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.
Just a pile of handbags in a variety of styles, colors, fabrics, and finishes. Packing my table with a variety of stock was one of the biggest display mistakes I made. This article backs up that theory.
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 or online, 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.
THE JAM STUDY
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:
- Testing booth 1 – an extensive selection of jams (24 different flavors of jams)
- Testing booth 2 – a limited selection of jams (6 different flavors of jams)
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:
- Saturday 1 – extensive display: 386 shoppers total
- Saturday 2 – limited display: 368 shoppers total
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.
- How many shoppers does the organizer estimate entered the doors?
- How many stopped by your table?
- How many sales did you make?
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:
TAKEAWAY #1 – MORE DOES SOMETIMES EQUAL MORE
Of all the shoppers that entered the grocery store on each Saturday, more was more when it came to attracting people to the booth:
- Extensive jam selection – 60% of shoppers stopped by the tasting booth
- Limited jam selection – 40% of shoppers stopped by the tasting booth
However, less was more when it comes to purchasing:
- Extensive jam selection – 3% of people who stopped purchased a jar
- Limited jam selection – 30% of people who stopped purchased a jar
The totals equate to:
- 386 total shoppers in the store
- 242 passed by the booth (63%)
- 145 stopped at the booth (60%)
- 4 purchased (3%)
- 368 total shoppers in the store
- 260 passed by the booth (71%)
- 104 stopped at the booth (40%)
- 31 purchased (30%)
HOW THIS APPLIES TO AN ONLINE STORE
Although online shoppers aren’t able to see all the products in your online shop until they get to your website, a wide selection of products may initially attract a lot of shoppers through marketing.
In this case, it’s more like casting a big net. You may catch a lot of stuff in that net, but the majority of it won’t be useful.
Marketing a wide variety of products may initially attract more people, but once they get back to your online shop and discover that only one or two items are a fit for them, they’re more likely to leave. You want to attract people who will actually buy your products
HOW THIS APPLIES TO CRAFT SHOWS
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 may not necessarily 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,
- the extensive selection would need to attract 333 people
- the limited selection would only need 33 people to stop by
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather use my sales pitch 33 times than 333.
TAKEAWAY #2 – DECISION MAKING
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.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO AN ONLINE STORE
The more a shopper contemplates a purchase, the less confident they become in it.
You’ve likely experienced this yourself. When you find an item you love and don’t get distracted, it’s easy to make the decision to buy.
When you see several variations and must take your time to compare and think about which might be best for you, you don’t get to the checkout as quickly. You may even become overwhelmed, decide to make a decision another day, and leave the website. Once you leave, the odds of you returning to buy are less.
Although shoppers lingering in your online store aren’t preventing other people from browsing and buying your products, the longer it takes them to make a decision (due to too much selection), the less likely they are to make one and buy.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO CRAFT SHOWS
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.
TAKEAWAY #3 – SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
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.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO AN ONLINE SHOP
Initially, a wide variety of products on a website seems like an opportunity to find something great. But with each click to view a product listing, you must wait for the page to load, view the pictures, read the details, and then go back to shop more products; again, waiting for the page to load. This starts to become a little tedious.
A well-curated product selection and well-designed website make the shopping experience much more enjoyable.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO CRAFT SHOWS
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.
TAKEAWAY #4 – SATISFACTION
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.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO AN ONLINE SHOP & CRAFT SHOWS
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:
- Photos of landscapes
- Photos of water
- Photos of wild animals
You want online and craft show shoppers to feel like there are enough options to choose from, but not so many they question their decision after purchasing. Which can lead to more returns.
Although the following aren’t mentioned in the study, they’re worth mentioning here:
TAKEAWAY #5 – PERCEPTION OF VALUE
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.
TAKEAWAY #6 – EFFICIENCY
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:
- Where your traffic and sales come from
- What gives you the best return on investment
- Which conversion rates are above or below average
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:
STEP 1 – Assess your Numbers
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.
STEP 2 – Assess your Products
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
STEP 3 – Assess your Online Shop
There are a few common mistakes crafters make with their Etsy shops and websites that prevent them from making top sales.
Join the free email challenge: BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES to find out which mistakes you should be avoiding and how to improve your online sales.
STEP 4 – Assess your Display
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 included in the challenge)
When streamlining your product line, it’s important to focus on products that sell. If your products that sell well aren’t the same ones you love to make over and over, here’s how you can find a balance.
It’s important for your business to make money, but also for you to enjoy working on your business.
When people walk by your craft show table (or pop into your Etsy Shop) what’s the immediate message they pick up? Please share in the comments your business or products you sell and the message they send 🙂
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!