Product Managers Know Customers Don’t Buy When You Tell Them Too Much

by drjim on February 11, 2013

Too much of a good thing like product information is a bad thing for customers

Too much of a good thing like product information is a bad thing for customers
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If you would like to get more of your potential customers to buy your product, what’s the best way to make this happen? If you talked with product managers, I’d be willing to bet that you’d hear a lot of them tell you that delivering more product information to your potential customers just might do the trick. I’ve heard this so often I’ve almost come to believe that it’s a part of the product development definition. It turns out that this is dead wrong…

What The Experiments Show

This kind of discussion can quickly go down a rat hole with me saying one thing and you thinking something completely different. That’s why I think that we need to go have a talk with the scientists.

What the scientists have discovered is that when your customers get presented with too much information, they do the one thing that you don’t want them to do. They shut down. They decide to skip making a purchase altogether because it’s “…just too difficult to make a decision…” That’s not the kind of thing that you’re going to want to have to put on your product manager resume.

In a now classic experiment, some scientists went to a grocery store and gave shoppers a choice between 6 types of a product. 30% of the customers went on to make a purchase. When the scientists boosted the number of types of products that they showed to shoppers to 24, then only 3% of the shoppers went on to make a purchase.

What psychologists have discovered is that when you give your potential customers too much information, bad things happen. Customers feel indecision, angst, regret and will eventually end up with a lower sense of satisfaction with both the process of purchasing your product and your product itself.

What Overthinking Can Do To Sales Of Your Product

It turns out that your potential customers are already complaining about being hit with way too much information about everybody’s products and services.

Although you may be looking for ways to better “engage” with your customers, there is a very good chance that this is the one thing that they don’t want you to do! If you overload your potential customers with too much product information, it may end up backfiring on you.

There is another ugly truth to this too much information issue. It turns out that the more information about our product that we provide to our customers, the harder it is going to be for them to be able to make a decision about it.

When it becomes hard to make a decision, then the more information that you provide them with, the more important your customer is going to believe that the decision is. This will end up causing them to spend more time and effort trying to make a decision. This will lead them to believing that it’s an even more important decision.

All of this is going to cause your customers to become more and more upset about the decision that they are going to be making. Long after the decision is made, your customers are still going to be looking for ways to validate the decision that they made.

What All Of This Means For You

Every product manager would like for their product to be more popular – they’d like more potential customers to turn into real customers. A simple way of making this happen would seem to just create and deliver more product information so that people would choose your product. Seems like this should be a part of every product manager job description.

However, research has shown that this will have the opposite effect. Too much information causes potential customers to have a harder time making a decision. They start to overthink even the smallest of decisions and in the end they’ll regret any decision that they do make.

Product managers need to carefully look at how their potential customers are going about making their buying decisions. They need to simplify the process as much as possible and only provide the information that is truly needed. Listen to your customer and provide them with just enough information to simplify their decision making process.

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What’s the best way to find out how your potential customers are going about making a buying decision?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Doggone it – what do your customers really want? You try listening to them, you try sending them surveys, you meeting them at trade shows, and yet you still feel as though they just don’t quite understand how great your product really is and so they aren’t buying it. You’ve done everything that is included in the product development definition, what’s a product manager to do?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Giles Farrow February 12, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I agree that too much information can get in the way of decision making.

But I disagree with your conclusion from the scientific experiment. I think customers were choosing from different flavours of jam. The problem for consumers was too much choice.

Both can be problems.

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