Woman browsing store shelves

Choice Overload: A Secret Killer to Sales & Satisfaction

Written By Matt Taylor, Director of Insights. Published in Jan/Feb issue of CHNR magazine. 

Once again, it’s New Year’s resolution time. And with each new goal comes a series of difficult choices. What to eat, how to cut spending, when to exercise and which vitamins to take, just to name a few. Any endless list of options and decisions can overwhelm and derail the best of us—including your shoppers.

In one famous experiment1, researchers sold jam at a local food store. They learned two things. First, a big display of 24 flavours drew a larger crowd than a smaller display of only 6 flavours – not a big surprise. However, here’s the curveball: the smaller display sold 10 times more jam!

There’s more. These same researchers also tried sampling chocolates1. Participants who selected from only 6 options (vs 30) felt significantly more satisfied with their choice.

The lesson? Too much choice creates:


    1. A problem for you. It may increase interest and browsing, but inhibit decisions (i.e. sales) and satisfaction (i.e. repeat sales).

    1. A problem for your customer. First, they struggle to decide. And even once they do, they feel regret, wondering if they should have purchased something else. The result: less compliance and fewer positive outcomes.

When it comes to Natural Health, a wide assortment is a double-edged sword. Specialty channel shoppers want lots of options! However, our world of complex products, endless features and difficult-to-compare formulas can overwhelm anyone just getting started.

Here are 3 ways to help mitigate the overload.

1) Chunk down the choices

Research2 shows that creating product categories can reduce the harmful effects of too many options, while also increasing the perception of variety. The key is to organize in a meaningful way – how your shoppers make decisions.

2) Build up self-efficacy

Shopping natural products is hard work! And when something takes effort, consumers need to believe in themselves to endure, decide and feel satisfied.3 As you guide your shoppers, carefully instruct without overwhelming them and celebrate their existing knowledge, helping them feel smart and capable of achieving their goals.

3) Keep resources available

Did you know that coffee can boost your reaction time and a dictionary can improve your puzzle-solving abilities – even without using them?4 That’s because knowing about helpful resources can increase our confidence! This means just the presence of qualified staff and informative signage or literature could increase sales. How should you communicate that you have everything they need to help make the right decision?

As you can see, choice overload is a major obstacle to sales, satisfaction and compliance. But when we do our part to simplify the process and strengthen consumer confidence, everyone wins.


1. Iyengar and Lepper. 2000.

2. Mogilner et al. 2008.

3. Garlin and McGuiggan. 2002.

4. Faro et al. 2011.

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