Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, email techniques, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability,  and consumer psychology.

The Grok Goes Looking for Return Policies

As you may have noticed, the whole concept of relevance has been on my mind lately. Frankly, I think it’s the best way to sum up this e-commerce thing. Everything you do on your Web site must feed into your task-oriented prospects’ need for relevance. EVERYTHING! You forget this, and chances are, your prospects are going to trip the Light Fantastic on someone else’s site.

So today we’re gonna talk about putting relevant words in relevant places. Why not come shopping with me?

Subscribe to

and receive a Free
BONUS report
"Increasing Conversion Rates One Step At a Time"
How do you prefer to be addressed:

Your email address

We Value Your Privacy!
Best of 2000: WINNER
Grok Dot Com
Action Center


"What a wonderful site! You know how to put the powerful academic principles of marketing and sales into practical language. A great asset for getting past the current day hype in marketing."
Professor Allen Weiss,

I’m thinking clothing. You guys and gals come in lots of different shapes and sizes (thankfully, we Martians are one-size-fits-all). When you go to a bricks-and-mortar clothing store, you usually want to try on the clothes. If they don’t fit, you won’t be buying them, right? Fit’s important. It’s a concern.

So real world clothing stores have fitting rooms. Real world clothiers didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. They know you need to be happy - satisfied! - with your purchase or you won’t be back.

But who ever heard of an online fitting room? So, when you go to buy clothing at some Web site, you’d like to know if the thing arrives and doesn’t fit, “Returns, Refunds and Exchanges Are Easy!” And you want to know this information at the point where you are about to click that “Add to Shopping Cart” button. You don’t feel confident about this, you’re probably not going to buy.

We call this Point of Action. When your prospect is ready to take an action - any action - you make sure to address the basic, essential concerns relevant to that action right then and there. It’s a dead simple tactic. And it works like you wouldn’t believe!!

Do folks take advantage of this? Do they even acknowledge the issue at all? Let’s find out.

Lands End. This direct-marketing giant has an enviable Web site; they’ve figured out how to do lots of things right. Today they want to build me a pair of chinos with a custom fit (good luck!), and they promise I’m gonna love the fit. These guys seem to understand what matters to me. So I go for the custom-fit chinos.

I land on the product page and read the benefits: just a few minutes to fill in measurements, discussion of the product qualities, shipping information, they’ll even store my measurements. “More information” below. I click. Not a word in the copy tells me about exchanges or refunds if the item doesn’t fit. But there is a link to talk to a live person if I have a question. Well … I’m going to pass on that. I don’t need to talk to someone, I just need to see a few reassuring words.

I decide to order a pair even without the reassurance, which sends me next through a series of secure pages. I log onto my account. I pick out my chino styling preferences. I enter my measurements. I made a few errors, so I have to reenter the measurements several times. Then I have to confirm my entries. THEN I get to the add to shopping cart page, and it is here I finally find “Guaranteed Period. If you're not satisfied with any item, return it at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.”

Okay. At a point of action. But this item required a lot of energy to put in my shopping cart … some assurance earlier in the game would have been nice.

LLBean. Another giant. No general “shop with confidence” message when I land on the home page, but if I scrutinize the left navigation bar, I see there is a link to a guarantee. Nice, but, again, that’s not what I’m looking for. It isn’t what most folks are looking for when they hit the home page … they might not even know yet if they are going to buy anything. I don’t mess with the nav bar guarantee.

I see a shirt I like. I click through to the product page. No assurance at the point where I’m going to add this shirt to my shopping bag. I add it anyway. No confidence statement on the shopping bag page. Hmmm.

LLBean has a total-confidence guarantee. “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We will replace it, refund your purchase price or credit your credit card. We do not want you to have anything from LLBean that is not completely satisfactory.” But you’ve got to disengage from the shopping process to read it. Or you’ve got to know LLBean.

Victorias Secrets. Hey, not for me, personally. But I hear it’s a popular place to shop. No preliminary “shop with confidence” message on the home page. I click on the clothing category from the top bar navigation. When the page finally gets to me, I click on “pants”, and on the next page, select “Yoga Pants.” Nothing anywhere near the point of action to reassure me about refund/exchange policies. I made my size, color and quantity selections anyway, clicked on the “Add to Shopping Bag,” but it didn’t work for some reason. I tried again. Still didn’t work.

Forget whether they bother to reassure me at the next potential point of action. I’m outta here!

Eddie Bauer. Up there with the biggies. But just like the others, no overall “shop with confidence” message when I hit the home page. Here I go after a linen dress. When I get to the product page, there are no point of action reassurances. But I add it. No word on the shopping cart page (although I can check out shipping information here). I decide to checkout, and I’ve got to start filling in all sorts of information before I even know whether or not they’ll take the dress back if I don’t like it!

Let me put it this way, folks. If you aren’t providing those critical little reassurances exactly where folks need to see them, you are leaving money on the table. You can’t bank on all your prospects knowing your reputation. And it’s not enough just to have your policies somewhere on your Web site. Folks want confidence, but they don’t want to have to work for it. Your prospects are urging, “Don’t make me think and don’t make me have to work too hard.”

Simple, RELEVANT words put in the most RELEVANT places answer the needs of most folks and make a difference in your conversion rate. I’ve seen it work so many times. Try it … you’ll see too.

Sound Off!

click here for a printable version of this entire article

P.S. If you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with your colleagues and friends?
They'll appreciate it. Forward This Issue To A Friend!


Next issue we'll be announcing the release of "Take Your Words to the Bank: The Marketer's Handbook of Persuasive Online Copywriting". Here is what R. Gabel of LowerMyBills had to say about this 121 page PDF:

"Every online marketer should have a copy... to read once and use as a daily reference guide. Also serves as a fantastic introduction to the lessons and writings of the great marketers, from Sugarman to Usborne to Williams.

For business managers, it provides essential strategic advice in the AIDAS page design principles (page 12), the relevance and appropriateness of content vs. copy (page 14), and assistance in defining a consistent copy perspective (page 48). For online marketing professionals, there are practical tips for site layout, rewriting your copy to speak to, and not at, customers, and even tactics for those writing English as a second language."

If you would like to be notified as soon as it's released email us.

Also, please let us know if you want to be included on our advanced notice list for events.

Bryan Eisenberg
CIO, Future Now, Inc.

P.S. Do you have questions you would like to see answered here? Ask away!

Sometimes Form's Gotta Follow Function

"Form [ever] follows function"
- Louis Henri Sullivan, Lippincott's Magazine, March, 1896

I know you’ve heard the phrase “Form follows function.” It’s a design perspective that indicates the connection between how something looks and how it gets used: the purpose of a thing is a primary consideration in its design. It’s the basis for why a spoon is a spoon and not a shovel - even though you can use both to dig a hole.

Now, you certainly can play around with that equation and give form the starring role. And there’s something to be said for that … IF you can afford to sacrifice function.

If you’re in e-commerce, you can’t afford to do that.

I happen to be waiting for repairs to my car (sigh … nobody round here knows how to service my space ship). You know weird things start ionizing in your head when you stay in car repair waiting rooms too long, right?

So, think about this. You want to buy a car. As you search around, you fully expect to find lots of things out there that look and function like a car. They’ll have four tires. An engine. A dashboard. A steering wheel. Seats. A trunk. Doors. Pedals. And you pretty much know where these features are going to be on the car - I mean, you’re not gonna find the dashboard attached to the rear bumper.

There may be lots of different car designs out there, but functionally, they are all far more similar than dissimilar. And every one of the features that makes a car a car has a reason for why it is where it is. Sure, sometimes you have to make a compromise in location, but seriously mess with the arrangement of a car, and you no longer have a car.

What’s this gotta do with your Web site? There are enough studies out there that confirm folks have expectations about the functional features of your Web site. They know the features they want to find, they know how they want them to work, and they know where they expect to find them. The last thing you want to do is make folks figure out how your unique place in cyberspace works. Force ‘em to think about this stuff, and they’re gone.

More important, we know a lot about how folks use a Web site … how their eyes track a page when they first land there, how they scan and skim text, how they interact with content, how they use navigation.

Think most folks are getting it right out there? Jared Spool, of Usability Interface Engineering, recently gave a group of folks bucks to spend on stuff they wanted to buy. You couldn’t have a more motivated prospect land on your site!

High success rate? Nope. Overall, 70% of those folks failed in their mission. I’m shaking my head!

What you do with the design of your site should have its roots in the function of your site. Trouble is, too many people still think (or are influenced to think) that image is all and that folks will make allowances for diverse functional anomalies (or worse, failures). Hooey! There are folks who are passionate about their Mazda Miatas. But I tell you what. If those Miatas didn’t work like they’re supposed to, all their fans would be driving something else.

So let me ask you something. Have you invested the time to figure out the form and function equation on your site so you’re not leaving money on the table?


Sound Off!

click here for a printable version of this entire article

P.S. If you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with your colleagues and friends?
They'll appreciate it. Forward This Issue To A Friend!

GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledge and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

  ©  2002 Future Now        Feedback?

Our Privacy Policy

We will never give, lease or sell your personal information. Period!


We strive to only send e-mail to those who want to receive it.
If you would not like to receive future e-mails from us,
reply to any email with UNSUBSCRIBE as the subject.

If you have any questions at all about our privacy policy, please email us.