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Tips ease Internet customers’ fears

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I just read that Sylvan Goldman invented the retail store's shopping cart in 1937. According to what I read, many people were confused about how to use the shopping cart.

But Goldman was determined to help consumers understand how to use his invention. So he hired models to demonstrate how to use the shopping cart, which he called a "basket on wheels."

Fast-forward about 70 years, and here we are again with another new invention: the Web site shopping cart or order page. And guess what? Consumers are once again confused about how to use it and are abandoning your order page at a rate as high as 35 percent.

It doesn't have to be this way. Please let me suggest five improvements you can make that are proven to reduce your Web site's order page abandonment rate.

Security statement. One of the major concerns for consumers when shopping online is if their information is secure. To increase consumer confidence you should have a security statement on your order page. A simple statement such as, "Any information you provide on this page is encrypted by the highest security algorithms on the Internet," will help increase consumer confidence and sales.

Privacy policy. Adding a privacy statement to your order page also will increase sales. Most of your shoppers are wondering what happens to their information after they've given it to you. They want to know if you sell it, give it away or rent their names to third party companies. I've used a simple statement like, "We Respect Your Privacy" and have seen an increase in leads and sales that made it more than worth the two minutes it took our Web developer to add the statement to our order forms.

Credibility enhancers. Most shoppers want to believe that you are the correct company from which they should make their purchase. If customer support is an issue in your industry, why not include a testimonial about how great your customer support is? You can easily address the concerns of your prospects by using a testimonial from a satisfied customer. Another credibility enhancer you can use is a link to certifications from trade organizations or the Better Business Bureau's online reliability program.

Shipping cost. According to NDP Group and BizRate.com, buyers usually abandon your order page because shipping and handling costs are higher than expected. In order to overcome this you will want to avoid surprising the customer with hidden or excessive shipping and handling fees.

Offer a bonus. Offering a bonus for completing the order process is an extremely powerful strategy for decreasing order page abandonment. You can offer a reduced price, savings on shipping, or an additional product as part of the purchase or for a small additional cost. The two questions I ask myself are: What bonus can I offer that will provide enough incentive to a prospective customer that he or she will complete the ordering process? And can I offer that bonus without substantially reducing my profits?

These strategies can be applied within a week for most companies that have access to a Web developer. Put them in place if you want to start decreasing your order page abandonment rate.

If there is a Web marketing topic you would like me to cover, submit your idea at www.AskDionJones.com. I will focus future columns on the topics you suggest.

Dion Jones is a Web marketing specialist and is affiliated with the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship.