Reduce choice to increase revenue

How have charities increased donations made through their websites? Well, most made a start by putting a donate button on the home page and encouraging people to give by telling them what would be done with the money.

But many have gone further and adopted a simple technique to make it easier for people to donate. They’ve given potential donors a choice of amounts to donate – £5, £10 or £50, for example – and seen their revenue rise.

That technique is based on a simple psychological idea: that we find it hard to take a decision if we’re presented with too much choice. So if charities just ask for money, the potential donor can become quite anxious about how generous or mean to be; whereas if they’re presented with a few sums to choose from, they are likely to decide fairly quickly and tick the appropriate box.

The idea applies to web content generally. Users are liable to be overwhelmed by too much choice and too much information, so producers must prioritise and structure their information so that users take in a bit at a time. That’s a topic for another blog post but, in the meantime, you might like to read about the famous jam experiment (in PDF) that supports the idea of limiting choice:

In 2000, researchers from two universities in the United States set up two stalls selling jam. One stall offered six varieties, the other 24. More people sampled the jams at the stall with 24 choices, but when it came to buying, guess which stall sold more jam.

The report of the jam experiment (in PDF) is titled When Choice is Demotivating.

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