Will ‘less is more’ or ‘more is better’ online merchandising drive bigger sales?
A university working paper finds online shoppers often use one coping mechanism to manage the exhaustion that comes with endless choices online: They take a break.
In a statement, researchers from NYU and UCLA said abundant search choices lead many to adopt a “search/rest/search-some-more” approach to online shopping. The rest period, dubbed “search gap,” can “restore our shopping mojo, and even slightly increase the likelihood of finally making a purchase.”
A study of online Dutch shoppers over a 10-week stretch found over 40 percent who visited popular fashion websites ended up taking a break before returning to their search. Less than 15 percent, however, ended their shopping sessions with the original site. The average break time was about one week. Those taking a break averaged three respites.
“What typically happened is that the shopper toggled over to a social media site or some other online ‘leisure’ activity,” researchers said. “That suggests they weren’t pressured by work or other claims on their time to stop shopping. They just needed a break.”
Reducing search fatigue led shoppers to head to additional sites, benefiting smaller, less popular websites. Shoppers taking a fatigue break stuck to popular sites.
“While businesses want a quick transaction, the research suggests that in a world where fatigue seems embedded — rare is a shopping website that presents a carefully curated tight universe of options — the search gap can actually improve the conversion rate of shopper to buyer,” concluded the researchers.
The finding works against the “Choice of Paradox” theory that contends that “choice overload” discourages purchasing. It may also explain Amazon.com’s success despite having more than 350 million items (estimated) available for purchase.
A Stanford University study from 2016 likewise found abundant options can be desired based on need.
“Every decision is really two decisions,” Itamar Simonson, a co-author and Stanford marketing professor, told Insights by Stanford Business at the time. “If your first decision is about whether you want to buy, then having more options is conducive to buying. But if your first decision is on which specific product to select, then having a big assortment can make it more difficult to identify the best option.”
- Search Fatigue: Online Shoppers Grow Weary, Take a Break – UCLA Anderson Review
- Search Gaps – SSRN
- Are Consumers Turned Off by Too Many Choices? Not Yet. – Stanford Graduate School Of Business
- The Positive Effect of Assortment Size on Purchase Likelihood: The Moderating Influence of Decision Order – Stanford Graduate School Of Business
- ‘Less is more’ when competing with Amazon – RetailWire
- Scale vs. curation: The tension at the heart of retail – Think With Google
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does the Paradox of Choice theory (choice overload discourages purchasing) apply to online merchandising? How can merchants determine when “less is more” and “more is better” online?