I know the Internet is new, but do you still think
thousands of years of consumer psychology got an overnight
makeover just because somebody found a different way to
communicate? I don't think so! And you donít have to
take my word. Look at all the consumers who are not buying
from all the dot-coms that are failing. So let's look at
what goes into the sales process and how it works in the
bricks and mortar world. Translate this to your web site,
and you will see your sales go up Ö WAY up.
are five steps to the sales process: Prospect,
Rapport, Qualify, Present, and Close. They occur in that
order, but the process isn't strictly linear. Actually,
the sales process is a kind of spiral, each step feeding
back and influencing the others as the process overall
moves forward toward the Close (assuming you do it right).
Any good human salesperson knows selling is a process of
evaluation and reevaluation, on the part of both the
salesperson and the client.
say you are trying to sell bicycles. You run ads in all
the local papers featuring this magnificent new trail bike
that's hit the market. You've whetted peoples' appetites,
and they start coming into your store to see this cool
bike. So what's the first thing you want them to see when
they walk in? Well, it ain't the helmet and water-bottle
rack! The Prospect step is where Marketing does its
thing: delivering lots and lots of the right
traffic. You pique a potential customer's interest, and
once you've brought them in, the very first thing you do
is deliver what they came for.
this to a website:
If you've marketed that cool bike, you'd better
spotlight it prominently on the very first page your
customer sees. Of course you sell lots of other bikes
and accessories, and you can include info about or
link to those as well. But if you drive customers to
you for a specific reason and then don't deliver
immediately, you've lost them. I had some useful
things to say about this in an earlier article, Driving
Traffic to Your Site: A Little Horse Sense.
as a customer enters your store, you donít ignore them,
do you? You begin to develop Rapport. The process
actually starts with the appearance of your store and the
arrangement of products, then is augmented by the
availability of help, the knowledgeability of sales staff
and the personable way customers are treated. Everything a
customer experiences in your store feeds into that sense
of rapport. Naturally, you want it all to reflect well on
you. You want your customer to feel confident about
this to a website:
When youíre online, you lack that N2N (nose-to-nose)
element, so you develop rapport through the speed of
your download, the professional appearance of your
site, through elements that promote trust, through
ease of navigation, through the power of your text and
the relevance of your images, through exceptional
customer service. You treat your online visitor
intelligently, but make no assumptions about their
prior knowledge, either computer- or product-related.
You offer clear access to help and provide concise,
relevant information. You also understand there are
different basic personalities, and that everyone has a
particular way in which they prefer to be sold. And
you learned about that by reading WIIFM,
suppose a woman walks into your store and looks a bit out
of place. You go up to her and ask if you can help.
"I'm looking for a bike." (Aha, you think, she's
come to the right place Ö bikes I got!) You don't know,
however, what sort of bike she wants. Maybe she doesn't
even know this herself. Maybe all she wants to do is
browse and needs the tiniest nudge from you in any
direction. Or maybe she has a general idea and needs
specific information. So you begin a dialog with her. You
ask questions to identify and Qualify just what she
wants. Browsing? Here's the general layout of our store.
Trekking bikes? Over there. Touring bikes? On that far
wall. You want a children's bike? You'll find a great
selection right here.
gradually get a better idea of her needs, you Present
certain options to her. You show her a handsome silver and
blue children's bike with training wheels. She tells you
her son is ten and stands about so tall. You show her a
different bike. Qualifying and presenting are iterative;
you go back and forth until you've narrowed the field to
this to a website:
You can think of this iterative process as a sort of
"buying funnel" that ultimately identifies
the best product for your customer's needs. Since you
can't "ask" the questions, you must provide
the options, making it very clear that in the category
of kids' bikes, you offer tricycles, bikes with
training wheels, bikes for mid-sized kids, bikes that
will appeal to girls, bikes that will appeal to boys,
bikes for different purposes, bikes in different price
ranges. What you do not do is waste your online
customer's precious time (any more than you would in a
real world store) by showing her something she isn't
interested in buying. But you need to do more than
just present the most relevant information. You need
to keep your prospect moving ahead in the process of
ultimately deciding to buy, and you do that using a
process that involves getting their Attention,
attracting their Interest, creating Desire (even if
only for more information), motivating them to take
Action (even if itís just clicking to drill deeper),
and then making 200% sure you Satisfy them with the
result. Itís called AIDAS for short, and if you want
to drill deeper, check out 'Hey,
Its Music To My Ears'.
done a great job so far. The woman seems inclined to buy
her son the blue Wheelie you showed her, but she has
several questions, perhaps even some objections. Here is
where you must begin to Close the sale. You
answer her questions, resolve to her objections, encourage
the close, detail your available service plans, offer
payment options, explain your guarantees. You communicate
that you stand behind your products. You provide security
and confidence, a sense she will not be forgotten the
second she leaves with that blue bike.
this to a website:
Post your privacy policies (and honor them
scrupulously), post your guarantees, offer every
ordering option you can (online, fax, phone),
prominently display a toll-free customer service
telephone number (and staff it with a well-trained
person, please!), make checking out clear and painless
- even inviting - don't ask for unnecessary
information, offer an opportunity for customer
feedback, provide shipping and delivery details, donít
hide any charges, confirm the sale. And more. AIDAS
helps you here, too. If youíve set up your buy
funnel correctly and done everything right, buying
will be your customerís natural next step, but you
still have to close or an awful lot of sales will slip
right through your digital fingers. Plus, remember the
sales process is never concluded when the customer
leaves. Your most profitable business is repeat
business. Let your customers know you appreciate them,
and give them reasons to come back. Want to know more?
Have a look at Beyond
Usability and Marketing
is NOT Sales.
"Information Architecture" of your entire
website must recognize every step of the sales process.
Remember, too, that each step feeds the others, so itís
not unusual to have two, or three, or even all five steps
on a single page. Think of the process as operating on
both a micro level and a macro level simultaneously: the
micro level is the individual page; the macro level is the
entire shopping and buying experience. And remember,
buying ultimately is an emotions-based process. By
following these steps and applying these processes, you
engage your shoppers not only in the physical dimension of
colors, shapes, sizes, and prices, but you also appeal to
the critical emotional and psychological dimensions that
underlie every decision to buy. You may not be N2N with
your online customers, but you can make them feel as
though you are and by doing so, increase your online
sales not just by increments, but in many cases by
IGNORE Marketing and INCREASE Your Revenues?
want it quick and straight. You pull up to the window at
the fast food place. My voice crackles over the intercom,
"May I help you?"
Grok! Two burgers, large fries, a medium diet soda, and
what's the most important statistic I should pay attention
to in my e-business?"
rate. That'll be $4.59 at the second window,
can get as fanatical about your website metrics as
baseball fans do about player stats if you want1,
but the number one measure that is going to give you the
best indication of your success online is your conversion
rate. "Any serious company on the Internet should
have an absolute awareness of conversion rate. Small
gains on low conversion rates can have unbelievably
powerful effects on a company's performance,"
says J. William Gurley.2
what is a conversion rate, really?" you ask.
Conversion rate the number of folks who visit your site
within a specified time period divided by the number of
folks who actually do something productive on your site
(like buy or register or subscribe). These days, a
conversion rate of 2-4% is considered average, below 2% is
shabby and 10% or more is spectacular. (Notice, though, if
you compare these percentages to the bricks and mortar
world, they are all pretty tragic. Offline, the average
conversion rate is around 50%. So, your site can do
better than 2% or even 10%, and isnít that great to
has done the math for you:
assume you spend $10,000 [in advertising] to drive
5,000 people to your site, and your conversion rate is
2 percent. This means that 100 transactions cost you
$10,000, or $100 per transaction. Now let's assume
your conversion rate rises to 4 percent. The same
$10,000 buys you 200 transactions at a cost of $50 per
transaction. An 8 percent rate gives you 400
transactions at a cost of $25 per transaction.
seems so simple. Higher conversion rates mean more money
coming in and less money spent to attract a customer. Hereís
a flash: it
IS simple; donít make it complicated.
do you get those higher conversion rates? Hereís a recap
of a lot of the stuff Iíve talked about. For more
details, check out the archives.
your site to your visitor fast! Minimize download times
and don't bother with slow-loading graphics. If you can
get your site to download in under 10 seconds, your
visitor is far less likely to bail and up goes your
your value proposition, or unique selling proposition
really, really clear.
your visitor immediate and powerful confirmation that
theyíre in the right place, that you have what theyíre
sure your home page makes a crisp and professional
a site with super navigation that reflects an intuitive
buying process, superior content and delightfully clear
and simple checkout (with all the options, ma'am).
Easy-to-use sites have much higher conversion rates.
bugs. Test, test and then test again to make sure your
site is error-free. Folks simply won't tolerate your
inability to get it right. They'll vote by leaving and
never coming back. Watch that conversion rate drop.
to the visitor who knows what she wants right now. Give
your customers fewer clicks to complete a purchase and
your conversion rate will rise. The power of a one-click
purchase is sublime.
how folks buy on your site and then tailor your offers
to their preferences. You might find that people want
bundled products rather than individual offerings, or
vice versa. Listen to your customers, and be willing to
sure, before you go spending your advertising dollars,
that you invest in an excellent site. Don't do it
halfway, and don't design to please the designers or
programmers. Your customers reign. Keep 'em happy, and
they'll have you jumping up and down with higher
conversion rates donít just mean more sales, they mean
more sales without additional marketing expenses.
Plus, conversion rates not only determine how much youíre
selling, but also tell you a lot about whether you are
tuned in to the things that matter to your customers:
performance, convenience, quality, value and customer
follow the list above, and watch that wonderful conversion
Paco Underhill, "Conversion rate is to retail what
batting average is to baseball." Why We Buy,
Simon and Schuster, 1999, p. 36.
"The most powerful Internet metric of all." J.
William Gurley, Above the Crowd, 21 February 2000. <http://www.news.com/Perspectives/Column/Textonly/0,197,403,00.html?st.ne.per.col.pfv>