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More Selection or Less Selection

Msg#: 4470642 posted 8:33 pm on Jun 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

which is the better e-commerce strategy? Offer more selection on a site and risk confusing customers or offer less selection and risk customers not finding what they were looking for?

Keep in mind, we are in a market where there aren't many well known brands so there is less of a chance that customers are coming to the site knowing what they want.



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Msg#: 4470642 posted 3:58 am on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't how having more of a selection could ever be a bad thing really. The only bad that it might generate, is making more work for you. I guess you have to decided what is worth it and what isn't. I'm always sort of amazed how often I can branch off with something slightly different, and then that starts selling. Even though the original item was extremely similar. Sometimes just changing something to a more obvious name makes a difference. I think lots of times when it comes to technical stuff... you have to remind yourself that most people won;t know as much as you do. You;re too close to it. So they really need it spelled out for them, and that's where the diversity kicks in. In some cases, you might not even really need a different product. just one that's advertised as multiple uses. For some people, you literally have to be like... THIS IS SPECIFICALLY FOR USE AS ____. Otherwise they just find somebody who does spell it out for them that plainly.


WebmasterWorld Administrator lorax us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Msg#: 4470642 posted 12:29 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

How many products is the key and how easily can you divide them up into recognizable silos? Thousands of products may seem daunting but if they're nuts and bolts then they easily fall under well-known silos like "wood screws" "lag bolts" etc. and the more selection you offer the better.


Msg#: 4470642 posted 3:12 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Neither of you think there is ever a benefit in offering customers a well-curated site with less selection?


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Msg#: 4470642 posted 6:28 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

The way I look at it... The more products you have, the more chances you have of making somebody happy... ie: More sales. Using Lorax's analogy. Let's say I need a bunch of fasteners. So I get 5 different kinds, but now I need a chrome cap nut, and you don't have it. Well, some people might not even know what that is. But I'm going to do one of two things... I'm going to buy the other stuff from you and go someplace else for the cap nuts. Or I'm going to find another place that has all of the stuff together. Either way, you lose out. If you had to deal with a whole different company and it was a big hassle just to get those cap nuts, then maybe it's not worth it. But if it's really no bother, than why not have them. I can't envision somebody going... 'What the heck is a cap nut? This is too confusing, I'm out of here.' I think they would just pick what they need. I suppose there's some people who might go straight to a site that sold one thing, and one thing only. But how many people really do that? I can't imagine there is that many. If you want to help narrow the field for people, maybe setup a review system.


Msg#: 4470642 posted 7:17 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well what I mean is in a scenario where there are different brands of cap nuts, would it be beneficial to feature every brand? There might be higher end and lower end cap nuts and some people might actually have brand preference but at the end of the day any of the cap nuts will do the job.


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Msg#: 4470642 posted 7:41 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

You have missed one vital piece of information:
Are you (1) holding stock or (2) drop shipping?

1) Greater range means more stock tying up more capital. Can you afford it?

2) You need to find more suppliers prepared to drop ship. Can you deliver consistent quality of service with multiple drop shippers?

There are no firm answers, it is always a balancing act.


Msg#: 4470642 posted 7:59 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm speaking hypothetically, as if holding inventory wasn't an issue. Do you think customers would be put off if there were many different brands of cap nuts where the actual variety in the product was minimal? In other words, is it better to have a more curated shop or to overwhelm the customer with options.


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Msg#: 4470642 posted 4:38 am on Jun 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

If we were literally talking about something as innocuous as a cap nut, then I would say no... It doesn't matter. It's all just made in China anyway. Although, even stuff as innocuous as that often has brand choices. If you go to MSC, you'll notice they often have X brand, or US brand choices, and sometimes 3 or 4 choices for something as simple as a fastener. But if you were talking about electronics brands, like say... recorder brand A and recorder brand B, even though they're very similar... I still can't see the hurt in having both. Just spend the time to make it clear as to what slight differences they have, or the history of the brand names. If people can see the difference, I don't think they'd be overwhelmed by it. But yeah, if you have super bland descriptions, then that could be annoying.


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Msg#: 4470642 posted 6:08 am on Jun 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think with shops, less is not more. More is more. I focus on five different groups of widgets. Within each group, I am always adding more. IMO, people like to feel abundance. Like when you go to a fruit market and the vendors have their fruits not a few in a bowl with the rest hidden in crates but lots and lots of them stacked in pyramids. It's not just because they don't have anywhere to put them. It's the impression of abundance. I noticed this the first time looking at something Martha Stewart did years ago. She arranged some pears on a fireplace mantel, each standing separately from the next. I thought why did she do that? It did make each pear look more artistic, but if art was the primary motivation, she would have put only one pear. The multiplicity of pears emphasized the abundance, IMO. And I looked at other things she did and saw this was a theme for her. She was good at marketing, so I have tried to do the same.

Recently I went looking for ink bottles because I like to use a dip pen. I scoured the internet for those things. I found various shops that had one or two types of ink bottles (plus different inks, pens, pen holders, etc). But I bought two ink bottles from a place that had four different kinds of ink bottles.

The other thing in terms of abundance is depth--lots of different items vs. lots of similar items. I like the latter. I like depth in a category. That gives a way to compare. When a store has everything under the sun, it feels like WalMart. But when they have depth in a category, it feels like I am dealing with someone who knows what they are talking about.


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Msg#: 4470642 posted 5:11 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Neither of you think there is ever a benefit in offering customers a well-curated site with less selection?

There could be an advantage to going after a "boutique" market but I woudn't want to go after it at the expense of the entire product line. It's not uncommon to focus on narrow silos of products and SEO for the keywords relevant to that silo.


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Msg#: 4470642 posted 3:27 pm on Jul 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm speaking hypothetically, as if holding inventory wasn't an issue.

For most eStores, inventory *is* an issue. If it weren't, I'd set up eShops based on Amazon's product catalog. Offer it all(!), if you don't need to carry inventory.

But since "inventory" is one of those "necessary evils", it's like what piatkow said. It's a balance between taxable inventory, cash flow, and fulfillment delay. This applies regardless of the fulfillment center location: your basement, back-of-store, Amazon warehouse, or the manufacturers assembly line.

Hypothetically-speaking, every shopper wants the Deal, the lowest price, delivered this afternoon, with 365-day free returns. In reality, you try to offer the best value for shoppers, and maybe make a buck along the way.

is it better to have a more curated shop or to overwhelm the customer with options?

I know what "curated" means in 2012, and I'm not sure if that's the proper adjective to use for the product catalog for an eShop. A well-formed product catalog takes constant attention, continuous improvement, and an effort measured in man-years to keep relevant. It means having the proper weights, dimensions, related products, accessories, shipping restrictions, inventory, reorder points, and restock levels in place for each SKU. This level of detail can't be achieved via "curation".

A well-designed eShop will have what the customer is looking for, at a fair price, with accurate shipping rates (both domestic and international). If the eShop offers more selection, it needs excellent product filters to help narrow choices.

Customers need to be able to find what the're looking for *on your site*. Like what dpd1 said, "great selection" is never a bad thing. The key is to offer search tools that allow the customer to find a category, drill down to products, then filter those products based on attributes contained in the product catalog: Size, color, manufacturer, availability, price, etc.


Msg#: 4470642 posted 5:35 pm on Jul 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

What I mean by curating is selecting the best products in a given niche based on my expertise in the market so the customer doesn't have to. Many clothing sites do this. Obviously a high-end niche fashion site wouldn't do well to stock every piece of clothing on the market, it'd diminish their value to the customer (customers are coming to them because of their taste in fashion, because they seek out only the best garments). This is true to an extent in every niche. I am shopping for in-ear headphones, I might want to goto a site that only features top quality electronics so I don't have to worry about buying junk. Obviously, if the site I was on listed everything from the lowest quality headphones from China to the top quality Audio Engineering headphones it'd be very confusing finding what I was looking for if I wasn't already an expert in this type of product.

So that's what is what I was asking about...


Msg#: 4470642 posted 6:32 pm on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Read "By Invitation Only" from the founders of Gilt Groupe. They promote heavily the vestiges of a smaller selection.

I'm also a bigger advocate of a smaller selection. Our store has only about 300-400 different items and our sales are getting near $1million annually.

The question I believe comes down to what your competitive advantage is? Unless you have massive resources, it's hard to make selection one of those advantages (Amazon will destroy you almost all of the time). The easiest way, IMO, is to offer exceptional knowledge, imagery, fulfillment, etc. I don't know how a small business can do this for thousands of products.

If you can offer an exceptional experience in all of those regards for most of your products than I believe more is generally better. But if you're just pulling stock images and descriptions provided by the manufacturer I think it's a losing battle.

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