Return to: GROK Dot Com 3/01/2001

Keep Them From Bailin'

Let's face it. A gal arrives in your store, doesn't find what she's looking for, and leaves. Or a guy selects several items, drops 'em in his shopping cart and then decides he doesn't need them after all (you can count your blessings, 'cause in the real world he probably leaves his cart in the aisle, and then you have to return the merchandise to its proper location!). You can do everything right, and still folks can exit stage left without buying. Hey, even in the bricks-and-mortar world, conversion ratios aren't perfect!

But lots of e-tailers out there aren't doing everything right (if they were, I could just book a return spaceship to Mars) and as a consequence, their closing ratios aren't what they could be! Many of the things e-tailers aren't doing right are ticking off customers and giving them darn good reasons to abandon the site super-quick. You'd do everything you could to prevent a customer from reaching the Bail-Out Boiling Point, wouldn't you? So make sure you are doing everything!

I know I'm going to start sounding like an MP3 player with a perpetual feedback loop, but you've got lots of online competition out there. If you don't have your act together, your customers are going to find someone who does. So let's solve some of the key sticking points in the sales process that lead most folks to ditch you in favor of someone else.

Get the Cash (GTC). Engrave this on the center of your forehead! Sing it in the shower! This is the single biggest bug-a-boo in online retailing. You simply must give your customers all and sundry payment options so you can get the cash. On top of that, you've got to let them know any form of financial transaction with you is safe, secure, confidential and reliable!

  • Offer secure online credit transactions that accept a variety of credit cards.
  • Give your clients offline options that include faxing an order form or snail-mailing with payment by check or credit card.
  • Consider if there is an advantage to hooking up with third-party payment managers (such as AOL Payment Services, Beenz, etc.).
  • Make sure you have a telephone contact number (ideally toll-free) displayed prominently on all your pages, so folks can dial up and order that way (or talk to a human for help).

Policies. Folks want to know the deal. They want to know what they are going to get charged for, if their purchases are going to come with your guarantee, how you handle returns or exchanges. At the point they are most likely to wonder these things (see my article on POA), give them the answers they need.

  • Post complete and accurate shipping prices.
  • Promise you have no hidden charges (and make sure you don't).
  • Display your guarantees.
  • Explain your policies for returns, exchanges and whether you offer refunds or credits.

Convey trustworthiness. At every opportunity, in lots of different ways from navigation to usability to common sense, let your customers know you understand their needs and value their patronage. Never make them jump through hoops. Always treat them with respect. Scads of elements contribute to how trustworthy you appear; these are some that directly influence a customer's decision to bail:

  • Make sure your opt-in forms (orders, subscriptions, account information, etc.) ask only for relevant stuff, only for the information necessary to manage the transaction. Don't require a lady buying a digital camera from you to specify how many kids of which ages she has at home - invasive questions encourage folks to beat a hasty retreat. If you want more background information on your customers, come by it passively, or consider employing an optional online survey subsequent to purchase.
  • Have all your function buttons right where the customer needs them, especially your checkout and shopping cart buttons.
  • Allow your customers to edit any information they supply (and make this process super-easy): member information, billing information, shipping information, shopping cart contents.

Realistically, you're never going to see conversion ratios of 100%. What business ever will? But I guarantee you can do better with your online sales when you start using strategies that don't ignite your customers' Bail-Out Boiling Point.

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Return to: GROK Dot Com 3/01/2001

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