Sunday, August 16, 2009




Six Stumbling Blocks to Making That Sale:

Why Make It Harder to Sell?

What if you went to your favorite clothing boutique and discovered the door was locked? A note on the door states “Please enter your access code to enter.” Access code? Never mind, I’ll just go across the street to buy a new tie.

In the real-world retail sector, merchandising is a science. Makers of your favorite breakfast cereal fight for shelf position at the supermarket. They all want the eye-level shelf because that’s where most shoppers look first. The boxes of cereal on the top and bottom shelves don’t move as fast because of shelf placement.

And how about those displays of soda and hot dog buns you see at the end of each supermarket aisle. This is prime selling floor real estate and food makers pay the store for these prized locations. Same with all the gum, candy and other “impulse” items by the checkout. Those products are there because people waiting to get checked out buy them on impulse. “Oh, I deserve a treat,” so a Mr. Goodbar gets tossed into the shopping cart along with this week’s fabulous edition of The National Enquirer. The buying activities of store shoppers are studied, critiqued, focus-grouped-to-death, analyzed, utilized and ultimately, the entire store is arranged to generate more sales.

Well, the same principles apply to website design. The design of your website can make it easier or harder for a visitor to make a purchase. Here are six stumbling blocks you can remove from your site today to see your conversion ratios improve in a matter of days. Really.

1. Eliminate the member log-in from the home page. You see this a lot and you wonder what the site designer was thinking. When most visitors see a log-in box, they know they’re giving up their email addresses to gain access to the goodies on your site. And they expect the back sell – the sell that takes place once a visitor opts in.

But it makes no sense to place the opt in log-in on the home page because visitors don’t even know what their opting for yet. Instead, use the home page to entice the visitor deeper into the site. Show visitors that by opting in they get a valuable service or good information – free. In other words, prove the worthiness of site information before making the pitch for an opt-in.

2. Provide good information free. And plenty of it. Articles, stories, pictures of products in use embedded in informational content lends credibility to you, the site and the product.

Often times, buyers don’t know what they don’t know. They’re trying to learn as they window shop and you’re going to teach them by providing good informational content about product pros and cons. You want the buyer to purchase the right product. It saves time, money and the hassles of returns so teach and sell on your site. It’s a potent combination. And it works, too.

3. Make it easy to find the right item. There are two ways to do this. Use both.

There’s a web design dictum: The fewer the number of clicks the more sales. Absolutely true. The easier it is to make a purchase the more purchases will be made so making it easy to find a specific item, or to browse items, is essential.

Most sites use a “Products” link off the navigation bar, which works fine if you only sell a few items. This drill down screen can also be used as a product category directory with links taking the visitor to a specific product ‘section’ of the site. This is especially useful for companies that market diverse inventory.

However, even this drill-down design requires some discretionary thought on the part of the site visitor, and if seems like a hassle, a lot of visitors will get tired of endless clicks and move on to a simpler site.

The second option – and frankly a must-have in this era of site interactivity – is a ‘Site Search’ feature. By far the fastest way to find a specific item by name, by make, model number or any number of other search criteria. A ‘site search’ feature contributes to the reason most web shoppers shop online – convenience.

Everything – everything – about your site should point to ease of use, accessibility, functionality and moving the visitor through the purchase cycle without so much as a blip.

4. Add shopping cart convenience. Even if you sell a limited number of items, offer visitors the opportunity to place items in their digital shopping carts – even if it’s one item.

The shopping cart should allow the visitor to:

  • Review items purchased.
  • Change quantities.
  • Delete items.
  • See the total cost of items in the cart.
  • See the shipping and handling costs for the items in the cart.

Also, throughout the purchase cycle, reassure the buyer by providing prompts on each page. A perfect example: a link to the “Check-Out” on every page – prominently displayed. Easy, easy, easy. Shoppers want convenience and reassurance that “they’re doing it right.”

5. Check out your checkout. Remember that number of clicks axiom from above? This is doubly true during the checkout sequence. Simplify the process for first-time buyers by limiting the number of pages (clicks) required to “get outta here.”

Simultaneously, provide reassurances that the buyer is doing it right. If a piece of information hasn’t been entered properly, return to the form page and tell the visitor what needs changing. Don’t make them figure out what they did incorrectly. Tell them so they can fix it and get outta here.

Provide a final review page of all order information as entered by the buyer. Even the most seasoned web buyer sits at the monitor reviewing everything – name, address, credit card number, quantities and so on. It’s so much easier to get it right the first time than to hassle with returns or unfulfilled orders because of some confusion.

Finally, there needs to be some trust building going on during the checkout sequence. Knowledgeable buyers look for security logos from companies like VeriSign. They also look at the address box of their browser to make sure there’s an ‘s’ in ‘https’ indicating a secure site. Provide buyers with assurances that all is secure just before they click the ‘Submit Order’ button.

6. Deliver an immediate order confirmation. As part of the checkout sequence, buyers provided an email address. Once the buyer has made the purchase an auto-responder should be generated describing all details of the purchase, including tracking information. This assures buyers, cuts down on customer care calls and enables quick resolution of any customer complaint. (Good customer care is a basic building block of any retail business, online or in the real world.)

It’s simple, or at least it should be. The first time buyers are gently guided through the purchase cycle, reassured at every stage and in control, and regulars should have the convenience of providing all information required for a one-click checkout. Ship it here. You’ve got my credit card. I’ve got other things to do. Convenience. That’s what today’s web buyers want.

Think of it this way: a confused customer is a gone customer.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like a lot of gibberish until YOU get down to business. If you have a web biz or you're planning to launch one( who isn't), sweat the details. Call me and let's solve problems before they become problems.


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