Options, so many options: the paradox of choice for customers

Written by Jamie Bowers

Different types of ice cream in containers on store

Have you ever walked into an ice cream shop and they have sooo many flavors! I get excited and giddy because I looooove ice cream! So much joy while you’re waiting in line, looking at all the flavors, dreaming about the tastes. Finally you’re the next person in line and its almost time to tell the scooper what you want. Then the thought sets in ‘what do I want?!’ So many choices! How do I choose?! Your joy turns to worry and you feel the pressuure as you have to decide in under a minute from the multitude of options…ahhhhhh! 😫

Ok, so it’s not really that intense. It is true when there are lots of options, it can be overwhelming. Turns out when our minds are overwhelmed by choices we experience something called the paradox of choice. It’s a real thing. This article from The Decision Lab says paradox of choice “stipulates that while we might believe that being presented with multiple options actually makes it easier to choose one that we are happy with, ….having an abundance of options actually requires more effort to make a decision and can leave us feeling unsatisfied with our choice.” Paradox of choice is also referred to as choice overload or overchoice. That’s what happens when I’m overwhelmed with ice cream flavors, I can’t decide, so I choose one I’ve had before and know I’ll like ie cookies & cream, and then really wish I would’ve gone with the special of the month ie bourbon butter pecan. 🤩

How does this apply to your business?

The options of ice cream flavors is only one example of the ways which we have become exposed to a plethora of choices as consumers. There are hundreds, thousands of options for clothes to buy, food to eat, cars to drive, and let’s not even talk about paint colors, especially for ‘white’. On the surface, the abundance of options may seem like it should be a positive, since we’re more likely to have an option that fits our exact desires or needs, but it can easily lead to overwhelm. It can weaken our ability to make a good decision, and that leaves us ultimately satisfied. This can lead to decision fatigue, where we can become mentally exhausted and make hurried decisions. It can result in delayed or even abandoned purchases, ultimately affecting a business’s sales and revenue. Additionally, having too many choices can also increase the likelihood of making a suboptimal decision or experiencing buyer’s remorse. It could call into question whether the customer made the right choice or if there was a better option available.

Following the ice cream example, at a sit-down restaurant they may only offer two flavors of ice cream. It is much easier to choose if there are only a two options. It becomes much harder to understand value and know what you want when there are 20 flavors at an ice cream shop. Applying these principles to your business, audit how many services or products you are offering to your customers. How can you make it easier for the customer to digest your products or services? We know customers are busy and easily overwhelmed considering the plethora of choices they have as consumers.

How can you streamline the offerings in your business to make the decision-making process simple and easy for them? Our article on the target audience speaks to how it is essential to make the offer or call-to-action crystal clear. The paradox of choice is part of that equation. This also highlights to the high value of market research, knowing your target audience, what their needs and wants are, and what solution your business offers to meet that need or want.

How does this apply to your business’ digital presence?

In your business, you may offer a lot of options to your customers. Many options could be exactly what your customers need and how your business helps solve their related problem. It is still important to help customers narrow their choices and find the best solution for their need or want. One way we like to tackle this is to create filters for products or services. For example, you need to buy a pair of boots because the weather is turning cold. You could go to a shoe retailer’s website, and use a filter option to search for boots. The filter pulls only applicable shoes, and gets the customers to the solution quickly. It could discourage you from making a purchase if you had to scroll through all the shoes they offer to just find boots.

Another tactic is to use site navigation and the organization of your webpages to help decrease overwhelm for your customers, and get them to their solution quickly. Also, clearly organizing products or services into specific sections or categories helps customers navigate through the options more easily and find what they are looking for without feeling overwhelmed.

The call-to-action on your website may be to fill out a form. A long form can deter customers from completing it. Are there fields that could be removed for the initial connection and that information be gathered later? Is there a way to combine questions to gather the information in a different way? Can you use radio or multiple choice fields instead of text to give clear and quick options to your customers? These edits may seem small, but streamlining and simplifying your website can really make an impact on user experience, which directly impacts how the target audience can convert to a customer.

Another option is to feature a survey or test on your website. Customers love to be ‘matched’ to a product or service. It gives them the answer without having to comb through all the information. We’ve seen great success for our clients using this feature, especially those with a lot of content on their website. You can check out one of them here.

Personalized recommendations or suggestions based on a customer’s previous purchases or browsing history is another tactic. This can help narrow down the choices and make the decision-making process more manageable for customers. What is the opportunity for simplifying the options for your customers on your website? What tools or tactics would best fit your website needs for making a crystal clear offer to your customers?


By understanding paradox of choice, and taking proactive steps to minimize its impact on your customer, you can increase the likelihood of conversions whether that is filling out a form or making a purchase. Overall, the question to ask is how can I best serve my target audience considering paradox of choice?

Need expert help to implement these tactics on your website? We’d love for you to schedule a chat with us. We use a tried-and-true process to create a customized digital presence with both web design & development and conversion rate optimization that empowers your business to grow.

Hi! We’re Zainatain

Zainatain is a web design and conversion rate optimization company fueled by coffee ☕, adventure ✈️, and a healthy dose of humor 🤣. We believe in the power of digital interfaces to accelerate business growth and help our clients achieve their business goals.

Get weekly insights via our Hump Day 🐪 Power-Up newsletter!

Need help with your website?

Let’s start creating results for your organization.

You May Also Like