There’s a way for you to increase your online sales by 600%. And don’t worry, you won’t have to do anything shady or participate in any shenanigans.
When most people start selling stuff online, they often create extensive product and service lists. They think having a little something for everyone will help them get more sales.
The problem is, people think “more is better,” but in the real world, long product lists are conversion killers. And if you want to increase your sales by 1,000%, you must streamline your offerings.
To illustrate, let me share Sheena Iyengar’s famous field test.
How to Increase Online Sales: Fewer Options, More Sales
Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University, set up a free tasting booth in Draeger’s supermarket—an up scale grocery store, known for an extensive product selection—on two consecutive Saturdays.
One Saturday, 24 flavors of jam were available, and on the other, 6 were available.
Now take a guess. Which display sold more jam?
Given the “more is better” mindset, you’d think the larger display sold more. But that’s not what happened.
When 24 jams were available, 60% of the customers stopped for a taste test and 3% of those bought some. When 6 jams were available, 40% of the customers stopped for a taste test, but 30% bought some.
Huge results. While the larger display attracted more people, the smaller display sold more jam. About 6 times more. A 600% increase in sales.
Why Fewer Options Lead To An Increase In Sales
Buying products and services is mentally taxing. In most cases, it’s not a “black and white” answer. You need to understand the available information, evaluate if it is the right fit, compare it to competitors, and then decide whether to buy or not to buy.
When you have an exhaustive product list, your prospects will have to go through the above decision-making process for each item on the list.
That’s a ton of work!
And it also leads to what social psychologists call choice overload. To summarize, when people are confronted with several options, they often pick none of them and move on to something else.
This was evident in Sheena’s experiment. When 24 flavors of jam were available, 97% of people chose none, whereas when there were 6 available, 30% bought at least 1.
But the question remains…
How Many Options Should You Give Your Customers (and What’s Best For Increasing Sales Online)?
Fewer options means more sales in a supermarket. But how does this work online? Is there a “magic number” of options that give you maximum sales?
While this varies between businesses, in my experience and research, the magic number falls between 1 and 6. Let me explain.
Online Retailers (Customers Often Browse)
If you’re an online retailer, you should aim between 4 and 6 options.
People who shop retail tend to browse, so showing off more options allows you to capture their attention without giving them choice overload.
For example, Amazon, who is known for their rigorous sales testing, shows up to a maximum of 6 books in their “customers who bought this also bought section.”
Note, actual number depends on the width of your browser.
While I don’t have specific sales results, it’s safe to assume this works. Customers who buy jam are similar to those who buy books. They browse before they purchase. And considering it’s Amazon, I’m sure they tested it.
Software as a Service Providers (Customers Need Service)
If you’re selling software as a service, as in, you require a monthly fee in exchange for using your software, the magic number seems to fall between 4 and 5.
In general, when people need service, they don’t want more or less then they need. On one hand, you need to satisfy your light users, and on the other, you want to satisfy your heavy users. But in both cases, you don’t want either group to feel like they’re getting more than they need because they may cancel the service.
For example, fire up 37signals.com, which is another company that is known for its testing. They offer between 4 and 5 plans for each software service. Is it a coincidence? Probably not. Even Netflix offers between 4 and 5 levels of service.
Information Product Sellers (Customers Need Advice)
If you’re an information product seller, you should focus on one product at a time. That’s how all the big info marketers do it.
The reasoning is simple. People want to buy information from people who are experts. So, if you split up your focus, people may doubt your ability to teach them.
What if you have information in different niches? For starters, many of the top info marketers use stage names in different niches. For example, Eben Pagan uses his name in info marketing, but David DeAngelo in his dating products.
You may doubt the authenticity of this type of marketing. But the key takeaway is that you need to make sure you stand for the one thing you’re currently trying to sell. And if you’re offering various types of services, you should consider giving each of them a different home on the web.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Now I’m not telling you to eliminate products. Instead, I’m showing you how streamlining your offerings could potentially increase your sales drastically.
How do you streamline? You could create specific, specialized categories. For example, if you’re a web designer, you could offer three different options:
First, you can offer the “getting started online” package, which helps people get a domain, get hosting, and a specialized web design.
Second, you could offer “remodeling your online presence” which helps people with branding and logo design.
And Third, you could offer a “custom option” which is as per the client’s request.