Ask “How many?” not “Want one”?
Conversions increased 14% and total sales 28% when call-to-action (CTA) buttons directly made people decide about quantity (e.g. “Buy 1” vs “Buy 2” vs “Buy 3”).
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Researchers just discovered a new way to make it more likely that people will click on a product’s “Buy” button.
It’s surprisingly simple, and nobody seems to be using it yet.
Yes. This is probably most (online) marketers’ holy grail.
Use multiple CTA buttons with different quantities to boost sales
Channels: Ecommerce | Website | Retail
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: May 2022
On your website, change your product purchase CTA from a ‘Whether to buy’ focus (e.g. “Add to cart”, “Buy”) to a ‘How much to buy’ focus (e.g. “Buy 1”, “Buy 2”, Buy 3”).
Display the CTAs with different quantities next to each other (see example below). When people click on one, update the buttons to have them modify quantity (e.g. “Buy 1 more”).
People will be more likely to buy your product, and will probably buy more of the same product at a time.
Displaying Walmart’s product page in this way would increase the likelihood that people order the product
Online product pages are usually designed for people to make decisions in two steps (see Walmart example in Companies using this section below):
First, they choose whether to buy (i.e. “Add to cart”)
Second, they choose how much to buy (i.e. “Choose quantity”), either on the product page or from the checkout or shopping cart page
In some other cases, product pages have a quantity selection next to the “Add to cart” call-to-action (CTA) button (see Target example in Companies using this section below).
This research investigated a different product page design: people choose whether to buy and how much at the same time - by choosing from different CTAs placed next to each other (e.g. “Add 1 to cart”, “Add 2 to cart”, “Add 3 to cart”). Once people select one, they can adjust their quantity (e.g. “Add 1 more”).
A series of 36 lab experiments (e.g. Domino’s Pizza, Lindt chocolate) and a large-scale experiment on HP’s website, found that when using the new design:
People were 14% more likely to buy on average, and total sales increased 28% because people bought more items
HP’s sales conversions increased 12%, and revenue increased 15% (equal to over $1 million in printer supplies in one of HP’s sales channels)
The effect seems to work best:
For more expensive products (e.g. a $6.99 scented candle vs a $0.99 gum)
When a conversational approach is used (e.g. “How many chocolates, if any, would you like to buy?”)
For unplanned purchases (which are about half of what people usually buy)
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🧠 Why it works
We’ve known for 30+ years that too many choices at once overwhelm us and can put us off making a choice at all (e.g. not buying because there are too many choices).
For this reason, marketers and designers usually try to break the buying and quantity decisions into two.
Our decisions are usually made in stages. For example, we may first decide that we need a new sofa, then decide the type, then the brand, then the color, etc.
This study found that focusing the selling message on the “How many?” rather than “Would you like to buy?” focuses us more on later decision stages.
It’s more likely to put us in a “Which option of this product shall I buy?” mindset, rather than an earlier stage mindset of “Should I buy this product?”.
The result is that we are more likely to buy one, or more than one.
The study focused on products that people may buy in multiple units (e.g. chocolates, soda). The technique may feel manipulative and backfire for products not usually bought in multiples (e.g. shoes).
When people need to choose from a wide range of products or many products at once, this technique might contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed and reduce sales. Carefully test it in these situations.
Encouraging people to focus on quantity rather than whether to buy may also work in other contexts (e.g. ads, in-person sales). However, this was not tested.
🏢 Companies using this
Companies don’t seem to have adopted this technique yet. Below are two examples of the most common designs being used.
On Walmart’s website, people need to first choose whether to add an item to a cart
After choosing to buy the product that they can choose the quantity they want, either on the product page
Or from the shopping cart page
On Target’s website, people can choose the quantity they want in a dropdown next to the main CTA. This method also performs worse than the new technique.
⚡ Steps to implement
Consider whether your product would normally be bought in multiples. If not, don’t use this.
Place multiple CTAs next to your product with different quantity options (e.g. “Add 1 to cart”, “Add 2 to cart”). Start with 3 options and then test how many, and which quantities, work best.
When people select one option, show a counter of how many have been chosen and update the CTAs (e.g. “Add 2 more”). Allow people to reduce the quantity or eliminate it if they want.
Experiment with quantity-focused messaging (e.g. “Grab a few - one or two?” vs “Grab one!”) in other channels too, such as your ads, emails, and landing page copy.
🔍 Study type
Lab experiments and field experiment (on HP’s U.S. website between March 6, 2019 and March 23, 2019)
The Importance of Selling Formats: When Integrating Purchase and Quantity Decisions Increases Sales. Marketing Science (May 2022).
Kristen Duke. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
On Amir. Rady School of Management, University of California San Diego
Remember: This is a new scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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