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Avoiding Decision Paralysis: When Less is More


Hi.  I’m Suzi and I’m an over-explainer.

The concept of “less is more” is something that I often reflect on.  I tend to be an over-explainer and frequently have to rein myself in.  This isn’t simply an addiction or habit; it’s engrained in every fiber of my being – confirmed by my DiSC assessment.

My DiSC assessment revealed that my primary behavioral style is “Conscientious” (High-C) and that my classic profile pattern is that of an “Objective Thinker.”  High-C, Objective Thinkers are often perfectionists, meticulous, fact-based, accurate and do their best to avoid ambiguity (just to name a few).  What does this mean?  I subconsciously feel the need to explain things…to death.

And I’m not the only one…

For over-explainers like me (and I’m sure you’ve got a few on your team), it feels helpful to provide “a little extra information.” From another perspective, it’s overkill.

Online, we call this adverse effect “decision-making paralysis” or “analysis paralysis.”  It’s the idea that too much information, placed at an inopportune time, can confuse users and hinder conversions.

Here’s an example of one of our clients inadvertently creating decision making paralysis:

  • All traffic came into the home page, designed to facilitate access to all of the product information (details, testimonials, videos, etc.) before purchasing via the “Order Now” button.
  • To provide a little extra information, the client added all of those product information links to their “Order Now” page.

Conversion experts at Brooks Bell had a hunch that these links (which we called “distraction links”) could be detrimental to conversion rate.  With a quick, low-resource, high-impact test strategy, we decided to test the control against a challenger cell that didn’t have the distraction links.  When results came in, the challenger achieved a 4% higher conversion rate.

Though our assumption was correct (Yay!), we were expecting a bigger lift (less enthusiastic Yay!).  To dig deeper into these results, we consulted the challenger cell heatmaps and clickmaps in Visual Website Optimizer.

And surprise, surprise…  A link built into the order form was receiving a whopping 58% of clicks!

Could this be the link causing the major decision making paralysis?  We thought so.  How do we prove it through testing?  The new challenger cell could remove the link, modify the placement of the link, modify the content of the link, etc.

Through brainstorming sessions and deliberating, the Brooks Bell team formulated the next test strategy.  We decided to test the new control (without distraction links) against a challenger cell that removed the additional, recently discovered distraction link.

Whether our assumption was right or not, this would provide huge learnings:

  • If the removal of the link increased conversions, then we knew that its presence was creating decision making paralysis.
  • If the removal of the link remained flat or lost to the control, then we knew that users wanted/needed more information earlier in the purchase process.

And in the words of the client, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”  The challenger cell achieved an 18% higher conversion rate!  This is the lift that we were looking for, and proved our theory that the additional links this late in the game, though well intended, were creating decision paralysis.

In theory, the additional links simply provided users with helpful information.  However, the information came at an inopportune time.  Instead of helping users feel confident about the purchase, they caused users to stray away from the order page and question their readiness to order.

Testing provided a great way to determine what was happening.  Rather than recklessly hacking out content and hoping it was the right decision, we tackled it methodically, piece by piece, to gain confident understanding of the impact.

Testing also gave the client insight into their consumers’ behavior, and it put additional revenue in their pocket (super enthusiastic Yay!). And when it comes to revenue, more is more!

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