Less Is More: Avoiding Choice Overload

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research


Recently, a CPG client came to us with a desire to understand how to grow their business in the warehouse club channel, (we’ll call it “Club” throughout) without cannibalizing their business outside of Club.  Given the combinations of products they wanted to test in Club, we ended up with 72 shelves to test initially.


In an ideal world, people would actually shop all of these different shelves, but in reality, this would cost millions of dollars; and it would take months to set up all 72 shelves and then recruit enough respondents to do the shopping.


To meet these objectives without costing the client millions of dollars and valuable time, we decided on an online shelf set shopping exercise for this objective. To keep it as real as possible, we worked with the client to narrow down the shelf set to the key products. Still, even in doing this, we ended up with around 90 products.


We began by programming the shelves with all 90 products. But it turned out that this vast number of products was just too much to visually take in on a computer screen. It was also too much for a consumer to review and then make a good decision (just as it is in the store). In other words, consumers would experience choice overload.


Not only was it choice overload for the respondent, in the end it would have left us, the researchers, with a very sparse data set, making it difficult to see changes in behavior due to changes at shelf, even with 2000+ respondents.


Luckily, in consulting with the client, they understood and were willing to scale the shelf set back to get actionable results and not infuriate the respondents.


We ended up going from 90 products on shelf to just 30 products –  the top selling products in the category. And, in doing so, the results were crystal clear. The winning shelves were easily identifiable, and we were able to calibrate the data to understand the full picture, even with just a subset of the products.


The client was able to meet with their retail partner and make a suggestion for a new set of products that was equally beneficial to driving Club revenue as it was to driving the client’s overall brand revenue, without cutting into profits outside of Club. A win-win! This example just goes to show that sometimes less is more when it comes to testing products in this way along with providing a simple solution to achieving a complex objective. 


explore featured
Case studies

Hey, get our newsletter

join 5,000+ market research professionals
who “emerge smarter” with our insights