In Retail Sales Too Many Choices Equals Just Looking

woman trying to choose items in store

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I was intrigued by an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled, "Too Many Choices Can Tax the Brain Research Shows".

It said in part:

"Americans have come to expect a wide array of choices, and most companies, be they car companies, clothiers, or coffee shops, have been more than willing to pony up.

But more choices do not always equate to happier consumers or higher retail sales. In fact, some studies show that having to make too many decisions can leave people tired, mentally drained and more dissatisfied with their purchases."

This was detailed in Matt Haig’s book Brand Failures. He noted that:

"Procter & Gamble’s brand strategy in the 1980s seemed to be: why launch one product, when 50 will do? However, increased choice equaled increased confusion.

As a result, Crest lost market share... as soon as there were 50 Crest toothpastes, its market share dipped to 25 percent and fell behind Colgate. When they had one product they captured above 50 percent of the market.”

I would add because it was easy for the customer. The LAT story said as much in their helpful tips:

"Sometimes it's good to rely on habit -- 'put the blinders on and get the same toothpaste you always get,' says Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College."

How this impacts your retail sales...

Us retailers think giving our customers more choice is better.

But if the customer can't quickly get why one product is better than the other, they become overwhelmed and put blinders on. This is lethal for your business, literally killing any perceived value of your products and therefore the sale.

That's because it's easier to settle.

If there is no one there to help whittle down their choices or find out what they are trying to do and then match products to their use, you lose the sale.

And the higher the ticket, the higher your stakes. That's why you need salespeople, not clerks.

The evidence is overwhelming that customers are over-choiced, from the menus in restaurants, to the products on the sales floor. We just don't want to make the wrong choice. True salespeople, can make the difference.

Yes, Paul Schottmiller and I discussed the customer survey by Cisco Systems that found 68 percent said online reviews were one of their top three influencers whereas only 13 percent indicated store associates.

But I believe that says more about the quality of the store associates in many stores than customers' proclivity to seek solutions from store employees.

What to do to drive conversions

You want to get your store sales up?

Do the hard part of hiring people who can sell. Hire people who can funnel down hundreds of choices of paint, carpet, furniture, black dresses, or whatever, into items customers can easily decide on.

Salespeople are out there looking for work, whittle down your resumes to those who have proven they can sell the merchandise.

Your competitors are "putting blinders on" and hiring whoever will fog the mirror, work the hours and be grateful for a job.

See also: Lost a Sale? It All Started With How You Greeted Your Customer

Reduce your choices

To get your retail store moving, take the time now to whittle down your choices of who you allow on your sales floor, train them how to sell and you'll be able to help customers choose, not settle - or worse, walk out the door empty-handed.

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