Decision Fatigue and Its Effect on Website Conversion Rates

Every day we make around 35,000 decisions. That’s huge. 

From choosing what to wear, to making life-changing financial decisions, our days are packed with all kinds of choices to make. 

Understandably, by the end of the day, we get tired. Studies show that tiredness reduces our ability to make the right choices, if any choice at all. 

What Is Decision Fatigue, Anyway?

Decision fatigue is our diminishing capacity to make good decisions after a long period of decision-making. 

In other words, human brains become overwhelmed when attempting to process vast amounts of decisions. 

As you make more and more of them, it gets harder to make the right choice. 

Decision Avoidance

To make matters worse, instead of making a bad decision, our overwhelmed brains often avoid making a choice at all. It’s simply easier to do nothing at all than to make a choice. 

While many studies have gone on to prove this theory, the famous jam experiment in 2000 was one of the first studies to highlight the phenomenon clearly.

decision fatigue - the jam experiment

In the experiment, on day one, shoppers in a food store were offered 24 types of jam. On day two, the shoppers were offered six types of jam.

Interestingly, the group who had been offered only six types of jam were 10 times more likely to make a purchase. 

The extra options had reduced the shoppers’ abilities to make a choice, and many opted for the simple option — no choice at all. 

Buyer’s Remorse

Not only does too much choice affect our ability to make a decision, but it also makes us feel bad after the decision is made. 

With all those bright shiny options to choose from, once you’ve finally settled on an option, you can’t help but worry whether or not you’ve made the right decision. 

The grass is always greener and too many options can lead to confusion, unhappiness, and regret. 

No matter what we decide in the end, later we worry about all the options we left behind.

The Paradox of Choice

Did you ever notice that Steve Jobs always wore the same “uniform”? 

His trademark outfit included a black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance trainers, which he wore every single day. 

decision fatigie - steve jobs

Why? 

Because he understood the effect of making even small decisions throughout the day on his ability to perform optimally, when it mattered. 

He knew that each day he would be faced with thousands of decisions – some big, some small – all of which would drain a little bit of his energy and diminish his decision-making capability. 

By eliminating trivial choices from his daily routine, he left valuable brain power for more important decisions.  

Less Is More

You might be wondering what jam, Steve Jobs, and buyer’s remorse have to do with the conversion rate on your website. 

A lot, it turns out. 

The paradox of choice is a big deal for website owners who rely on conversions

If you give your website visitors too many choices, a customer will either make a poor decision (increasing your return rate) or make no decision at all (reducing your conversion rate). 

The Impact of Too Much Choice on Websites

Just like the jam experiment found in a brick and mortar store, the paradox of choice holds true in a digital setting too. 

decision fatigue - less is more

Instead of increasing conversion rates by offering your users plenty of choices, you actually distract them from taking action. 

E-commerce websites, lead generation platforms, or any other kind of website that requires a user to take action (make a purchase, get in touch, join a newsletter) are affected by choice overload. 

Offering too much choice can lead the customer to become anxious and focus on the cons of making a choice. 

How to Reduce Analysis Paralysis on Your Website

Let’s imagine that you’re an e-commerce store owner (although the principles will work for nearly any kind of conversion-focused website). 

You’ve successfully generated qualified traffic to your website and now your job is to make it convert. 

The best way to do that is to eliminate any parts of your website that prompt the user to ask “which is the best choice?” or “what should I do now?” 

Audit your website and get rid of any unnecessary or overly confusing decisions. While this certainly applies to the number of products you list, it also applies to other decision-making areas on the website. 

Consider these areas on your website and the recommendation on reducing the complexity of the decisions: 

#1 Website Navigation

When a customer comes to your website, they need to be able to easily navigate to the section they are searching for. 

Make sure you don’t include unnecessary links in your primary navigation, as this could cause decision fatigue. 

As a rule of thumb, keep your primary menu for your website’s primary conversion goals (e.g. shop now, get in touch, book a consultation) and your secondary menu in your footer for less important informative content (e.g. privacy policy, careers, legalities). 

#2 Promotions

Okay, everyone loves a deal, but sometimes too many deals can be a, ahem, deal-breaker. 

Just like with any other decision, if there are tons of offers on one webpage or website, it’s going to be hard to make a decision. 

Take a look at Fabletics: 

 

Fabletics
Source

 

The design is clean and simple, but in one small screenshot there are three promotions:

  • Two leggings for £24, if you become a VIP member
  • Outfits from £20, if you’re a new VIP member
  • Become a member for just £44 per month

To avoid confusion and decision avoidance, ideally a website should focus on clear promotion. 

#3 Clear Call-to-Action (CTA)

The purpose of a CTA is to tell the user what action to take next. It needs to be clear, simple, and meet your business goals. 

In other words, if you want to encourage a customer to make a purchase on your website, your CTA shouldn’t tell them to get in touch. 

Equally, your CTAs should be consistent throughout a page, ideally with only one main CTA. This could be ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Get in Touch’ – whatever you want your user to do. 

Give the potential customer too many options and they may fail to take any action at all. 

#4 Content Overload

Most people agree that content is king – or at least a hugely important element of your online presence. 

Great content acts as a web to soak up organic search and positions you as an expert in your niche. 

But too much content on display can cause content overload. 

Don’t present all of your titles in one huge list of thumbnails. This forces the user to read each and every title and make a decision to read one in particular.

Instead, include a ‘recent posts’ section displaying the latest post only. Interested users can head to ‘Blog’ in your main navigation to find more articles if and when they want to. 

#5 Filters and Sorting

This is a big one for e-commerce stores, especially those with larger inventories. 

If you have lots of products, the best way to overcome decision avoidance is by allowing the customer to narrow down their search results using filtration. 

In other words, a collection on an e-commerce store may show “Womens Tops,” with 100 tops. 

But if the customer knows that they need a medium white crop top, then the filters on the website should offer those choices. 

decision fatigue - sort and filter
Source

 

The user can then filter the options and find a far smaller list of medium white crop tops available on the website. 

Equally, sorting options can reduce decisions, too. A home buyer may look every day for a new house, so they have a keen understanding of what’s already on the market. 

If they can narrow down the search to “Newest Listings,” then they don’t need to waste time reviewing hundreds of properties they saw the day before. 

Let’s End with a K.I.S.S.

While decision avoidance, buyer’s remorse, and the paradox of choice sound like complex scientific studies, they all really boil down to one core element: 

K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid). 

Simplify your web pages down to one (or two) core actions that are instrumental to your business goals. Make the action relevant and valuable to both your business and your customers.

Humans become easily drained by excessive choice. Too much choice causes poor decisions, buyer’s remorse, and indecision.  

Implement the techniques in this article to keep it simple and remove unnecessary choices from your website. 

You’ll improve your conversion rates, increase your customer satisfaction, and decrease returns – all by keeping it simple, stupid.

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