Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from Jennifer Dunn, owner of Social Street Media and freelance business and finance writer for sites like WePay. Jennifer has previously contributed to the Biz Ladies series on how to accept credit card payments through your site, and today she offers some insight into the how and why of losing online customers. Thank you, Jennifer, for another wonderful post! — Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump . . .
I once tried to buy client holiday presents from a specialty food store online. Once I’d filled my cart with Spanish cookies and specialty olive oil, the “pay now” button simply wouldn’t work. I’d get an error page every time. Unfortunately, it was also charging my credit card every time, and for a few tense hours before I could get customer support on the phone, it appeared I’d ordered all of my clients gallons upon gallons of fancy olive oil.
That store made my Naughty List that year, which is a shame because they have hard-to-find products. Still, I remembered that bad experience and haven’t yet worked up the patience to try them again.
These days, I’ve been on both ends of the online shopping game — as a buyer and as a consultant to online sellers. When consulting, I try to learn from the great Olive Oil Debacle of ’09 and make sure my clients’ sites are running smoothly. Otherwise, they could be like the store mentioned above and lose out on good business forever.
With the shopper in mind, here are 5 reasons you might lose a sale this holiday season, and how to safeguard against them:
1. Navigation Issues
If your customers can’t find your products, they don’t know they want them. If they can’t find the “Buy It Now” button or the shopping cart, they can’t check out and give you money. If they don’t know how to get back from checking out, they can’t buy more.
Ease of use is one of the most important things on the web. People are busy, and they don’t have time to interpret your “creatively designed” website in order to buy something. They’ll simply go somewhere else. Make sure your entire site is easy to figure out and simple to use. Check out best practices for ecommerce site navigation for more info.
If you’re having trouble, have a look at how eCommerce giants like Amazon or Target do it. Their “buy it now” button looks the same on every page, is prominently displayed and usually sits to the right of an image of the product. The link where they can check their online shopping carts is usually in the top right-hand corner of the page. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel — stick to this format, and shoppers will have no problem at all happily adding items to their online shopping carts.
2. Difficult Shopping Cart
Let’s say your customers make it all the way to the checkout area. They’ve got their credit card in their hot little hand, ready to make a purchase. Now all they’ve got to do is type in their info . . . but wait, what’s this? Why are there 15 demographic questions about age, weight and blood type when they’re just buying one thing? Where is the credit card entry box? Why is the total different and there is no explanation of charges anywhere? Again, if anything is unclear, customers will often bail.
Shopping carts should be as simple as possible. People are busy, and if they have to navigate through three or four pages — entering personal info every step of the way — they might become distracted or impatient and bail on you.
See these excellent shopping cart designs for inspiration.
3. Blurry Images
The pictures of your products say more than you think. Sure, you may have amazingly written copy explaining in full detail what the item is, but if people can’t see it, they’ll still be turned off. Humans buy with their eyes first, and visuals are a big component of online selling.
If you must, go through and retake all the photos on your website. Take them outside in the morning or evening when the natural light is best, or purchase a light box and a better camera if you have to. If your product is handmade or unique, take pictures of it from several angles. Use a battery or deck of cards for scale if necessary. Even when you include sizes in your product descriptions, buyers are still sometimes confused or disappointed because the picture didn’t reflect its actual size.
Here is some great advice from photographer and previous Biz Ladies contributor Nicole Hill Gerulat on how to take knockout product photos. The sales uptick you’ll see after retaking blurry photos is definitely worth the extra time.
4. Bad Copy
On the other hand, you can have product photos taken by Margaret Bourke-White, but if your copy is terrible, you’re in trouble! People want to know what they’re getting into, and if the description of your item makes it sound like a bad idea, they won’t be buying. One of the most important things to remember is to make it clear what they’re looking at and what it does. Leave nothing in the dark!
The basics that all product copy should include are: (1) A description of the item, (2) a description of its attributes (its size, color, materials, etc.) and (3) its benefits to your potential buyer. Whether you decide to write a descriptive story about your product a la the J. Peterman catalog or just keep it simple is up to you. But be sure you provide the basics. And proofread for spelling and grammar before your product goes live.
5. No Contact Info
Your customers have questions, but you’ve failed to leave any sort of “About” or “Contact” section. Rather than take the risk of losing money on a bad purchase, they will simply hit the “Back” button as quickly as they can.
You don’t have to write your life story, but a simple “About Us” section gives viewers a little idea of what you’re about. Adding pictures of yourself and your workspace is even better. Like we’ve said all along, humans are visual creatures, and putting a human face on your website lends you instant credibility. Even if they don’t actually use your contact info, it’s comforting to know that you are another human and they can contact you should trouble with their order arise.