Maslen on Marketing, Web copywriting

Reassuring your online customers

Last month, in my fulmination against online mythmakers, I mentioned that people often abandon an online purchase through fear.

It’s true. I’ve done it. Maybe you have, too. And millions of potential online customers continue to do it, every single day.

I don’t mean the fear that they haven’t understood the point of the animated pile of autumn leaves. Or the terror that comes from trying, unsuccessfully, to read pale grey type on a light blue ground. Or, indeed, the anxiety that arises when they can’t find the log-in button.

No, I’m talking about the good old-fashioned fear of making a mistake. They’re suffering from what-ifitis. Here’s a little guide to online buyer psychology…

What your online customers are thinking

“What if I click this link and I can’t go back?”

“What if I give them my credit card details and they pass them on to the Russian mafia?”

“What if I don’t like what I’ve bought?”

“What if they go out of business tomorrow and I lose everything?”

“What if the widow of country X’s former energy minister doesn’t send me my huge commission after I hand over my bank details?” (OK, I made that one up.)

And so on…

Your job is simple. Reassure them. Here are a few things you can do.

Ten ways to offer online reassurance

1 Give them the disinterested testimony of your other (satisfied) customers. Once again, if you don’t have any testimonials…go out and get some.

2 Give them a little calming pat at every stage of the buying process. Assure them that they can stop or go back at any point.

3 Have a privacy policy and a prominent link to it on your site. Tell them you will never, ever pass on their email address. OK, if you want to build a list business, this might not work. In that case, have some rock-solid opt-in copy and don’t weasel out of your commitments.

4 Make your order form/payment pages as clear as you can possibly manage. Then have your Auntie Mary fill them in. If she’s worried or confused, go back and take another look.

5 Partner with a reputable payment provider and explain how safe and reliable they are.

6 Offer your customers a money-back guarantee. And sound like you mean it. (Which you do.)

7 Make sure your e-commerce pages actually WORK. Nothing puts people off faster than broken links or non-functioning ‘functionality’.

8 Have a ‘normal’ sounding street address somewhere obvious on your site. It’s not that your customers want to come and see you at 123 High Street, Anytown; it’s just that they like to feel there’s a bricks-and-mortar presence somewhere where they could.

9 Look at every point on your site where you ask your customers to click. Now ask yourself, “Is there an unanswered question here? A what-if?” If there is, then you need some copy to answer that question. Tell them what happens when they click. And tell them what won’t happen.

10 Have you won any awards for customer service, user-friendliness or overall reliability? Publish them and get those logos onto your site everywhere where your customers might be doubting your probity.

It might sound like a lot of work. And it might BE a lot of work. But YOU set the site up. Now it’s your job to make it as frictionless a slope as possible. From entry page to order confirmation, you want your customers sliding down with a beatific smile on their faces as they go.

And it’s only words that will do that for you.

And my point is?

People are naturally cautious. It’s what stopped us getting eaten by sabre-toothed tigers a few hundred thousand years ago. (And by second-hand car salesmen today.) Put them online and it’s back to that draughty cave with the fire sputtering outside. If you want them to buy from you online, throw on a few more sticks and make them feel safe.

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