only to very few high quality, highly relevant products, since overdoing it may undermine the credibility of your content.
- If you are using a blog platform and are debating using two or three columns, two is almost always better than three. Users are less likely to get lost in a two column layout.
In summary, when you offer fewer choices, your visitors will usually end up making better ones, often the ones you want them to make.