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Want to sell more online? Give less choice!

by Peter Koning

In the 1990's it was common for online businesses to load up their sites with one or more menus having a rich choice of options and content for visitors to dive into.

It was thought that by giving as much information such as white papers, case studies, technical details, benefits, reseller sales material, and so on, that the visitors to the site would eventually find what they needed and make a purchase.

But today site visitors are less patient than ever. It's been found that the average visitor will click away from your site in less than 3 seconds. Also, we all know how much information overload we have in our inboxes and download folders.

So websites that give so much information and choice to the visitor are actually under-performing compared to sites that guide the visitors along a path towards a specific goal, such as signing up for a free report, coupon, or to place an order.

"Information overload is a critical and consistent problem, and in this study we found that Web users were more likely to say that a site had too many links as opposed to too few links," said Jeff Rosenblum, co-founder and research and strategy director of Questus, in January 2006.

Recently a discussion on choice has surfaced on the internet.

Marketing Experiments recently discussed the pros and cons of having choice on a website. According to a seminar they gave in October, 2006, "Too many choices fragment a prospect's attention. In a split test, we simplified from 3 columns to 1, the subscription process from 2 pages to 1, and reducing the number of subscription options from 3 to 2 resulted in conversion rate increasing 42% and revenues more than doubled."

Also a recent excellent article by Dr. Ralph Wilson discussed the differences between a "linear" site - very little choice, guiding a visitor along a path to the goal, and a "menu" site ? lots of options and choices, navigation to reach all over the site.

He doesn't judge one better than the other, but it's obvious there are some things we can learn from linear sites and possibly adapt our overly choice-rich sites to guide our visitors along a path to buying, more than we may have in the past.

A linear site will get you fewer sales of other products, but you'll get more sales of the products you are offering to the prospect. This implies that if you are selling one main product, you should have a linear sales process to optimize your conversion.

Dr. Ralph Wilson's bottom line on conversion potential is that a Linear Site has higher conversion potential because of specific focus, perhaps lessened somewhat because of limited choice of products. A Menu-driven Site has lower conversion potential because of greater shopper freedom, perhaps raised some because of product choice. You can pick any of thousands of vendors and see how they have so many options on their site it's not funny.

Want to see a linear site?

Go to any internet marketer's site? they know how to turn visitors into hot prospects and then into customers. Most internet marketer sites are simply a sales page with an order button, and maybe one link for affiliates to learn how they can promote the product.

Internet marketers have learned by testing and measuring, that it is better to grab a visitor's attention, pull them into the site, and present the benefits in a direct fashion.

Using a linear site and other internet marketing techniques, a pair of internet marketers recently sold over $10 million of StomperNet? a Search Engine Optimization membership site, in 3 weeks.

More and more online shoppers are getting used to seeing sites with less choice and so this concept is becoming more accepted.

Websites from the 1990's need to consider updating their marketing strategy to use this concept, which to most internet marketers is obvious.

What about your site?

Visitors to your site have come there for a reason.

If your site is wide open and offers them everything they could possibly wonder about, that's great but is it presenting it in the right order to lead them to an action ? such as buying your product?

Probably not, since people tend to hop all over a site and without any persuasive message the odds aren't good that they will take action.

People like to be led ? so why isn't your website doing that?

It's a well known fact that people will find excuses not to buy something even if they were perfectly qualified to. For example, if one sales page gives the option to buy, but has links at the bottom to various other areas of the site - .vs. another sales page having just a couple of purchase options, which do you think will perform better?

So try removing some of the choice from your site, and think of guiding your visitors in ? maybe offer an opt-in page which then leads to more information. By pulling your visitors into a funnel you will be able to measure each step along the way, and also build a relationship with your prospects at the same time.

Discuss this in our Forum

About the Author:

Peter Koning has over 20 years of experience in IT sales and marketing, has studied the latest sales techniques of internet marketers, and is the founder of, a viral marketing platform for online merchants.

Get a free 30 page report on Viral Marketing at today.

Copyright (c) 2006 Peter Koning

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