Top Ten Ways to Lose Your e-Customers – Web site Design Tips

(reprinted with permission from Your Virtual Insurance Dec 17, 2001)

Most E-Commerce sites are finding it tough just now. Every customer has to be fought for –
but many sites appear to be intent on chasing customers away. If you want to join them, here’s ten tried
and tested ways to lose sales.

  1. Make your site difficult to navigate
    If users can’t immediately find what they are looking for on your site they’ll give up.
    Equally, if users get lost on your site, they’re likely to leave rather than figure out
    how to get back to your home page. Easy navigation from the home page and back again is
    essential. Try this; imagine you’re a customer on your site. Pick something they he or she
    want to buy, then count the number of clicks it takes to find this from your home page.
    Lots of clicks = lost customers.

  2. Offer a poor selection of payment options
    Unless you’re selling high value products, then you need to accept credit
    cards. Nearly all B2C sites have come to this conclusion; however, it’s surprising how
    many sites only accept the most popular cards and exclude Amex and debit cards. The more
    payment options you offer a customer, the more chance of making a sale. It might cost more
    to offer a wider range of payment options, but can you afford to lose potential customers?
    (By the way, don’t forget that there may be customers who may want to pay by check, PayPal
    or the new-style payment cards.)

  3. Ask for too much customer information
    Many sites try to collect customer information during the checkout
    process. Bad mistake. The checkout process should be as quick and clean as possible to
    minimize the chances of the customer abandoning the transaction. There are other
    opportunities to ask things like “Where did you first hear about us?” The main
    objective at this stage is to get the user to click on that confirm order button.

  4. Use second-rate shopping cart software
    There are many shopping carts and Web store services out there. Some are
    better than others. Some, from a user’s point of view, are simply unusable. A poorly
    designed or confusing checkout procedure will inevitably lead to abandoned transactions.
    Get a few non-technical users to try out your site and make a few test purchases. If you
    haven’t done this before the results may surprise (and depress) you.

  5. Display messed-up Web pages
    Yes, your Web site may look great on your 21″ monitor using IE5.5 – but your
    potential customers could be using Netscape, WebTV or running at 640 * 480 resolution.
    Better check how your site looks to these users.

  6. Host your site on a slow Web server
    Nothing puts off users more than pages that take forever to load. Once a user has made the
    decision to buy, it is vital to get that confirm order button clicked as quickly as
    possible. A user sitting waiting minutes for your checkout pages to load has plenty time
    to reconsider or maybe just abandon out of boredom.

  7. Bore your customers
    The guiding principle of selling on the Web is to keep your customers on-site as long as
    possible (to maximize the chances of making a purchase) and then minimize the time between
    the decision to buy and the completion of the transaction. A well-designed and efficient
    checkout process takes care of the second part. The first part requires
    “stickiness.” There are various techniques for keeping customers interested and
    on-site, and these are explained in The Flypaper Principle.

  8. Provide insufficient product information
    If your customers know exactly what they want to buy, then selling
    online is straightforward. If they’re not sure that an item is exactly what they need,
    they probably won’t take the risk of purchasing. It’s always better to give the customer
    too much information rather than not enough. It’s often possible to arrange to have a
    “more information” button in a catalogue which brings up a more detailed page.

  9. Have a site that looks “dead”
    A site that appears neglected or out of date will (rightly) be treated with suspicion. Would you
    place an order with a site that has “Last Updated 17th Jan. 1999” on it? Even just placing
    the current date somewhere on the home page makes the site look “alive”.

  10. Appear anonymous
    Customers will feel more comfortable placing an order with you if they feel they know you. Contact
    details on a site are essential. If you can put names and faces along with them, it’s even
    better. And of course, an “About Us” page with the history of the company and
    site, mission statement, press coverage and customer testimonials all adds to customer confidence.

Avoiding these mistakes won’t bring traffic to your site, but you will certainly increase
the chances of converting a visitor into a paying customer.