So you’ve found a great product, put together an awesome business/marketing plan, and built a beautiful ecommerce store – yet sales figures are far from envisioned, and conversion rate is low.
What could have possibly gone wrong?
Despite the breakneck growth of ecommerce in recent years (projected to reach an astounding USD 1.5 trillion for B2C ecommerce in 2014 alone); the typical consumer still sees online shopping through a stigma-tainted view of substantial perceived risk and uncertainty.
Understanding, addressing and helping overcome these inherent consumer fears of ecommerce is often the key towards changing their (lack of) purchasing decisions, and ultimately garnering success for your store.
Here, we talk about five of the biggest ecommerce fears the typical consumer has – and how you can allay them.
Are you for real?
Overbearing advertisements, check. Badly designed and badly positioned graphics, check. Impossibly-difficult to navigate menus, check.
Congratulations, chances are you’ve arrived at the proverbial nightmare of an ecommerce store lacking in credibility, and the epitome of a bad user experience (UX).
Now ask yourself two questions.
1: If you were a consumer, would you put your trust and make a purchase on such a store?
2: As a business owner, does your store unfortunately tick some of these negative boxes of the bad ecommerce experience?
Understanding your UX problems is just the first step. Addressing the fear will be the goal.
Addressing the ecommerce fear – are you for real?
Above all else, the human psyche places the most faith in what they can visually experience and see.
So focus on building a solid, memorable and trustworthy UX – by removing any elements of inherent doubt your prospective customers might face. Tips include:
- A clear site layout for customers to navigate and shop
- Stay away from complicated jargons and technicalities
- Provide crystal clear, easily accessible product/sales/support information
- Create multiple communication touch points (links to social media platforms, team photos, customer testimonials etc)
Interestingly, research has shown that human photos have been proven to increase conversion rates by over 95% for ecommerce businesses. Now that’s no small figure to scoff at.
For an excellent example of a clean, clear and compelling ecommerce experience, check out Marshall Headphones – a British company with 50 storied years of history in audio products.
Is this store safe?
In today’s always-online world, it seems that we can barely go a few weeks without hearing of another major incident concerning credit card fraud, identity theft, internet scams or security breaches.
It’s thus no wonder consumers are often hesitant to share their credit card details online, particularly for anyone further along the technology adoption lifecycle (ie. anyone other than the innovators and early adopters).
Financial/payment services like VISA and PayPal run constant educational campaigns for safe online shopping, but you can and should help ease this fear of your consumers too.
Addressing the ecommerce fear – Is this store safe?
Trust signals like trustmarks, or logos from identifiable external accreditors go a long way in the eyes of the consumer. And according to a recent survey, some of the most effective comes from established players such as McAfee, Verisign and TRUSTe.
The use of well-known payment processors such as PayPal or Worldpay are also crucial towards providing a seamlessly secure payment process.
But will it fit?
How often have you walked into a shopping mall with no intention to purchase anything, only to walk out with several shopping bags (not to mention a big hit to your back account)?
The sensory experience of physically touching, feeling, or even smelling the product will always remain the one key factor brick-and-mortar retail has over ecommerce.
And overcoming that momentary on-the-spot hesitation just before purchase is another key factor separating the ecommerce successes from the also-rans.
Addressing the e-commerce fear – But will it fit?
You can never replicate online the physical sensations involved (not yet anyway), so do all you can to paint as vivid a picture for your products as possible.
Use rich descriptive copy, provide one-click hi-res images from multiple angles, or even show videos depicting the product in a variety of uses and situations.
Your goal, is to weave imagery as immersive as possible around your product – be it on the computer or mobile screen. A fantastic example would be the vintage-inspired eyewear company Warby Parker.
Starting off as a hipster (and celebrity) favorite, their combination of affordable yet genuinely great products, a brilliantly-optimized ecommerce shop front, and savvy marketing has shot them to mainstream prominence in a few short years.
Hello, is anybody home?
We’ve all had the annoying experience of that sticky salesperson shadowing you around a store, clueless to the concept of personal space.
Yet ironically, we’ve also faced situations where the sales folk are nowhere to be found, and we complain about being unable to get timely assistance for our queries and demands.
And it’s here where one inherent aspect of the ecommerce model shines – with the proper set-up, each customer can have access to as much or as little interaction with your store as they want.
Finding just the right levels of ‘human touch’ to help your customers make the ‘right’ purchasing decision, is a factor well within your control.
Addressing the ecommerce fear – Hello, is anybody home?
As the buying process typically only involves the customer and their computer, one has to first understand and avoid the pitfall many ecommerce sites often fall into – the risk of the business appearing too impersonal, too aloof, and too devoid of the ‘human touch’.
For a start, inculcate a top-down customer-first corporate culture, and train service and support staff to go beyond the script in a bid to really understand your customers’ needs.
Take popular shoe and apparel retailer Zappos for example, where a 10 hour long service call was not seen negatively by leadership, but instead proof of the company’s dedication to its customers!
An extreme scenario and a unique company of course, but think along the lines of displaying contact details like your phone number or Skype username prominently, or implementing a live chat plug-in for your site.
Well-crafted and comprehensive FAQs or knowledge databases also work great, in particular for the more independent-minded customer.
Having such an array of convenient service and support touch-points will be a massive psychological assurance to the undecided consumer, which should ultimately lead to increased conversion rates and loyalty to your brand.
Take it back, please?
Now we’ve all heard ecommerce horror stories of customers who return anything and everything repeatedly. A desire to thus abolish your return policies completely, born out of frustration from having to constantly deal with a steady stream of such situations would be no surprise.
Of course, not all customers fall into that basket. But a comprehensive, well-thought out returns policy fair for both the consumer and your business can, and will reduce purchasing indecision even further – by providing that ‘out’ of a safety net of being able to return the product.
Addressing the e-commerce fear – Take it back, please?
According to a study commissioned by UPS:
- 81% of consumers are more likely to buy from ecommerce retailers should returns policy be an easy and user-friendly one
- 81% also signaled that they would be more loyal to ecommerce retailers with generous return policies (eg: free return shipping, no-questions-asked returns)
- 73% highlighted a greater probability for follow-up purchases from ecommerce retailers with an easy and user-friendly returns process
Long story short, implementing and actually following through with a transparent, comprehensive returns policy will help build a stronger and more reputable brand name for your e-Commerce store – and an improvement to your revenue figures in the long-run.
TLDR; CLIFF NOTES PLEASE?
No two businesses are alike. And there’s no short-cut to success. If you’ve skipped to the end of the post looking for a magical catch-all solution to increasing your conversion rate, there isn’t one.
But addressing these fears of ecommerce consumers will certainly be a great start, and go a long way towards helping you succeed, slowly but surely.
If you’re still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you’ll know which is right for you.