Checkout Tactics

Keep It Simple And Straightforward

During a recent online shopping experience, I was thrilled to find the particular store offered free shipping on orders of $25 or more. The large, bold graphic denoting such offer was in the upper-right hand corner of the screen. So I spent some time picking out a few more items, then I began the checkout process.

On the shipping selection page I could not find the free shipping reference, and frustration set in as I took another (closer) look at the graphic. In pale gray (almost white), small lettering sat the words “certain restrictions apply.” The graphic was clickable, taking me to a page explaining the limitations of the offer. I could get free shipping without limitations if I ordered $49 or more, but they’d already lost me.

When making free shipping and other enticing offers, it is important to serve both lenient and principle-driven shoppers. My experience was not much different than a “bait and switch” tactic: The advertisement was legal, yet questionable when it came to how it attracted customers. You’ll gain far more respect if you’re crystal clear about stipulations, even if they aren’t to the benefit of the current customer.

When using attention-grabbing graphics to promote sales, consider the following:

  • Not all computer screens are calibrated the same. Calibrating a screen requires user input, so what looks white, gray, green and so forth on your monitor may not look the same on another. This also means that pale colors (like grays and yellows) may be invisible against a white background.

  • Just be clear. Hiding brief restrictions by using tiny font sizes causes more confusion. It’s better to be up-front, whereas shoppers only need to click the image to read even more details, but the offer itself is pretty clear.

  • Don’t change offers during shopping sessions. I recently shopped a store mid-day, whereas it also offered free shipping on orders of $30 or more. When I began the checkout process (at noon PST), the offer changed to $49. If you’re shopping cart software is unable to track existing shoppers who began their sessions before the promotional change, consider waiting until the least popular shopping hour to make such a change. This store also lost my sale and when I emailed them about the issue, they responded with a stock reply about how to review all current offers prior to checking out.

  • Keep it simple. Some online stores list varying ways to take advantage of special offers, requiring multiple product line purchases at various dollar amounts. The more confusing the offer, the less apt you are to attract a high number of new customers.

  • If it’s free, make it free. It’s understood that heavy “free” items may need to carry shipping charges, but I’ve seen online stores offering a free t-shirt at checkout and then impose a $4.95 fee on top. By making free items ship at no additional cost you will prompt more shoppers to spend minimum amounts.

  • Be detailed. When offering free merchandise, include full details about the item. There’s nothing like spending more to qualify for a free item, only to find it’s made cheaply and won’t withstand the perceived intended use. This is a good reason to offer quality items, even it means requiring a higher purchase amount.

Two stores last month lost my business. This was after I gave them the opportunity to at least recognize that their tactics would make many online shoppers feel mislead. Just think about all the online shoppers who would just walk away and not even tell you why.

Pamela Hazelton
Pamela Hazelton
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