E-commerce has now been alive and well for 17 years. Everyone (that is, everyone who sells something!) knows you should be able to do it, that you should have a virtual shopfront allowing people to buy products online.


And still, when it comes to e-commerce, sellers do a number of things that they would never, ever do in the real world. Like forcefully turning away customers who have their money at the ready.


Don’t believe me? Still it’s amazing how many people do it wrong…



Are you losing 75% of your sales?


One intriguing statistics is that 75% – yes, seventy-five, or three quarters of customers – leave the sale at the shopping cart stage.


Imagine you were a shop owner and this happened in your shop: four customers walk to the till with their purchases in one hand and their credit card in the other. They make it all the way to the till.


Then suddenly three of them drop their purchases on the counter and walk away without a word. Only the fourth one actually buys from you. My reaction would be to call a meeting with staff within the first hour and work out what is going wrong!


If you were the manager of that shop you would sense a big problem. These people have trusted you enough to get their money out, and for some reason they walk away…


This is actually very easy to sort out. Too many online shops still ask customers to “register an account” before they can complete their purchase. It sounds so appealing, doesn’t it? These people are ready to buy from you, so why not register them on your mailing list to market to them, and ask them to keep their details for research purposes and stats while you’re at it. It’s very tempting.


Only it’s a huge turnoff.


In a real life context, this would mean you flat-out refuse to let customers buy from you if they don’t sign up for your mailing list. Would you implement such arm-twisting in your shop? So why do it online?! Especially as it backfires so monumentally…


Most people just want to identify what they want, make a selection, decide if the purchase is worth more than the money in their pocket, buy it and get on to the next thing on their minds. They don’t want to enter a relationship with the seller – at least not yet.


Now how about modifying that button from “Register” to “Continue”? In one company’s case, that simple tweak increased sales by $300 million. Yes, that simple change alone.



Don’t ask for a password, unless you want to ban people from your shop


If a customer can’t remember their password and can’t retrieve it or create a new one (by clicking the convenient – and ubiquitous – “forgotten your password?” link below the login form), they are essentially banned from shopping on a given website: the website software won’t usually let them register a new account with data that are already recorded in the website’s database for an existing customer.


In essence, you’re putting a serious barrier to entry. If they still decide to go on with their purchase, this will lead them to a frustrating multiple-click journey. Each click is an opportunity for them to ask themselves, is this really worth it?!


After all, if every shop on the high street only let you to the till if you gave them a code I highly doubt you would remember them all. Or any of them. I think we can agree that we all have better things to do than remember a myriad passwords for shops we visit two or three times a year.


Yes, security is a concern, but remember that while many people like the convenience of recorded details for a faster future purchase, there is another large contingent who would prefer typing in their card details again rather than having to remember a password for some random shop to prevent their card details from being compromised.


This is alright for huge online retailers like Amazon, because a customer might buy so often from them that they prefer to enable the “1-click” purchase option. There is a world called “compliance” dedicated to such a matter.


“Verified by Visa” and other similar card issuers or bank schemes, which allow them to double-check on a cardholder’s identity by associating one password to one card, or by sending a confirmation code by text message, do a much better job of keeping sensitive data secure than online shop-generated user profiles.


So, what actions might you take if you wanted to bring more clients to the completion of the sales process? Consider the following:

  1. Allow your customers to buy from you first and register to be part of a mailing list if they want to afterwards – i.e. change “register” to “continue”.
  2. Ask somebody barely computer literate to try to purchase on your site and ask them to voice every thought in their head as they’re going through the process (and particularly, listen to their perceived barriers to entry). Brainstorm and implement strategies to eradicate these stumbling blocks.
  3. Ensure that contact details are very clearly visible on the shopping page, so that if a customer has a query or a concern, they know they can communicate their issue immediately at the point of sale. This way, you can become aware of the problem and deal with it (and prevent it from causing future failed sales-that-could-be).
  4. View the “Google Analytics” on your shopping page and monitor changes on the bounce rate (i.e. how many customers “bounce” off the page)


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