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In a recent post in my “Persuasive Web Design” series, I discussed the danger of offering your website’s visitors too much choice. The crux is simply that if we offer customers too much choice, we risk paralyzing their decision-making process, thereby losing sales.

Today, I’d like to expand on this concept and suggest ways to make it easier for our website visitors to make a decision — even when they’re under the additional stress and time constraints of making last-minute Christmas purchases.

Ideally, your website already offers winnowing tools so that customers can narrow their choices by criteria that makes sense to them. (If your website doesn’t allow this, be sure to add it to your wish list for next year…) But even if your website doesn’t offer full winnowing functionality, there are simple and easy-to-implement ways to help visitors make a decision.

The best technique is simply to display shortlists of suggested purchases. These can be categorized in any way that makes sense within the context of your website, for example:

  • Best Selling Gifts (or “Santa’s Top Picks”)
  • Top Rated Gifts by Experts
  • Customers’ Top-Rated Christmas Presents
  • Staff Picks
  • Stocking Stuffers
  • Top presents within price ranges (e.g. gifts under $20, under $50, under $100, etc.)
  • Top Christmas Presents within product categories

In most cases, it’s best to display one subset by default (for example, Best Sellers) then give your visitors the ability to select other subsets (like Staff Picks) if they prefer.

Do remember that the whole point is to limit choices to make the gift-buying decision easier. Listing 100 “Best Sellers” isn’t that helpful. Again depending on the context of your website, the right number of options to display will likely fall within the range of 3 to 10 distinctly different options. Any more than that — or if the options are not highly distinct from each other — and Decide-O-Phobia kicks in again …

In sum, you can combat Decide-O-Phobia by:

  1. Letting your customers select the criteria they wish to choose presents by
  2. Greatly limiting the number of options displayed at any one time
  3. Ensuring that each gift option is distinctly different

Do this, and you’ll make life much easier for your visitors during the stressful holiday season. And in return, they’ll reward you with more sales.