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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Barriers to online sales

No point in creating hurdles customers have to leap before they can buy from you online.

I stumbled across a surprising hurdle when I was writing case studies for an online payment processor. One interviewee mentioned they had a 24% hike in sales on the day they switched from one payment service provider to another, due to the decrease in 'failed carts': in this case, abandoned transactions during the payment part of the sale.

I asked the other 3 interviewees if they had seen a similar difference. None of them had been tracking failed carts during the change over, but they took a look. Sure enough, they all reported over 20% growth in sales on the day they switched online payment service provider, but had attributed the growth to other factors. The increase in sales persisted thereafter.

I was writing these case studies a while ago, so individual payment services providers may have changed the way they work now. My interviewees reckoned the uplift was due to the new payment service provider making it much easier for the customer to pay online. They didn't have to go through a cumbersome registration process. One less barrier to the sale. And a 20% hike in sales without any additional sales, marketing or PR? Now that's a potential added bonus that's well worth checking out!

Looks like the cost of services is not necessarily the only factor when choosing an online payment service provider. In this case, it was one of the most expensive providers that created the biggest barrier to sales, making it an even less attractive proposition.

But it's not just the payment process on your site, it's the site as a whole. Are there any online barriers you could remove for your customers to make your website more sales effective?

It's very hard to see your website the way a first-time user sees it. Can you test your site using people with no familiarity with your website? Friends and family? Or run a short test as part of a recruitment selection process? Record testers talking through their actions and feelings as they work their way through a series of tasks on your website to collect information and make a purchase. That could produce very useful information on both the potential recruits and your website.

Some usability experts reckon they get over 100% uplift in sales by streamlining pages and placing clear and appropriate calls to action on key landing web pages. They test variants again and again against the free Google analytics service. Are there any tweaks you can make to test, refine and fine-tune the sales results from your site?

As my favourite NLP master and trainer (Erick Rainey) says: "There is no failure, only feedback!"

Here's to your ecommerce success.

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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