Jam paradox: Don't confuse your customers with too many options!

Jam paradox: Don't confuse your customers with too many options!
Jürgen Kroder
January 29, 2024
Jam paradox: Don't confuse your customers with too many options!

E-commerce has an unbeatable advantage over retail: you can display a huge range in your online store without having to buy expensive shelf meters. But this advantage can also be a disadvantage. This is known as the " jam paradox" and damages your sales. Here's what you can do about it. 

What is the "jam paradox"? 

In English, it is known as the "paradox of choice" or casually as the " jam paradox". The colloquial term refers to a study from the year 2000: the two scientists Mark Lepper and Sheena Iyengar found out from a selection of jam varieties that the more options a customer has, the less willing they are to buy. 

Why is this the case?  

With a large selection, the customer has to weigh up the different offers intensively. This leads to uncertainty and delays the decision-making process. In the worst case, this leads to "choice overload". This "choice overload" can lead to the insecure prospective customer not buying anything at all because they are afraid of choosing the wrong or unsuitable product. 

Where does "choice overload" arise? 

The "choice overload" can therefore already take place during simple shopping. Because you don't just need jam for the grocery shopping for the week, but also sausage, cheese or wine - and you're spoiled for choice everywhere. So shopping is no fun. Especially online, where the shelves can theoretically be infinitely long, the jam paradox quickly arises. Search for "Samsung smartphone" on eBay or Amazon, for example, and you'll get thousands of hits. E-commerce madness! 

How you can easily counteract the paradox of choice 

How do you prevent visitors to your online store from quickly losing the desire to shop? The answer is: KISS! Keep it stupid and simple. In other words: massively reduce your product range. 

Don't offer your customers ten, fifteen or even more similar products, but a maximum of two or three. To do this, you need to make a selection. You can do this on the basis of customer data. Find out which product variants are particularly popular within your target groups. You can obtain the results from surveys and user tracking in your online store. Of course you should analyze your sales: Which products are selling particularly well, which are selling less? 
You can also expand the criteria: Which products are well received and also have a particularly attractive margin? Or how do the selected products contribute to your company goals beyond sales and profit?  

Further tips to avoid confusing customers 

If you find it difficult to significantly reduce your product range, you need to take other measures. These have proven their worth: 
Go broad with depth 
Don't make the mistake of immediately showing all variants of a product. An iPhone 15 is first and foremost an iPhone 15. If someone is interested, you can gradually explain that the smartphone is available in the "Pro" and "Pro-Max" versions, with 128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB memory, among others. 

Focus on special products 
Select top products ("new products", "bestsellers" or "recommendations from our customers") and place them in the foreground. Draw attention - less prominently - to other offers. For example, with teasers such as "Haven't found anything yet? You can find more types of jam here". 
Integrate filter options 
If you operate an online shop with a large portfolio for a broad target group, it is extremely difficult to focus on a handful of top products. In this case, you need to make it as easy as possible for your potential customers to find the ideal product as quickly as possible. That's why Wein.de offers numerous filter options. These include such original ones as "food recommendation" and " expansion". 

 Quelle: https://www.wein.de/wein

Personalize your offer 
Once you have collected enough data, you can make personalized offers to each customer or at least a customer group. Here, too, you should proceed according to the "Reduce to the Max" principle!

Use digital purchasing advisors 
Advice tools can also help to overcome the jam paradox. Notebooksbilliger.de, for example, offers a buying guide for notebooks and projectors on its website. And Tesla has a section called "Help me to choose", even though the car manufacturer only offers five different vehicles. Other companies rely on intelligent chatbots or customer advice via WhatsApp. 

Quelle: https://www.notebooksbilliger.de/kaufberater/notebook+kaufberater 


If you want to increase your sales, it is tempting to expand your product range. But remember that you will overwhelm your customers if you offer them more choice. The paradox of choice or jam paradox is not a grey theory - think about yourself when you shop in a shop or online. Don't you get annoyed when you can't make a quick decision? Or do you always go back to the same products to save time? 
Take a look at your online shop with these findings in mind. Reduce your product range in line with the motto "quality instead of quantity" and work continously to better guide your prospective customers. Filter functions, buying guides, highlighted products, personalized content - there are many ways to prevent "choice overflow". 

As experts in our field, we are always ready to support your request with expertise and commitment. Don't hesitate to contact us as your trusted partner - we look forward to working with you to find solutions that meet your needs.

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