Paradox of choice cover image of guy comparing two options vs one option
Will click-through rates increase or decrease when we cut the number of products we recommend from two to one? The results of our quick experiment are clear.

Too Many Choices?

You might have heard of the paradox of choice before. It says that giving people more choice is not necessarily better. People either feel less satisfied with their choice or are so paralyzed by the number of options that they choose nothing at all.

The most famous example is a 2000 study by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper in which they sampled 24 varieties of jam in a supermarket one day, then 6 the next. Guess on which day they sold more jam?

The second. Given fewer choices, consumers bought more jam.

Way more.

Ten times more.

Putting The Paradox of Choice to the Digital Test

To test the paradox of choice for ourselves, and see whether it applies in the digital world, we ran an experiment on one of our posts—our 3-day fast story.

Our test was whether more readers would click through to Amazon (and hopefully earn us some commissions) if we reduced the number of books we recommend at the end of the post from two to one.

Would there be an increase in clicks in the lone remaining book? And would it be enough to offset the loss of clicks to the book we removed?

We set up an A/B test on Google Optimize and eagerly awaited the results.

Which Do You Think Will Win?

Here are screenshots of the two variants. Which of these two do you think will generate more clicks to see the book(s) on Amazon:

Two books:

Paradox of choice conversion test two books
The original version of the test, where we recommended two books.

Or one book:

paradox of choice test screenshot for one book
Updated to remove one of the books so there is only one choice.

Have you made your guess?

Now let’s see the results.


The Results

As you can see in this chart, there was a runaway winner…

Graph of results of our paradox of choice experiment
The green option easily beat out the gray one.

…And the winner was the one book option.

When we recommended two different books in the post, 5.9% of readers clicked through to Amazon to check either one or both of them out. But when we only recommended one book, the click-through rate increased 40% to 8.3%.

digital paradox of choice Google Optimize results
Significantly more readers clicked through to Amazon when we only recommended one book instead of two.

Interestingly, while click-through rates were very different, other on-page measurements for the two variants were pretty much identical. Average time on page for both was just over 1.5 minutes, bounce rate was in the 37-40% range, and exit rate around 63%.

Google analytics data from the experiment
Aside from the click-through rate, there was no real difference in page metrics between the two variants.

Why this Matters to You

Readers want you to make their choices for them so, if you want to increase conversions, don’t make them choose.

Tell your readers what to do instead.


Learn More….

About The Paradox of Choice

For all the science behind this strange psychological phenomena, I’ll take my own advice and stick to recommending only one book: The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz.

About improving the influence of your blog

How much do you think adding buttons in addition to text links can increase click-through rates? Check out our experiment for the results.

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