When I started my handmade business, I thought more was more. The more options of handbags I offered, the more sales I could make because I’d be appealing to a wider variety of customers. I had:
No clear customer I was targeting.
No clear style I was known for.
No product collections.
Just a pile of handbags in a variety of styles, colors, fabrics and finishes.
Now I know, through experience, that less equals more. In fact, a study backs up that claim and shows that:
25% LESS product resulted in 27% more sales.
Simple as that. Reducing the number of product options increased sales. If that’s not the easiest way to make more money at a craft show, I don’t know what is 😉
In this article, I want to share the key takeaways from the study and how you can use them to boost sales at your next craft show.
A study was completed by Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper, to understand how an increase in choices impacts decision making and purchasing behaviour. You can read all the details of the study here.
The researchers conducted 3 different studies (one involving jams, another involving student assignments and the third involving gourmet chocolates), but the jam study created a similar situation to a craft show with results I found really interesting.
The jam study was conducted in an upscale grocery store that specializes in offering a wide selection of options (for example, the store carries 250 varieties of mustard). A great place for people who want a wide variety of options to choose from; but does it mean they’re more likely to find something to buy?
The researchers set up two different jam testing booths on two different occasions:
They set up one testing booth for 5 hours on a Saturday and the other testing booth for 5 hours on the following Saturday. They studied all shoppers who entered the store:
Of the total shoppers, they tracked how many passed by each booth, how many stopped at each booth and how many who stopped ended up purchasing.
Pretty similar to the numbers you should be paying attention to at a craft show.
It’s important information for calculating your return on investment and determining if the event is worth signing up for again next year or if you’re profiting from craft shows in general.
More on tracking so you can make improvements and reach goals is found here.
Here are some important takeaways from the studies you may want to think about for your next craft show:
Of all the shoppers that entered the grocery store on each Saturday, more was more when it came to attracting people to the booth:
However, less was more when it come to purchasing:
The totals equate to:
This is where I believe many craft show vendors get misled, either by other vendors’ booths or even by their own; they think the busiest booth equals the most successful.
A while back, a craft show vendor contacted me, disputing my theory that less is more and handmade business owners should focus on a niche and refine their product selection. They told me that they offer a wide variety of products, no two items are alike, and their booth is always the busiest at a craft show.
This study does back up their point. They probably do have the highest number of people stopping by their booth, but they probably don’t have the highest sales, based on the results of the three studies. And if they do have the busiest booth and the highest sales, perhaps they could be higher.
More = more when attracting shoppers
Less = more when making sales
Let’s look at it this way: if both displays wanted to sell 10 jars of jam,
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather use my sales pitch 33 times than 333.
In a similar study with chocolates (by the same researchers), participants spent more time making a decision when faced with an extensive selection than with a limited selection.
The longer a shopper stays at your craft show booth, the less time there is for other people to shop your table and for you to make sales.
You don’t want to rush shoppers through their experience but would you rather spend 20 minutes with one shopper explaining the differences between 20 different products, or 5 minutes with 4 potential customers?
AT A BUSY CRAFT SHOW
When shopping at a craft show, most of us are conscious and courteous of other shoppers in the confined spaces. Having to mull over decisions while people shop over shoulders or squeeze around makes most people feel rushed.
If there are too many options, shoppers may feel there’s not enough time to take it all in and just grab a business card.
AT A SLOW CRAFT SHOW
A similar situation can happen at a slow craft show. It’s just you sitting behind the table, trying not to stare as someone shops, while they try to shop as though they’re not being stared at.
Not many people feel comfortable in that situation and will leave rather than spend 20 minutes sorting through an extensive selection.
In the same study with the selection of chocolates being the variable, participants who encountered an extensive selection rated the decision making process as more enjoyable, but also more difficult and frustrating than the people who encountered the limited selection.
It is fun to browse through all the different products at a craft show, but you want the experience people have at your table or booth to end on a high note. Shoppers may enjoy looking through an extensive selection but if they become frustrated when trying to make a decision, they’re less likely to buy.
In the study with chocolates, people either had 30 chocolate options, 6 chocolate options or no options.
When asked if they felt the options were too few, just right or too many, those who encountered 30 chocolates said there were too many options while those who had 6 options said the number of options was just right.
There isn’t necessarily a right number when it comes to how much is too little and how much is too much for craft show shoppers. It will be up to you to test those numbers for your products.
In general, I find 6 is a good place to start. I personally wouldn’t feel overwhelmed if I was deciding between 6 flavors of ice cream, 6 necklace styles or 6 scents of soap, and could decide pretty quickly.
If you can’t narrow your selection down to 6 different types of products, consider creating 6 (or less) clear categories.
For example, a vendor offering photography may have a hard time narrowing their selection down to 6 photos, but decision making would become easier for shoppers if there were a few main categories to choose from. Perhaps:
Although the following aren’t mentioned in the study, they’re worth mentioning here:
When you shop at a store with a wide variety of options and the stock is more so housed in a space, rather than displayed (think of a thrift store vs. a boutique), you tend to attach a lower value to the products.
If you walked into a store and saw one shirt displayed on a table and shown on a bust form and then a rolling rack behind that table with 50 different shirts hanging from it, which shirt would you think was more expensive? One crammed in with a bunch of other shirts you must pull out to look at, or one that’s “displayed”?
When you have too much selection at a craft show, you don’t have as much room to create a visually pleasing display. When red, green, blue, black, cream, and orange scarves are stacked on top of each other and the shopper must sort through them, there’s automatically a lower value placed on them than if they saw a neat stack of cream scarves, another tidy stack of blue and another of grey, and one color displayed on a bust-form.
Not sure what I mean by creating a visually pleasing display vs. simply housing your products on a table? Or maybe you want to implement some visual merchandising techniques that increase perceived value. Check out the free 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY challenge.
A limited selection not only makes shopping easier for consumers, but it also makes running your business easier. I’m sure you’ve felt overwhelmed with all the things you could make, all the blogs you could read, all the things you should do (according to everyone else). Just like too many options makes decision making difficult and frustrating when shopping, it does the same when working.
I’ve had many people tell me: you should make this type of bag, you should use this type of material, you should start making this or that. I’ve also had many suggestions for Made Urban: I should create videos, host webinars or start a podcast.
The thing I’ve learned from over a decade of running my own business is: I know what I’m good at, I know I can’t do it all, and I know what to stick to.
Yes, I could have made diaper bags and appealed to a whole other category of customers. I could start a podcast and appeal to those who prefer to listen to lessons rather than read about them.
BUT. I’m not a mom, I don’t know what they love and don’t love in a diaper bag and it would take me way longer to figure it out or research it than it would to focus on satisfying my existing customers who like my weekend bag. I’m also not a speaker; I’m a writer. I like being able to think about my message and polish it before it’s presented to you.
I no longer waste my time trying to figure out how to do everything I could do based on the extensive options.
Know what you’re good at, what you enjoy, who you want to serve, etc. and be confident in sticking with that. Instead of buying 20 different fabric options, you buy 6. Instead of inefficiently making 20 different products, you create an efficient assembly line for just a few variations of products.
Don’t become overwhelmed with all the things you should do with your business. Analyze your numbers and know:
Then choose what to spend your time, money and energy on.
If you need help organizing your business and all the to-do’s swirling around in your head, download THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
If you already have THE SUCCESS PLANNER, turn to page 8 in the ebook for more details on what to review and how to review it. And use the REVIEW worksheets that start on page 6 of the workbook and are at the beginning of each month. DO NOT skip that step.
Here’s what you can take action on this week to apply the less is more method:
Before you start cutting products from the lineup, look at your numbers. Which products are your best sellers and what do they all have in common? Which products do you sell the least of? Which products are your most profitable?
You must be strategic when implementing changes, and then track the results of your changes so you can ensure you’re on the right path, or quickly correct if you’re going off-path.
If you need help with reviewing and implementing changes that will have a positive impact on your business and help you reach your goals this year, download THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
When someone walks by your craft show table, or even lands in your Etsy shop, what do you want your collection of products to say? You only have a few seconds to get a clear message across, so don’t try to cram too much in.
What is the niche you sell products in?
You’re not just selling jewelry, you’re selling _______________ jewelry (turquoise, jewelry made with healing crystals, modern and geo-shaped, etc.)
To check in on your products, their prices, niche, packaging, etc., download the free sample chapter: MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT
Once you have your product selection in line, make sure your craft show display is doing it justice. Colors, props, signage, etc. should help convey the message you want your product line to tell, and increase how much people think your products should cost.
Like the earlier example, retailers don’t want someone to see a shirt on a rolling rack, think it’s going to be cheap because of the way it’s displayed, and then realize it’s more expensive than they expected; people tend not to buy in that situation.
If you see a product and think it’s going to more expensive than it actually is, you’re happily surprised when you see the price tag and are way more likely to buy than if you’re shocked at the price.
If you need help with your craft show display, sign up for the FREE email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY (the free sample chapter mentioned in STEP 2 is also include in the challenge)
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