Have you ever thought: how do consumers choose among products and services? What entices a consumer to pick one brand over another, or one version of a product in comparison to other alternatives? Is it a problem that consumers have too many choices?

While there isn’t one specific answer to these questions, there are a range of factors that go into the decision-making process for consumers when making a product decision. Despite the factors that affect this decision-making process, this issue can generally be labelled as consumer option paralysis.

A study conducted in a California grocery store found that even though a selection of 24 jams attracted more consumers to the shop, minimising that collection to only 6 jam options resulted in a 31% conversion rate of people buying jams in comparison to the 4% conversion rate with the larger selection.

In this post, decision paralysis in marketing will be discussed as well as affective approaches to reduce customer buying regrets and the justifications that go into consumer shopping in general.

What Is Option Paralysis?

Choice paralysis psychology is the study of humans having a hard time or even being unable to make a decision because the options are too difficult to compare. In some cases, people are not able to choose between one or two similar products and end up making a rash decision on a totally different option or not making any choice at all, This psychology can also be applied to businesses looking to increase their conversion rates.

The psychology of choice-making in respect to eCommerce is an issue created by companies that affect a consumers decision-making process. When a brand presents too many choices to pick from, the likelihood of no decision or a regretful one being made increases greatly.

Tips For Businesses Looking to Decrease the Burden of Choice Making

Marketing in a crisis is already hard enough without businesses having to deal with the option paralysis of consumers. This issue can make inventory extremely difficult to sell successfully, especially in response to the effects of the pandemic as companies attempt to add more product options to cater to consumer needs and boost overall revenue.

eCommerce is now seeing trends of cart abandonment and constant returns as consumers are making regretful purchases due to their option paralysis. To avoid this, we have compiled a list of tips your business can follow to hopefully reduce option paralysis in customers:

Limit Choice - Although your eCommerce business may think it’s great to offer consumers lots of options, more often than not it can be overwhelming. Your business in some ways should have limited choices, whether it be colour options or product similarities. More isn’t always better, so make sure to apply this approach to your online shop to relieve consumers of the possible feeling of overload. 

Make Clear Options - Your brand should be making sure all given options are clearly different and separate from one another. For example, let’s say your brand was selling ice cream flavours and offered two flavours, one being Chocolate Chunks and the other being Chocolate Brownie Chunks, this might end up being confusing for some consumers. One flavour may simply have little bits of chocolate in it while the other has bits of a brownie, but as the products are so similar it could lead to consumers overall just abandoning the site, as the decision becomes too hard to make.

Break Down Product Choice - A consumer visiting a website may need to be clearly directed to certain products in order to help with conversions. When it comes to intricate products, breaking down the selection will guide consumers into confidently buying the right product for themselves. For example, tech company Apple has a section on their website that allows customers to compare different laptops based on battery life, size, storage, display and so on. If that doesn’t work for consumers, Apple also gives the option for the buyer to contact a specialist and talk through which would be the best option for them to have. Through this example, consumers will likely be confident in their final purchase as the brand helped guide the customer to the product that best fit their needs.

Promote Fast Decision Making - The longer a consumer browses a site or sits with products in their shopping cart, the more likely the customer is to abandon the website altogether or become reluctant to buy. Through a handful of different methods to encourage fast decision making, a great example of this approach has been accomplished by the clothing brand, Lulus. The fashion brand lets the consumer know how much of the inventory is left in stock by stating “ONLY 5 LEFT!” next to the price of a piece of clothing. This strategy helps consumers make speedy decisions by making the product seem very popular as there is only a limited amount of stock left and should be bought quickly before the product is sold out.

As for applying these tips into your own brand’s model, your eCommerce site will probably have to go through trial and error before figuring out the best practices regarding generating the best ROI.


Overall, too many choices for consumers can lead to option paralysis and a loss of potential sales for your eCommerce brand. To overcome this issue and help customers make a purchase, your brand will need to adapt its business model by lowering product options and inventory, promote quick decision-making, breaking down choices and distinguishing the differences of each product. Think quality over quantity and make it easier for your customers to shop with you.



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