Ten Ways To Convince Shoppers To Buy Online

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On average, online retailers still only convert two to three percent of visitors into buyers. Though people are buying more online than ever before, that number has remained consistent over the last three years.

The three percent conversion average is also consistent across studies by different organizations, according to e-Marketer. That means that 97 percent of shoppers still prefer to buy offline.

Still, there are a few that convert 15-25 percent of the time. Proflowers.com is on top, with a 24.5 percent conversion rate. Following Proflowers is, mainly, apparel sites with a peppering of bookstores and online variety (read: cheap) shops.

Big and Tall or Plus-sized apparel shops are huge online, and sites offering higher sizes make up four out of the top ten converting web stores. That makes sense given the embarrassment overweight people face shopping offline.

There are things we can deduce about the average online shopper from this information (and they’re things that should make intuitive sense to you, as you are also a consumer). The average online shopper seeks: low risk (how much risk is in flowers?); trusted sources; reliability; ease of shopping; information; free or cheap shipping.

I’m not shy about telling you that I fall into the 97 percent reluctant to buy anything beyond flowers, clothing, books, or items of comparable expense. I am looking to buy an HDTV, but you’d have to have a heck a sales pitch to get me to slap down my credit card number and have it shipped to my house without actually looking at the picture quality.

That’s right. No cars, no TVs, no boats, no houses. And yet, and yet, to quote my hero Jorge Borges, I may be persuaded to buy a watch, a set of tires even, perhaps a new Christmas tree, or maybe even that TV I didn’t want to trust you about, if the seller accomplishes certain things.

How to Convince Me (the consumer) to Buy Online Instead of Off:

1.    Website must look professional. The art of seduction always begins with presentation. Sloppy never gets the girls.

2.    Don’t make me look a hundred different places for information. Give me product details until you’ve made me sick with them. Link to product reviews.

3.    Don’t try to be slick by overselling an inferior product. Be honest about why it’s not as good as the higher-priced item. The consumer (that’s me and you) appreciates being able to balance value and affordability. 

4.    Make all serious considerations clear. It builds trust. For example, if the TV’s refurbished or needs an external tuner, let us know up front.

5.    Shipping cost matters. It matters a lot. If I can get the same product at Target for the SAME or lower, I will buy it there. Don’t try to trick me with giant discounts offset with huge shipping costs – it makes me think you’re tying to pull a fast one.

6.    Ease my mind more about the shipping. I worry when kids, wives, mothers, siblings, and products are in transit. I need to know returning the product won’t be a hassle, that I can track it in case something seems lost in the shuffle, and that the seller won’t ship-and-stick me with something I didn’t order.

7.    There needs to be positive user ratings about you and your product easily found. Link me to where people say nice things about you. Link me to where people say nice things about your product.

8.    If you have a sale price, don’t just mark through the original price and make me click to find the new one. That’s annoying and wastes my time – and forms a (small) negative impression.

9.    Don’t make it complicated to buy from you. More than four steps to make a purchase? Forget it, just because your site’s a pain in the butt.

10.    Under-promise, over-deliver, and then deliver, deliver, deliver some more. As an online retailer, you online reputation is the most valuable web property you have. If you get customers gushing about you, other customers will come.     



Ten Ways To Convince Shoppers To Buy Online
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  • David V

    Good article and I tend to agree with everything you say; although, I thought it was funny that your example of the company with the highest conversion rate (ProFlowers) actually has a 7 step purchase process.

    “9. Don’t make it complicated to buy from you. More than four steps to make a purchase? Forget it, just because your site’s a pain in the butt.”

    Sometimes best practices aren’t necessarily best ;)

    • Jason Lee Miller

      good call, Dave V. guess that’s an exception to the rule…and i would find that extremely annoying still.

      i would still say it’s risky to complicate your buying process…that’s my story and i’m sticking to it

      • David V

        > i would still say it’s
        > risky to complicate your buying
        > process…that’s my story
        > and i’m sticking to it

        As a rule of thumb I definitely agree, but I think the lesson here is that not every technique works for ever site.

        I recently added a step in our signup process (from 2 to 3 steps) and saw our conversions rates increase. I think if you add value for the user an extra step in the signup process can be beneficial.

        There’s also the issue of breaking up a long signup form with multiple steps, but that’s a whole other article ;)

  • Armen

    I just would like to link this article not only to retail but also to services. It is very applicable. In addition, if services offered in a local market conversion is significantly higher then 2-3%, conversion rate in my experience is above 15%. More and more I can see indications that local online marketing is only going to grow. Also, lower conversion rate in retail can be explained by higher competition and over saturation of some product categories (jewelry is a best example). For example, jewelry is the fastest growing category at Amazon, eBay and other online retailers. Jewelry sales increased in past 3 years from 1 to 4 billion a year, at the same time conversion rate stayed the same for majority of merchants and number of jewelry online merchants increased dramatically.


  • http://www.hemroidshelp.com Hemroids

    Another component to help shoppers buy online is to add value added services to the package. Adding free ebooks, items, memberships to hrder to find information and services often tips the scales in favor of a purchase.

  • http://www.crbuses.com used buses

    Actually, the conversion numbers make sense, but I don’t follow how if only 3% convert on any given site, then that means that 97% shop offline.

    What is not taken into account is of course that many of thsoe dont pursue the product at all – online or offline. Of the 97% that do not purchase the product on the site, or navigate to a competitor site, maybe only 20% go on to purchase the product offline, where the other 77% simply found the product itself did not offer what they wanted, or was too expensive. More and more this is the case where consumers find products online as opposed to seeing them on tv or in malls which used to be the case…

  • http://www.animaroo.com puppies for sale

    Thats very interesting that conversions have not increased, you would think that the general increase in acceptance of the Internet as a place to purchase items would have changed those numbers.

  • http://www.hemroids.us Hemroids.us

    This is the first I’ve heard the #3 strategy.

  • http://www.curehemroids.com/ Hemroids

    I agree with the person who says that 3% conversion rate does not mean that 97% prefer to buy offline, because of these 97%, there are many (unknown percent) who will not buy neither online or offline.

  • http://hemroids.co.in hemroids

    this is a major issue, consumer buying online, is not easy they dont like to put their personal info they are afraid by fraud.

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