Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability, SEO, relationship marketing and consumer psychology.


The Grok Goes Looking for Return Policies

As you may have noticed, the whole concept of relevance has been on my mind lately. Frankly, I think it’s the best way to sum up this e-commerce thing. Everything you do on your Web site must feed into your task-oriented prospects’ need for relevance. EVERYTHING! You forget this, and chances are, your prospects are going to trip the Light Fantastic on someone else’s site.

So today we’re gonna talk about putting relevant words in relevant places. Why not come shopping with me?

I’m thinking clothing. You guys and gals come in lots of different shapes and sizes (thankfully, we Martians are one-size-fits-all). When you go to a bricks-and-mortar clothing store, you usually want to try on the clothes. If they don’t fit, you won’t be buying them, right? Fit’s important. It’s a concern.

So real world clothing stores have fitting rooms. Real world clothiers didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. They know you need to be happy - satisfied! - with your purchase or you won’t be back.

But who ever heard of an online fitting room? So, when you go to buy clothing at some Web site, you’d like to know if the thing arrives and doesn’t fit, “Returns, Refunds and Exchanges Are Easy!” And you want to know this information at the point where you are about to click that “Add to Shopping Cart” button. You don’t feel confident about this, you’re probably not going to buy.

We call this Point of Action. When your prospect is ready to take an action - any action - you make sure to address the basic, essential concerns relevant to that action right then and there. It’s a dead simple tactic. And it works like you wouldn’t believe!!

Do folks take advantage of this? Do they even acknowledge the issue at all? Let’s find out.

Lands End. This direct-marketing giant has an enviable Web site; they’ve figured out how to do lots of things right. Today they want to build me a pair of chinos with a custom fit (good luck!), and they promise I’m gonna love the fit. These guys seem to understand what matters to me. So I go for the custom-fit chinos.

I land on the product page and read the benefits: just a few minutes to fill in measurements, discussion of the product qualities, shipping information, they’ll even store my measurements. “More information” below. I click. Not a word in the copy tells me about exchanges or refunds if the item doesn’t fit. But there is a link to talk to a live person if I have a question. Well … I’m going to pass on that. I don’t need to talk to someone, I just need to see a few reassuring words.

I decide to order a pair even without the reassurance, which sends me next through a series of secure pages. I log onto my account. I pick out my chino styling preferences. I enter my measurements. I made a few errors, so I have to reenter the measurements several times. Then I have to confirm my entries. THEN I get to the add to shopping cart page, and it is here I finally find “Guaranteed Period. If you're not satisfied with any item, return it at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.”

Okay. At a point of action. But this item required a lot of energy to put in my shopping cart … some assurance earlier in the game would have been nice.

LLBean. Another giant. No general “shop with confidence” message when I land on the home page, but if I scrutinize the left navigation bar, I see there is a link to a guarantee. Nice, but, again, that’s not what I’m looking for. It isn’t what most folks are looking for when they hit the home page … they might not even know yet if they are going to buy anything. I don’t mess with the nav bar guarantee.

I see a shirt I like. I click through to the product page. No assurance at the point where I’m going to add this shirt to my shopping bag. I add it anyway. No confidence statement on the shopping bag page. Hmmm.

LLBean has a total-confidence guarantee. “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We will replace it, refund your purchase price or credit your credit card. We do not want you to have anything from LLBean that is not completely satisfactory.” But you’ve got to disengage from the shopping process to read it. Or you’ve got to know LLBean.

Victorias Secrets. Hey, not for me, personally. But I hear it’s a popular place to shop. No preliminary “shop with confidence” message on the home page. I click on the clothing category from the top bar navigation. When the page finally gets to me, I click on “pants”, and on the next page, select “Yoga Pants.” Nothing anywhere near the point of action to reassure me about refund/exchange policies. I made my size, color and quantity selections anyway, clicked on the “Add to Shopping Bag,” but it didn’t work for some reason. I tried again. Still didn’t work.

Forget whether they bother to reassure me at the next potential point of action. I’m outta here!

Eddie Bauer. Up there with the biggies. But just like the others, no overall “shop with confidence” message when I hit the home page. Here I go after a linen dress. When I get to the product page, there are no point of action reassurances. But I add it. No word on the shopping cart page (although I can check out shipping information here). I decide to checkout, and I’ve got to start filling in all sorts of information before I even know whether or not they’ll take the dress back if I don’t like it!

Let me put it this way, folks. If you aren’t providing those critical little reassurances exactly where folks need to see them, you are leaving money on the table. You can’t bank on all your prospects knowing your reputation. And it’s not enough just to have your policies somewhere on your Web site. Folks want confidence, but they don’t want to have to work for it. Your prospects are urging, “Don’t make me think and don’t make me have to work too hard.”

Simple, RELEVANT words put in the most RELEVANT places answer the needs of most folks and make a difference in your conversion rate. I’ve seen it work so many times. Try it … you’ll see too.


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GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledges and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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