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Why limiting choice is the secret to ecommerce success

Jan 20, 2021


  • Ecommerce brands are faced with huge competition
  • But too many panic and throw all products at shoppers on their first visit
  • An illogical and confusing webshop experience will result in a high bounce rate
  • To keep shoppers engaged, limit the number of products shown and leave room for discovery

There are currently around 24 million ecommerce sites in the world. That's a lot of competition and an unimaginable amount of products. So it's no surprise that todays ecommerce brands panic. They throw every possible product and deal at their shoppers as soon as they can. 

But that could be the one thing that's turning your customers away. In fact, 42% of consumers in a report by SMARTASSISTANT admitted to abandoning a planned purchasePurely because there was too much choice.

Too much choice equates to too much thought. Too much thought leads to stressed, overwhelmed shoppers. They'll then take the easy way out and not buy anything at all.  

For more of a psychological deep-dive into the paradox of choice, check out this blog.

When shopping both in-store and online, we're often presented with a wall or grid of products. They all do roughly the same job, but there's a small difference between them. Let's use shampoo as an example. There's a huge number of different shampoo brands and varieties available. You've got shampoo for wavy hair, straight hair, blonde hair, brown hair, damaged hair, thick hair, dry hair, the list goes on... If you've decided to try a new shampoo, facing a huge grid of all the options is overwhelming. Who has the time and patience to look through them all?


If there's too many options, browsing shoppers can experience one of three things: 

Buyers remorse - unsatisfied with decision

They may get so overwhelmed by the amount of options they end up unsatisfied with the product they finally buy. They could walk away wondering what if I'd chosen the blue bottle? Maybe the pink one would have been better for me? They may never be truly satisfied and will continuously think what if.

Decision paralysis - can't decide so don't buy anything

When there's too many decisions to make, shoppers can become paralyzed. To the point where no decision seems like the safest option. If a decision requires too much brain power, they'll weigh up if it's actually a necessary purchase. If they simply wanted to browse and don't desperately need new shampoo, they'll leave. And you'll have missed out on a sale.

Habit purchasing - get in, get out mindset

For those in desperate need, there's nothing inviting about a huge wall of products. Shopper's aren't tempted to search for anything new. Instead, they'll stick to the same brand and variety they normally get and grab and go. They want to get in and out as fast as they can, taking the easy option by sticking to what they know.

If you have a wide range of products, surely you want your customers to take the time to discover and consider them? You don't want to confuse them and make them regret their final purchase. You don't want to paralyze them with fear that they decide to leave. And, you probably want them to click around and interact with more of your products than just grab and go.

So, how can you limit the number of choices offered and encourage product discovery?

Improve the flow of products

Don't show all available products straight away. Highlight 4 or 5 varieties that show range but limit choice. You can always link to a page full of all the product variations. But don't immediately show every available option.

Curate recommendations

Show a range of products that work well together. Create an experience that shows related products or recommendations. Try to encourage more than grab and go.

If you show a few shampoo options, match them with a couple of conditioner varieties. Then maybe some shower gel and other hair accessories. Don't leave your shoppers to do all the work themselves. By showing related products, you can try to predict or influence their next move. 

Leave room for inspiration

Don't be afraid to sell a vision as much as a reality. Give shoppers the opportunity to learn new things. Inspire them. Get them to discover new interests and products.

They might not know they desperately need and want something until you show them. Always aim to delight and impress your shoppers. When you show that you care about them and their decisions, they'll stick around. They'll listen to your advice and keep coming back for more.

By limiting choice and offering a logical, smooth shopping journey, your shoppers will feel in control. But, because you've selected what products to highlight, you're actually guiding them. You're nudging them in the right direction. You're helping them on their way to product discovery.

So think about the way you present your products. Think about how many varieties you're showing. Could you offer a more streamline, simple approach. Can you create an experience that will encourage customers to stay?

Jo Molloy

Jo Molloy