Why less is sometimes more

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a marketer, you’d probably be familiar with the 4Ps of Product, Price, Placement and Promotion (which sometimes are 5Ps or even 6Ps – just to confuse things).

That is exactly what I want to talk about today. One of the Ps – Product and specifically product range and how it needs to be as least confusing as possible.

When it comes to your products, confusion is your enemy.

Choice, or too much choice, creates confusion and less choice can be more when it comes to the bottom line.

Have you ever sat down at a Chinese restaurant and pored through pages and pages of options in a state of confusion?

I don’t know about you, but it all gets a little overwhelming. The variety of choice is crippling.

Why are there so many options? What if I choose the wrong dish? How do I know what’s what? What if the person next to me chooses something better? I might miss out on something better…and so on.

In a restaurant situation, while you may be tempted to get up and walk out in fear of making the wrong choice, you usually end up staying and picking the easiest choice or something you’re already familiar with. The experience does usually fall a little flat though because you always wonder ‘what if’ and you end up with a serious case of food envy.

In retail, the customer often does walk away confused and disappointed due to too much choice.

The facts are you can’t be everything to everyone. You have a target market for a reason. Trying to please everyone inevitably pleases no one.

You don’t believe me?

Marketing guru and bestselling author, Martin Lindstrom in his book, Brandwashed, explains the phenomenon. He writes:

“When it comes to shopping, less is always more…we are paralysed by the fear of making a wrong, and expensive choice.”

In an experiment Lindstrom gave a dozen people two options: they could choose a chocolate from a box that contained 30 different types of chocolates, or they could pick one from a box that contained only six varieties.

The vast majority of people chose to select from the box containing only six choices. “The fewer choices and selections we face, the more likely we are to pick up, and buy, something.”

At a bookstore he convinced management to remove all but one of its 7-8 display tables that usually have up to 40 different titles on them. Instead they only displayed a dozen or so book titles, yet overall sales revenue increased within a week.

Lindstrom attributed the increase in sales to the fact that when buyers didn’t need to deal with all of those choices, they were more likely to make a purchase.

The enemy is choice but sometimes it can also be the feeling of non-exclusivity.

Imagine you’re in your favourite fashion store and there is a shirt you really like, but there are 10 of them in your size on display.

You start thinking: “well maybe that shirt isn’t that special? How many people will be walking around in the same shirt as me? There’s plenty there, I’ll go away and have a think about it first, it’s not like they’re going to sell out.”

Now imagine if instead there is only one shirt in your size on display. All of a sudden there is a feeling of exclusivity, a fear you may miss out, pressure and a deadline to buy.

You can see where I’m going. Less choice and limited availability are your friends.

Whether you’re selling products or services, if you’re a small to medium business keep your product range as simple and streamlined as possible. Test and identify what the sweet spot is when it comes to display stock and product range – how much works best for you? Can you create a feeling of exclusivity and a limited time offer for your buyers?

Hopefully less choice and time will result in more sales. There may even be the added benefits of bigger profit margins if you can reduce your inventory and avoid overstocking.

To stay in the know about my writing projects and to receive regular writing tips and content like this, sign up here.

Kylie Fennell
Follow me