Make Creativity Your Day Job!

Increase Sales by Reducing Choice

Image courtesy of Shreveport-Bossier

A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone to a customer who was interested in commissioning a portrait of one of her dogs.

I had spent a few minutes going through several available options for the style, colour, and print surface of the portrait, and when I asked ‘what size canvas do you want it on?’, her reply was ‘Oh, don’t give me any more decisions to make!’

By giving her so many options, most of which she hadn’t even considered before speaking to me, I had overwhelmed her and made the buying process hard work.

The Easiest Choice

There’s a famous study where two stalls were set out selling different flavours of jam. One stall offered 6 varieties, and the other offered 24 varieties. In the end, the stall offering only 6 varieties sold a lot more jam than the one offering 24, suggesting that it’s not always a case of the more choice the better.

Often, when faced with an overwhelming number of options, people will take the easiest choice and choose none of them.

If you give people too many options, they will choose none of them (Tweet this)

Tell People What They Want

In the end, my customer let me make the decisions for her, and I gave her the options that I thought would best suit the portrait.

Since then, I have made the ordering process much easier, by removing a lot of choice. I now have just two standard size options, and all portraits come printed on canvas as standard. Customers no longer have to make difficult decisions which may put them off making the purchase.

The fact is, a lot of people don’t really know what they want until you tell them. So you need to make sure you are at least suggesting what your customers might like, rather than having them make all the decisions.

However, as some people do like to choose every detail, I make it clear that custom sizes are available on request, so that people who want to make more decisions can still do so, but the people who like to have the decisions made for them won’t be put off.

Are you giving people too much choice?

If you offer a service such as commissioned paintings or custom-made crafts, how many decisions to your customers have to make before they can buy something from you? Could the number of choices available be driving people away?

Think about whether there are any choices you can remove. Do you have a most popular option, which you could offer as your standard product? Can you make any of the decisions for your customers to make it easier for them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree that too much choice can be a bad thing, or do you think the more options the better? Leave a comment below and let us know about your experiences.

11 Comments on Increase Sales by Reducing Choice

  1. Tara Reed says:

    This is great advice and sometimes I think people worry that they don’t know what to do so they throw as many options out there as possible. It’s important to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and consider if overwhelm is inevitable or as the saying goes, “Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul” – as in, don’t compete with yourself!

    Thanks – fabulous food for thought – pun intended. 🙂

  2. Great read, Dan! I hadn’t thought about choice in the same way that you had, based on what I was selling, but I have thought about choice in general. I actually wrote a blog post about it ( and the difficulties of feeling like you have too many things to do or choices to make, and in the end choosing nothing. It can feel overwhelming! I think sometimes people can get too into trying to please everyone, that they please no one. I definitely think lowering the number of options is a good idea. Thanks for giving me something to think about! Cheers.

  3. rick says:

    I’ll agree. Once upon a time, I designed and sold kitchen remodeling. Imagine the customer who remodels their kitchen once or twice in a life time. The cabinet finishes, door styles, hardware choices alone would make them break out.

    As a designer, sales person, you are helping the customer find a good solution. Part of that is wading through the options and presenting two or three options(worked best for me) that best fill their need.

    Important: spend the time to find out what your customer’s problem/ need is. Don’t be afraid to be the expert.

  4. kathryn says:

    i know what you mean…i feel that way when i go into a restaurant and their menu is the size of a novel…takes forever to decide, so frustrating!!!

    i agree fully with you about ordering a custom portrait…you just have to keep it as simple as possible for the client. when I get an inquiry I try and spread out the decisions over a few emails, then it’s not so overwhelming!

  5. A true point! A good sales person very often has to lead the customer to the sale and make some decisions for the customer or narrow down to understanding what they really want. If the customer can’t make a choice from the selections, most often they never really want it or nor are satisfied with the options, or any options, in the first place.

  6. meg says:

    Yes I think giving too many choices can water down what brought the customer to you in the first place. I tend to throw out too many choices to a customer. If they were drawn to your work in the first place some choices have already been made. I gotta remember that!

  7. personally when I have too many choices to make, I go the easy way and choose none of them. I don’t have a product that is custom made like yours, but I agree with your premise.

  8. Dan,

    Thanks for posting this article. It serves as a wonderful reminder that “less is more” even as it applies to sales.

    Here’s a question regarding art shows. What do you think is the perfect number of paintings to present to a prospective art buyer? 3? 4? 7? 12? I’d be very interested in your opinion and your line of reasoning.


    • Dan Johnson says:

      Hi Brennen

      I don’t have much experience of art shows to be honest so I can’t really help you with that question. Maybe someone with more experience will be able to offer some insight.

      Love your paintings, by the way!

  9. Janine says:

    Good stuff to think about! This is a tough one. It’s like a rock-and-a-hard-place kinda thing, and I agree with you on narrowing it down to make things easier.
    I think it comes down to how you present the choices; or at least that’s what I’ve learned works for me. If someone wants me to make them a custom wool sculpture, the thing that works the best for me is to lay out a vision for them. I let them know what colors I’m thinking about, and how the sculpture will be laid out. Then I ask them if that sounds good to them, being sure to let them know that in the end, what THEY want is the important thing. Most people who like your work already trust your artistic vision…that’s what brought them to you. You just have to steer them effectively. =)

  10. Tahirih says:

    I think this is a great idea, too. It’s something I often stumble on with commissions myself, and always thought that it was a bit stressful that the customer couldn’t decide. It didn’t occur to me to limit their options. Thanks!

Leave a Reply to meg Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *