Does size matter – how big should a spa menu be?

Does size matter – how big should a spa menu be?

You have probably heard the saying ‘bigger is better’, but is this also true when it comes to the size of a spa’s offering? In other words, is giving your spa guests too many choices really a good idea?

According to a study by Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar, Americans make about 70 choices per day on average, so no wonder why people can be indecisive. The modern day choosing problem is called the ‘choice overload’and is the reason why too many choices can confuse people and lead them not to choose at all.

Professor Sheena Iyengar has also led a very interesting experiment at a grocery store, wherethey have set up a small tasting booth and displayed different flavours of jam. They either put out 6 different flavours of jam or 24 different flavours of jam and they looked at two things, in which case were the customers more likely to stop and sample some jam and in which case were the customers more likely to buy a jar of jam. As it turns out, more jams attracted more customers (60% when 24 jams and 40% when 6 jams were displayed), but they got an opposite effect when it came to actually buying the product. Only 3% of customers bought a jam at the booth with 24 flavours and amazingly 30% of customers actually purchased a jar of jam at the booth with 6 jams. So if you do the math, people were at least 6 times more likely to buy a jar of jam when they encountered 6 than when they encountered 24flavours.

This experiment shows us that we obviously love gazing into wide choices of products, they catch our attention, but unfortunately when confronted with making a decision, we can’t actually do the math of comparing and at the end picking from the variety of products. So too much choiceslows down thedesire to buy and can have a 'paralyzing' effect.

Choice overload

The same could be said also when it comes to spa menus. Have you ever been to a spa and when you asked for their spa menu, you were given a booklet of more than 20 pages? From the customer’s perspective, there are two primary issues: 1) the time to review 20 pages, and 2) possible confusion of determining the treatment most beneficial to you. Very often when not sure or confused, guests just stick with the safest version an pick a classical, Swedish massage, but that is, in most cases, not the dream scenario of the spa management. Spas tend to offer and promote authentic, outstanding or even exotic treatments as they bring more profit. Luckily at most spas guests can rely on the front desk’sprofessional and friendly staff to help them find the right treatment. As a former spa front desk manager I am a big supporter of training all the staff to be on point with every treatment, product or activity at the spa, but even a perfect receptionist cannot replace the spa menu and vice versa.

spa menu - as thick as a book

Another thing that makes me sceptical when looking at spa menus offering pages and pages of different treatments from Ayurveda, Thai, Hammam to Thalassotherapy, is professionalism.  I recently saw a restaurant sign saying: ‘We offer delicious Italian, Mexican and Chinese cuisine’. My first thought was how can they really be good at three totally different cuisines? And that is also what your guests might think if you offer too many different therapy styles.

If we now look at the problem of choice overkill from the spa’s perspective, the biggest issue are costs. If you offer 20 different facials that means almost 20 different sets of products, which are not just expensive, but have a shelf life and just imagine how much space they take. The other big cost is the training. Technically your beautician should be trained in all 20 facial treatments and go for regular refresh courses to keep on top, which requires a lot of time and time is money, so even more costs upon training costs.

Too many choices can be even stressful

And now let us look at Professor Sheena Iyengar’s 4 suggestions how to battle ‘choice overload’.

First technique is: Cut. Professor Iyengar explains that when giving choices we should stick to the rule: less is more. According to Professor Iyangar, when Procter and Gamble went from 26 different kinds of shampoos to 15 shampoos they saw an increase of sales by 10%. But not just that, cutting your excessive spa menu should not just increase your sales but also lower your costs.

The second technique is: Concretisation. Professor Iyanger explains that in order for people to have a positive choosing experience they have to be able to understand the difference between the choices and the consequences associated with each choice. So the differences and consequences have to be clearly and vividly presented.

The third technique is: Categorization. According to Professor Iyanger, we can handle more categories than choices. When we look at 400 magazines sorted in 20 categories we see that as a better choosing experience than 600 magazines sorted in only 10 categories, so try to meaningfully categorise your spa menu.

The forth technique is: Condition for complexity, which means we should gradually increase the complexity of choices. When we present a choice model from low choice number to high, people stay much more engaged, so it might not be bad to also have that in mind when creating your spa menu.

I understand that for some it might be hard to believe that giving your guest fewer choices might make him happier and more satisfied, but as proved by Professor Sheena Iyengarand other experts on that matter, the rule when it comes to having a good choosing experience seems to be ‘less is more’.

P.S.: here is the link to the amazing Professor Sheena Iyengar’sTED talk

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