Faced with confusing choices, the online customer throws in the towel

Online or off, customers given too many choices are up to 10 times less likely to buy. Combine that with a confusing website and it’s a recipe for customer frustration.

Garnet Hill and The Company Store both sell great towels.

However, I now buy my towels exclusively from Garnet Hill. That’s because I can’t stand wasting time on the Company Store’s website.

TheCompanyStore.com is a slow-moving site with teeny-weeny pictures of products that appear in an only slightly larger version on the actual product page — c’mon guys, surely you have an original photo of the stack of towels that is bigger than 2 inches square!

But it’s not just the Company Store’s website. It’s the sales strategy — which is a bad match for online selling. They offer  7 types of solid-color towels that all look essentially the same in those tiny pictures, including 6 types of solid-color cotton towels. The prices of the towels aren’t all that different, so you’re faced with the prospect of having to click and read and click and read and click and read (did I mention that the site has no “compare” function?) to find out.

It turns out that, online or off, customers given too many choices are up to 10 times less likely to buy. Combine too many choices with a confusing website and you have recipe for customer frustration.

Garnet Hill towels
Why is this picture of Garnet Hill Signature towels so big?

I don’t have time to deal with this — I just want a great Company Store towel. Instead, I’m stuck wondering if the cheap one is cheap because it’s…cheap — and if the expensive one is worth it. Who knows? Who cares?

By contrast, over at GarnetHill.com, they have just 3 types of solid-color towels: Garnet Hill Supreme, Garnet Hill Signature, and a special line by Eileen Fisher. I click to see nice big pictures of the two Garnet Hill types — you get a choice of 6 thumbnails, all of which expand to 4 inches high. The difference is immediately obvious: “Supreme” towels cost more and come in fewer colors; “Signature” towels cost less and come in a vast array of colors — all easy to view by clicking a swatch to see a (great big) picture of the towel in the color you’ve chosen. So it’s easy for me to pick the Signature towels, check out two shades of blue, pick the one I want, and order the towels.

So: Sorry, Company Store. Your towels were great. I just didn’t have all day to spend  trying to figure out which ones I wanted.

Why I avoid Google+

Google+ won’t let you integrate multiple Google mail accounts into one Google+ identity, and that makes using Google+ a frustrating time suck.

Friend? See you on Facebook.

Colleague? Talk with you over on LinkedIn!

Neighbor? Acquaintance? Let’s have some fun on Twitter.

Fellow traveler? I’ll follow you on FourSquare.

But I just got an email notifying me that someone I like added has me on Google+. This fills me with dread. Why? Follow me on my journey down the surrealistic rabbit hole of Google+.

First, I click the link “Add to circles” in the email so I can add my friend. It takes me to Google+, which invites me to join.

Interesting, because I already belong to Google+. (Under two Google email identities, but more on that later.)

Unfortunately, sometime in the past few days I used a third Google email address (I have several) and now Google considers me logged in as that third identity, which does not belong to Google+ and is never going to.

I now have to log out of Google and log back in — which is requires me to refer back to the original email from my friend to see which identity she has “added” me under.

Yes, I know that Google has a system that lets you switch identities without logging out and logging in — but that “switch” only works for certain Google online apps and not for others. I use several, and can never keep straight which ones let me switch — until I try switching and a few screens later find that I am still stuck in the original unswitched identity.

So I log out and log in.

Hmmm. There is now no sign of my friend’s invitation, but I do see my Google+ stream (or ripple, or whatever they call it). There are a few posts from people I’m interested in, and several posts by some guy who just can’t shut up.

By now, I’m completely derailed. I go back to the email and tell my friend how she can find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Problem solved.

Sorry, Google+. Your failure to let me integrate multiple Google mail accounts into one Google+ identity makes visiting your system a frustrating time suck — and even the literate content my friends post there won’t make it worth the trouble.