As marketers we tend to think that abundance of choice in products is one of the key strengths of ecommerce.

But without proper management and structure, this can become a hindrance and not necessarily result in more sales.

For this article we will go through some of the most common reasons behind customer indecision and showcase the brands that are successfully circumventing them through active “Choice Reduction”.

Facing the tyranny of choice

Now faced with the possibility of finding and buying anything online, we see more and more customers unable to commit to making a purchase then and there.

They instead become afflicted by choice paralysis. Unfortunately choice paralysis isn’t something only suffered by your new customers. Even those that enter your site having already made a decision can find themselves inundated by all the options available to them and start to question whether theirs is the right one.

In the worst-case scenario, the customers will leave the site and never re-enter the customer journey, instead reverting back to their existing shopping behaviour and just buy from the brand they normally do.

This is because when we fear making a bad decision, we would often rather remove ourselves from the situation and make no decision at all. 

The answer to this is simple, albeit for many brands an impractical one; reduce choice paralysis by limiting the number of visible alternatives available to your consumers.

When this isn’t a possibility, there is a need to clearly differentiate between the different options available.  

Relatable product taxonomy

Up until recently, when visiting IKEA’s website you were served with over ten categories in the top navigation.

In a more recent version rolled out as a test in September in the UK and Ireland, the Swedish furniture company moved towards a much clearer taxonomy, organising all the content under just four categories; ‘Products’, ‘ Rooms’, ‘Ideas’ and ‘This is IKEA’. 

Allowing users to find products not only through ‘Products’ but also through ‘Rooms’ allows for a more natural categorisation of products.

The addition of ‘Ideas’ to the mix allows the brand to bundle content while suggesting related products. All in all, providing the user with a simple and easy to navigate experience and an organisation of products more relatable to the customers.


Ending shopper procrastination

The introduction of shopping lists has allowed online shoppers to save products and make sense of the vast selections available from e-retailers such as ASOS.

A tool initially designed to single out products, for many it ends up introducing both procrastination and complexity into the customer journey.

Without a limit to amounts of products you can add to a list, you end up mimicking the main ecommerce experience, risking further choice paralysis. ASOS has introduced some limitations to its lists, namely only allowing products on the list for 60 days before being automatically removed.

There are also some other examples e-retailers can learn from. One such example is Priority, O2’s deal oriented app for its subscribers.

For many of the deals run on the app, O2 cleverly links discounts and rewards with time limits. Before choosing to redeem an offer, users are warned that they have a limited amount of time to use said offer.

By adding a sense of urgency, the app pushes the user to commit to the purchase and cuts down on potential procrastination.

This same mechanic can be adapted to e-retailers as well. For example, in cases of prolonged user inactivity, by triggering time limited discounts or free shipping if the purchase is completed within a pre-determined time frame.

O2 Priority 

Removing the last obstacles

When asked in research done by Baymard Institute, 61% of customers declare extra costs as the key reason behind abandoning their online shopping cart.

For many e-commerce sites, shipping costs, insurance and other things are hidden until the last minute. While it might be to mask and lower the perceived cost of making an online purchase, these operators are in fact undermining themselves.

Others such as the fashion brand Reiss are instead upfront with their extra costs. On Reiss’ website, the brand clearly states the different levels of shipping available and the cost the customer can expect. The brand also allows those more concerned with shipping costs to collect their purchase in store. 

Reiss UK 

In the same study, 24% of respondents say they abandoned their cart because they couldn’t see the final cost upfront. ASOS counteracts this by allowing the customer to change the type (and cost) of delivery from a dropdown in the shopping basket.

At the same time, through a notification ASOS cleverly tries to trigger the customer into a sale by offering a next-day delivery promo code.


While there are several other very effective tactics such as retargeting ads and basket reminder emails, these should be seen more as remedies to treat symptoms and not as relevant solutions to the problem; getting more people to commit to a purchase while on your site.

The methods referenced are some of the simplest and easy-to-implement ways of removing customer indecision from your customer’s journey and nudging them into making a purchase.

Ultimately it comes down to “Choice Reduction”, one of the key sales triggers in our new planning model for marketers