When people in an experiment by Daniel Mochon of Tulane University were shown two DVD players, 32% indicated they would buy one of the brands and 34% chose the other. But when the participants were shown a single DVD player, only 9% or 10% (depending on which brand they saw) said they would purchase the product, says Mochon (source at bottom of post).
Retailers, and really any Austin business owner, should bear in mind this fact:
Consumers have an aversion to being offered just a single option when they purchase
If a shopper, online or here in Austin at your local business, is offered only a single option of a product they’re considering, they’ll buy approximately 66% FEWER TIMES, Mochon says. Even if they can find an option they like, they most likely will want to consider similar options first.
What does this mean for you, the Local Austin SMALL Biz Owner and NOT big box retailer?
Simple: if you sell cupcakes, offer two types of chocolate. If you sell cars, offer several colors (here you get into “option paralysis” possibilities if you offer TOO many. The prospective customer needs enough information to make a decision, but not so many pieces of information that he or she has no hope of doing enough analysis to make an informed decision). Whatever you sell, make sure your customer has options.
GIANT CAVEAT: This of course does not apply to repeat purchases, or repeat customers. Once a customer knows you’re a good buy, you have a customer pretty much for life unless you do something to lose them.
Learning your customer is critical. I had a recent conversation with a friend, who owns a business in South Austin, and they kind of threw this back in my face, saying in effect “I wouldn’t respond that way, I’d respond THIS way”, which brings up possibly the most prevalent issue with the solopreneur: you’re not selling to yourself. Don’t judge things by how YOU would react, but how THEY would react.
Here’s a simple test: Put your product options in front of 100 of your perfect customers and ask their opinion. What would they buy? Why? What do they think about the colors? Once you know this, you’re ready to begin offering selections, and that’s where Single Option Aversion enters your Sales Process.
Services are both harder and easier. Not being tangible, they are a bit harder to demonstrate the value, but they’re also far easier from an R&D standpoint to create. You don’t have to worry about physical labor, raw materials and shipping like tangible goods. It’s still very important to ensure that options are available, and that you don’t present only one option to the prospective customer.
Think of it like this: your customer wants to do research before buying. Part of that research is price.
If they only have the one option on your site, then they need to go somewhere else to feel that they’ve completed the research cycle. However, if you offer two or three pricing options (three is best), then they can complete that research while still on your site.
Take a look at these two Email Marketing examples:
First, Constant Contact.
This is a great example of offering three distinct pricing options, with corresponding levels of engagement and benefit. They could do several things better, including what these next folks do, and emphasize one pricing over the other two, and name it as their most popular.
Now, these guys or gals are doing it right. 8 options is really too many, BUT the critical distinction here is that they differentiate not one, but TWO separate pricing options. Once is the most popular, and the other is the best value. I don’t recommend stacking your benefits like they’re doing, because it’s not really clear what’s going on, and you don’t want complexity to be a barrier to sales, do you? Vertical stacks are best, but we’ll talk about that on another post.
Bottom line: customers (me included) want to feel two things: 1.) I made the right choice and 2.) I didn’t get ripped off. These seem similar, but aren’t as much as you might think. Let’s look:
“The Right Choice” is wrapped around value, security, matching my individual wants and needs, etc… “Not Getting Ripped Off” is all about fear of being taken advantage of, and it’s roots are planted firmly in the soil of every bad deal we’ve ever been a part of, along with every episode of those investigative reports on Austin News stations we’ve watched. Lightly season with all the stories you’ve heard from aunts, uncles and cousins about bad purchases, and that all means one thing: you MUST make sure that I feel confident that I’m making the right choice.
That brings us full circle back to having only one option: always a bad idea.
Give your customers at least one other option, and you’ll both sell more, and have happier customers.