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
- 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
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
- 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
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.