Fewer choices make for greater sales

Sheena Lyenar’s 2009 book The Art of Choosing is a must read for anybody in the wine business.

Her research focuses on the intersection of science and emotion when it comes to decision making. The “Jam Study” is a key part of her research. During this experiment, tables were set up at a busy premium grocery store and demonstration of different jams were available to the public.

(Sounds like an in store wine tasting, doesn’t it?)

The researchers posed as employees of the store, encouraging people to try the different jams, all the while carefully tracking their data.

Half of the time they had six selections of jam, the other half they had twenty four selections.

When there were more choices, there were more visitors. So if you were measuring based on visitors, then you wanted more selections. Sounds logical, right?

When there were more choices, there was sampling of the jams but not more per person than when there were fewer selections. Most people stopped sampling after three or four choices. So if you had more visitors because you had twenty four selections on the table, more people overall tried the jam but most people would still only try a handful of selections. In other words, a whole lot more work and more prep and more talking for the person leading the demo.

And the most important finding? 31% of the people that stopped at the table with six selections made a purchase. The table with twenty four selections? Only 3% made a purchase. 

Think about that.

This is essential to keep in mind for retailers doing in store tastings or organizing larger events, restaurants offering wines by the glass, and wholesale reps presenting wines to their customers. Limit the choices and you increase the sales.