Posh restaurants have one major difference to the international chains; the posh restaurants hand the menu to you and then once you have made your meal choice, they take the menu away. But those big chains have an ever-present menu. It is either on the table in front of you, or it is on signs on the wall facing you. That means when you are eating your meal, you are constantly facing reminders of what else you might have chosen. However, in the posh restaurants you have no idea what else you might be able to eat because you no longer have the reminder in front of you.
There’s a reason why posh restaurants take the menu away and don’t leave it on the table – customers are happier with their meals when they no longer have reminders of what else they could have bought. A recent study looked at a different angle of this; researchers at the London Business School offered people chocolates and asked them to rate how nice the chocolate was. The difference in the study groups was that one group was asked to place the lid back on top of the chocolate box, whereas the other group was asked to leave the lid to one side, so they could see the remaining chocolates. The group who could no longer see the chocolates rated the chocolate they selected more highly than the people who could see the others in the box.
The researchers point out that putting the lid back on the box is a “physical act of closure”. In other words, by doing something physical which stops you making an alternative selection to the item you have chosen, you feel as though you have made the right choice. Online, of course, that is difficult. You can make a selection from an online store, but immediately you can see all the other things you might have bought. Online you are constantly reminded of what might have been. And that reduces satisfaction with our purchases.
So, if you are selling products and services online, what can you do about it?
The first thing is to consider the page people end up on once they have made their purchase. If this includes menu links to alternative items, if people can easily get back to see other options there is a chance you are reminding them of “what might have been” and thereby reducing overall satisfaction. One way of avoiding this is to create specific post-purchase pages which only relate to the item they have bought and which do not have links back to alternative products.
Similarly, if you are offering an online service, such as a membership club, the service pages themselves should have no access to the alternative membership levels that they might have chosen. Essentially, the best way of doing this is with two sites – one to sell the service and the other which runs the service. When people have signed up, they then use the service site, with no reminders of the alternatives they could have bought.
Whichever option you choose, however, you need to operate your online products and services much more like a posh restaurant. Remove the reminders of alternative choices once people have made a purchase and they will be happier with your products and your company.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+