The web has been spoiled by scams, fraud, identity theft, phishing, email address harvesting, and spam-mail. At this point, we are all very wary of disclosing our (somewhat disposable) email address, let alone our physical address and credit card information. We’ll call this buying resistance. So, the role of the web marketer is to overcome that hesitance, and provide an environment of utmost “comfort” where ecommerce transactions can take place with confidence.
You see, I think that stars and champions – sports, business, movie, etc., have clouded our perception. We have this idea that in order to succeed, we must be “the best,” and so we might be tempted to try to develop the best ecommerce website in order to overcome the buying resistance that our site visitors feel. Well, on the web, I don’t think that’s true.
And that’s good news for you, because frankly, developing the best website out there would be hard… and expensive… and time consuming. So if you don’t have to develop the best website, what sort of site do you have to develop? Well, I’m not entirely sure how to describe it, but maybe “the most un-worst” site comes close.
I think that overcoming buying resistance is about the absence of something, rather than the presence of it. It’s about the absence of red flags. A red flag in this sense is something on a site that gives you reason to doubt the honesty, quality, or trustworthiness of the site or the products. The bottom line is simple – credibility. Here are some of the most common red flags (please note, I understand that doing these things on your website doesn’t mean that you are untrustworthy, it can just make you appear that way):
No Contact Information
Not listing your contact information sends the message that you don’t want people to reach you. It implies some level of dishonesty. A related problem is listing partial contact information (such as a P.O. box rather than a physical address), or listing email, but not phone. For full credibility, be fully accessible to your customers and potential customers.
Home-Made Look and Feel
Most people would prefer to buy from a “real business” rather than a hobbyist. A website that looks homemade implies that you’re running your business out of your garage (which may be true, but reduces your credibility nonetheless). Colored backgrounds, animated gifs, pixilated logos, etc., can all make your site look amateurish. A clean and professional look and feel is accessible to all small business owners with many good-looking template designs available for less than $100. I would probably stay away from the commonly-used free templates that come with web design software. For a great selection, try Template Monster.
Non-Secure Purchase Pages
I’m sure that none of you are making this elementary mistake, but in 2005 anyone not using a secure connection for ecommerce transactions is highly suspicious. Also, make it clear to visitors that your connection is secure, by utilizing the “padlock” type of graphic available from your security certificate issuer. If you don’t have a secure certificate, contact your host provider or visit Versign.com.
A high number of shopping cart “abandons” (people who place products into their cart, but never complete the purchase process) could be an indicator of some sort of shopping cart shock. Asking for too much information, or the wrong information in the wrong sequence can make the visitor feel uncomfortable. Look at the “exit pages” report on your web analytics tool to find out if people are dropping out of your checkout process. Most good host providers offer access to a detailed analytics package for a small monthly fee. If that capability isn’t sufficient, consider investing in a third-party package like WebTrends, ClickTracks, Omniture, Urchin or HitBox.