Are Your Retail Customers Accidentally Losing Sales? Here’s how You can Help!

There are several things your customer (who is a seller) does that seem like good ideas at first, but may be costing him sales rather than winning new customers. What’s he doing wrong? As a web designer or a developer who builds websites for SMBs, you want to make sure your customers’ business is seeing enough sales/leads/value from their websites. More often than not though, you play a consulting role in the entire online presence of your customer – not just a transactional one and you can help your customers get it right. Let’s take a look at some common things that seem like they would boost sales, but could actually end up doing more harm than good.

Sell Your Benefits / Teach Your Features

The first way your client may be scaring off potential customers is with information overload. Often times, especially with technical products, the tendency is to immediately start listing all of the features included in the product. This has a negative impact on sales for several reasons.

First, your need to get your client to understand that shoppers are not customers yet. There is so much information out there and so many different potential solutions for any given problem. Shoppers are skimming and surveying what’s out there. They are not ready to dig in deep and study one particular product yet. As such, these “shoppers” aren’t ready to read a lot of words. They are looking at headlines and pictures.

Before your client unload all the details, he needs to convert shoppers to customers by selling the benefits of his product. How does his product solve their problem. Why will his customers feel smart because they found and use his product? What is it about his product that will make his customers talk about it with their friends? These are the questions he needs to be answering with headlines and pictures on his sales site.

Once a shopper has bought into the benefits of your client’s product, they are ready to invest some time into learning about his features. Now is the time to share details, blog posts, and instructional videos. Customers and shoppers are two different groups of people requiring two different types of content. Advice him not to scare away his shoppers by treating them like customers before they are ready to invest their time into learning his product. To get to the point where they are ready to invest their time in learning his product, they need to understand the overall benefits he is offering. First, advice him to sell his benefits, then teach his features.

Too Many Choices Lower Conversions

It may seem like offering a wide variety of choices will increase sales because it lets his customer customize the product and get exactly what they want. The truth is, too many choices can kill your sales.

We’ve been talking about speed bumps and exit ramps in the checkout flow of your client’s site. Decisions often require research which takes people away from your client’s site and away from the excitement of buying. In the same way that people might leave his site to look for lower shipping rates or coupon codes, you don’t want customers leaving his site or abandoning the checkout process to do research to figure out which options they should be selecting for their order.

Choices introduce confusion and indecision. Asking a customer to configure the options for their order requires the customer to have a deep knowledge in order to buy his product. This also kills the impulse and excitement of buying.

When your client markets your products, make him aware that he should aim to sell a feeling and have people connect emotionally with his brand. Decision making kills the emotion and activates the logical side of his customer’s brain while turning off the emotional thrill of buying.

A great example of the principle of fewer choices is Apple and how they sell their laptops. If you want a Mac laptop you either get a small, fast one (13 inch MacBook), a small really fast one (13 inch MacBook Pro), or a big really fast one (15 inch MacBook Pro). Other than that, there are almost no other options. You don’t have to pick what type of graphics card you want, the types of ports, or whether or not you want a number pad on your keyboard. Instead, they build a really nice system and offer it to you.They use their expertise to give you a great product rather than forcing you to study up in order to make a successful purchase.

Coupons Can Lower Conversions

Coupons are another hidden trap. It’s very popular to show a coupon field on your checkout page and then send out coupon codes to promote a sale. Seems harmless enough, right? But what do people think when they get to the checkout page, see a coupon field, but they don’t have a coupon code?

If you are about to buy something and you see a coupon field but you don’t have a coupon…

  • You feel like you aren’t getting a good deal
  • You feel dumb for not having a coupon
  • You don’t want to pay full price when other people get a discount
  • You leave to look for a coupon

By having that coupon field on your checkout page, has inadvertently introduced a giant speed bump in your client’s checkout process. In the same way that his customers may leave his site to shop the shipping, customers will leave his site to shop for coupons if they see a coupon field but they don’t have a coupon code.

Coupons are not all bad. There is a better way to make more effective use of coupons. First, advice your client never to show a coupon field on his checkout page. Instead, offer coupons, or discounts privately.

Private Coupon Offers

Keeping the application of coupons private has several benefits. Suggest that he create a private link that automatically applies the coupon to the order. Then share this special, discount link with his customers to help incentivize the sale without making all of his other customers feel foolish.

Another benefit of private coupons is that it adds a sense of special treatment and urgency to the sale. The customer feels special because your client is taking the effort to make a private, exclusive, offer that nobody else gets. He also add urgency to the sale because the customer will think that if they ever want to buy his product, now is the time because they have an opportunity to get a discount that otherwise wouldn’t be available.

Along this same idea, your client can offer discounted products, or automatically applied coupon links to special segments of his customer base. For example, if you have an email newsletter you could offer the discount to people receiving your newsletter – not the general public.

All of this gives the impression of exclusivity and unique opportunity which helps drive home sales whereas a coupon field on your checkout page can be a discouraging speed bump for sales.

How Shipping Affects Conversions

If your customer sells physical products and ship them to his customers, he may consider using real-time shipping rates because it allows him to pass along the exact shipping cost to his customer. Unfortunately, this actually scares customers away. Let’s look at the details:

There are basically three ways to charge for shipping.

  • Free shipping
  • Flat rate shipping
  • Real-time shipping quotes

Of course, within these three groups there are some variations. For example, you might have separate flat shipping rate per product, and different rates for different geographic regions. You might offer free shipping for orders greater than a certain total amount. No matter how you mix and match, there are still these three general ways of handling shipping costs. So what’s the best?

The Merits Of Free Shipping

The way your client handles shipping matters. A Pitney Bowes survey revealed that 93 percent of customers find shipping options to be an important factor in their shopping experience. An overwhelming 88 percent found free shipping that takes 5 – 7 days for delivery to be more attractive than paying a fee for 1 or 2 day delivery. This stays true even if you set a minimum order value to qualify for free shipping. Three in five respondents say they have increased their spending to qualify for free shipping.

His customers are willing to spend more money and wait longer as long as they are not spending their money on shipping. So, if at all possible, your customer should try to offer free shipping.

Why Free Shipping Is So Effective

There are several reasons why free shipping is so effective. First, and perhaps most obvious, people view paying for shipping as if they are just wasting money. Customers don’t value shipping. As long as the order arrives sometime within a week, they don’t care about the wait. Shipping has no intrinsic value. Making people pay for shipping is frustrating and discourages sales.

Trust and Excitement

There are two other, more subtle reasons why free shipping is so effective. It has to do with trust and the emotional rush of purchasing things. Trust is the first factor. If your client isn’t offering free shipping, he is going to have to gather some information from his customers, like where they live, before he can tell them the shipping costs. This means he is asking them to give their information before he has earned their trust. This may not always be a deal breaker, but it is certainly a speed bump in the overall relationship between him and his customers.

The more severe issue is introducing additional decisions during the checkout process. Whether your client offers flat rate shipping based on regions or calculate real-time shipping costs on the fly, he is introducing a new variable right at the most crucial time of the sale. Decision making destroys all the momentum of the checkout process. When your client presents the shipping cost, now his customer has to decide if the shipping price is acceptable or not. At best they will quickly consider the shipping price, accept it, and continue on. All too frequently, the customer will leave the site to shop the shipping. Does somebody else offer the same product and also have free (or cheaper) shipping? Right when your client could be closing the sale, his shipping rates can cause his customer to leave his site – not because they don’t like his product, but because now they are shopping the shipping.

Real-time shipping rates are the worst way to charge for shipping because it violates both the trust and sours the excitement the most. Your client will need to know an exact mailing address in order to calculate a live shipping rate. Worst of all, most shoppers have no idea what shipping really costs small business owners. Thanks to Amazon’s free 2 day shipping and other similar offers, most people have no idea how high the actual shipping costs are that one has to pay. So when one presents a $12 shipping cost for a pair of flip-flops customers will immediately say, “What?! No way!”

But You Still Have To Pay For Shipping

Regardless of how your client charges (or don’t charge) for shipping on his online store, it still costs him money. So what are you supposed to do? The answer is to simply build the cost of shipping into the products. This isn’t as hard as it may seem, but it does take a little upfront work on your client’s part. The general idea is to figure out what the average cost is to ship an average order. Then, add that average amount to the products he sells.

For example, suppose your client sells headphones. He notices that most people tend to just buy one set of headphones per order, but they may also include some accessories like a carry bag or a cord extender. The accessories don’t weigh very much and your client can fit them in the same box as the headphones. In other words, they can all be bundled together in the same box. Your client heads over to the FedEx website and do some Ground Shipping rate calculations for shipping this 3 pound box to various parts of the country. While some places are a little more, other places may be a little less. Overall your client finds that the average cost to ship an order is $12. Your client has also discovered that the it usually doesn’t cost any additional money to ship carry cases or cords because you can bundle them in the same box as the headphones. Sometimes, however, on rare occasions somebody will order just a carry case.

Now, the average order costs $12 to ship, but sometimes your client ships a carry case by itself. The average cost for that is just $5 because it is smaller and lighter than when headphones are ordered. With all of this in mind, bump up the cost of all the headphones by $15 and bump up the cost of accessories by $1 or maybe not at all. You will be making a little extra money shipping average orders.This will cover the few times your client will have to ship an order for just a carry case.

If your client feels like increasing the cost of the headphones by $15 is too much, he can consider splitting the difference and offer something like $5 shipping for all orders. Then only increase the cost of the headphones by $10. This still allows his customer to know up front what the shipping cost is going to be so there are no surprises and no extra decision making during the checkout process.

This is a sure-shot way to boost sales on your client’s websites and thank you for it!

 

Lee Blue

Lee Blue

Lee Blue is the founder of Cart66, the WordPress ecommerce platform. He frequently blogs about ecommerce and online marketing.