Too many choices?

I read a marketing book recently that discussed the idea that when it comes to making a purchasing decision, too many choices can be so overwhelming that a potential customer won’t make any choice.

I found a New York Times article that discusses the same phenomenon. In “Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze,” Alina Tugend states, “Although it has long been the common wisdom in our country that there is no such thing as too many choices, as psychologists and economists study the issue, they are concluding that an overload of options may actually paralyze people or push them into decisions that are against their own best interest.”

Tugend goes on to discuss a study in California where customers were given samples of Wilkin & Sons jam. When given a greater assortment of jams to sample, more people were enticed to try some, but less actually made a purchase. Similarly, in choosing a 401(k) retirement plan, “studies have shown that if more fund options are offered, fewer people participate. And the highest participation rates are among those employees who are automatically enrolled in their company’s 401(k)’s unless they actively choose not to.”

What does this have to do with bookplates?? Bookplate Ink offers over 150 choices of bookplate designs, more than any other company we have found. We have ships, tomatoes, a rhinoceros, fairies, owls, flowers, musical instruments, a frog, boys, girls, maps, oh! and books. Perhaps the choices are overwhelming for our customers. This is a concern.

On the other hand, there is sometimes a design that doesn’t sell very well, but is perfect for one customer. Like the mustang horse, which was a wonderful bookplate for an elementary school whose mascot is a mustang. Or the now out-of-print Kermit the Frog bookplate for that Sesame Street lover. How about the biplane design for books donated from an aviation lover’s library?

Everytime I think we should take some designs off our website, one of these orders comes in. And the truth is, we have designs in our archives that aren’t even on the website. What’s your opinion? Is more better or is less easier? Should we streamline our offerings?


8 comments on “Too many choices?

  1. Judith says:

    No, please leave things as they are. I am here because I found my old bookplate among some stored goodies with just a few bookplates remaining. I could not find any more. On the inside cover of the little bookplate box, was a note about the bookplates, plus the Yellow Springs address. Wonderful internet brought me here where I have browsed away the last hour going through your site and enjoying it thoroughly. Perhaps it is true for the too-many-choices aspect for some things, but not for bookplates. What better way to honour the book added to your personal collection.

  2. Bryn Boepple says:

    Organization might be the key. Not to less. . . just less overwhelming! Libraries have billions of books. . . and yet they are catalogued in such a way that allows patrons to find the EXACT book. You wouldn’t want to miss one single customer looking for an old favorite.

  3. I understand the concept of too many choices and then too few decisions.

    Bookplates could be sorted by theme (animals, outdoors, etc) and that would allow fewer choices in a single theme. It doesn’t have to be a theme, but it should be something that that assortment of bookplates have in common other than B&W vs. color.

    • bookplateink says:

      Thanks for the feedback! We do have some categories to help with narrowing down the selection. They’re listed on the right side of the website. But they are fairly broad. Thanks!

      • Delmar says:

        I’ve not looked at the various bookplates lately. Maybe Nature, Seasons, Holidays, Library and other narrower categories would work. It is possible that a bookplate could be classified in more than one way.

        The goal would be to narrow the number of choices to consider at one time. For example, there is a website where I buy dress shirts. It allows you to narrow your search by shirt size (makes sense to me, I can’t wear difference sizes), type of shirt (dress, sports, or othertype of cuff (button or French), color, collar (six different choices), fabric, pattern, style and fit.

        Again the goal to to narrow the number of bookplates to a small number to facilitate a better decision.

  4. People like choices. Remember when there was only vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream? I love the 32 flavours offered at my favourite ice cream store.

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