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I thought it may be useful to us all to know why we decided to buy from one site and not another. We should try and use this thread for actual instances where you have had to go out and buy X online, especially where the sites you were looking at are not well known, but for some reason you still decided to use one over the other.
If we can all contribute we should be at least be able to see some of the buying stimuli that makes us go through with an order.
So what was my purchase? In this instance it was a b-day gift in Australia. I had decided on flowers and wine as the gift did a search on google and looked at the top three sites whose domains seemed the most accurate for my search.
The three sites I looked at had different designs, one I do not even recall as I left quickly, so i was down to two.
One was clean with a nice use of colours for a flower 'shop' and extremely simple to use, the other was a bit more generic web design with some ads and a plainish backrgound. But the most obvious difference was the quality of the pictures, the cleaner more colourful site had obviously spent more time on the pictures, the resolution was better and even the flowers looked nicer this site however was roughly A$30 more expensive. The cleaner site also specified exactly (make and all) which wine the person receiving the gift would receive whereas the other was white/red etc.
So even though it was more ex****ve I went with the cleaner more colourful site.
One thing did shirk me a little though and that was while I was filling out the order form I got to the credit card stage and just at the bottom was the "agree with the terms and conditions" with a link. I would have preferred this to have been at the beginning.
I should also point out that another reason for choosing the more expenive was that it had less choice, a good selection but the other site was trying it seemed to drown me in choice rather like a restaurant which has too big a menu.
They were, however, awful; the forms were unusable in Opera, the translations were risible, instructions a joke, graphics circa 1998 clipart - I quickly went to the horses mouth.
Of the four main companies, one had a good site, but couldn't be used for online booking. Eh? Two others had Flash front-ends, but I had them blocked and went on in anyway. I wasn't there for long. Outgoing and return details had to be manually typed each time, irrespective of the fact that roughly 20 fields were using common data. They then requested personal details before giving any details of cost. Forget it.
The final site had obviously had someone in the company who understood the web, or at least was willing to listen. Auto-form filling when details were re-usable, price presented as soon as was possible, clean and crisp graphics. A no-brainer.
I must say, this isn't uncommon. Given three or four sites, the playing field is far from level, and a clear winner usually emerges. It's heartening in a way that so much of the web seems young - the possibilities are still pretty boundless for 'us'.
Here's some things I have found particularly important in purchasing decisions.
On the other hand, sites with good levels of service 'behind the scenes' can be assured that they have a returning customer. I bought a custom PC a few months ago. In the initial stages I emailed an idea of my spec to quite a number of different online stores, asking for an idea of price. 75% didn't even reply to my email. Three sites got back to me, two with information that I felt was slightly misleading in order to get me to spend more.
The final company sent me a hugely informative email, even suggesting that some of the components I was looking at were too expensive for what they were, and giving me an excellent spec. In this way, they now have a satisfied customer and an active advocate of their company.
Why do I still use them?
Postage rates and delivery tables are clearly shown, prices are great, site loads very quickly.
The best bit, I have someone I can phone and talk with.
Our site has that home grown look (IE circa 1998 clipart), and we were failing to get a good conversion rate on our US customers despite having the best prices.
We were getting good conversion on our Canadian customers because we have wipe out the competition. So it was either buy it from us or buy it in the mall and pay the premium.
We have spent a good deal of time and effort in designing our profesional looking site, while maintaining ease of use, and speed, and it will be up in a week or so.
When we started six years ago, most web sites had that home grown feel to them. They are hard to find now, and we were one of the last in our niche market to hire a graphics designer to give our site a polish look.
Is the days of home grown sites over, for good conversion?
Depending on the site - I like to see:
1) If something is in stock.
2) I like to be able to pay by paypal - this isn't necessary, but I worry less about my card being charged more if I can paypal someone.
3) If you want my phone number in form 202-555-1221 put that by the phreaking blank - don't make me guess - give me an error - and then have to retype in all my info.
4) Pictures for items are a must. I can't believe people still don't have these.
5) Also, I do click on adwords when looking for products. The other day I was looking for atomic clocks. If someone searches for that [and it came up as atomic clocks in the ad - not just clocks] - take me to the page on atomic clocks - not your main page.
6) Make it seem like you take pride in your product or service. I'll buy from a yahoo site if I feel confident you are confident.
7) Telephone number is great too - especially if you say something like "feel free to call us at anytime and we will be happy to help you find what you need."
8) If items are fragile - make sure you say that you ship them carefully packed or something like that.
Item must be clearly marked "in-stock", with some type of delivery schedule outlined.
For larger purchases, I usually send a "test mail", some innocous question to sales or service, just to see if I get a personal reply in reasonable amount of time.
Design can't be ala geocities/blinking/flourescent, but doesn't have to be agency quality.
1) Clean, fast, professional looking site that functions properly.
2) Special search features/recomendations - Things like 'search for under $20' 'top selling gifts for men', etc.
3) Shipping/return info - easy to find and cleary stated.
Just over this past weekend I did some research on this topic reading reviews over at epinions. There seem to be some differences between what we think and what the non-web person thinks.
Shipping *seems* to be the #1 issue thing to the non-web person, where with us there seems to be many more factors.
I have spent a couple of hours this afternoon viewing websites for items such as fridges, freezers, BBQ's and customised flags (I am a web developer in Marketing for a primarily computer company).
For me if the site has not got a search facility or I can not navigate to the category or product I quickly left.It was essential that the product had an image as I do not have time to research features, dimensions etc.
With experience you can usually tell if the website is okay for online orders, and like previous answers if there was anything slightly awry I would not proceed with a credit card.
Location also played an important part as well as a prominant telephone number plus an efficient (not automated) email response went down well.
If the company/seller had a poor website, or they had not spent time on it there would be no way I would order online. Likewise some websites were just too fancy and you would have to get thtough a lot of blurb just to find the products!
Just last weekend I had to order something online - it was region-specific. The top 30+ sites were spammy affiliate sites all pointing to the same main site. I clicked through at least the first 40 sites before I found what looked like a non-spammy Mom & Pop site to give my business to.
I just don't like to have my intelligence overtly insulted. Do it so I don't notice and I'm fine.
And as I made my purchase, I couldn't help but wonder - which WW member's sites did I avoid? Which WW member's site did I purchase from? ;)
I hope other members share their experiences of buying from sites that are not related to their own.
Anyway, just to let you know what happened with the purchase the order was delivered on time although nothing special considering I had mentioned it was a birthday BUT the flowers were all pink.
Now that was not what I had ordered, the picture I saw was a multitude of colours. Now I have learnt another lesson from this and that is I did not complain. Perhaps I should but am busy and what good will complaining do. I now will not use that company again, they have los me as a customer and they do not even know it.
What I want to point out is that even though we do not receive comlaints does not mean we do not get them (ie. non directly between the customers and potentially their thousands of colleagues friends).
They may not realise that shipping goods that look different to the ones you ordered is unacceptable, or even that they have done this. Some businesses are very disconnected from their website.
In this kind of situation I would drop them a quick a quick email to let them know how you feel - how else can they improve? If enough people email and say "you've just lost me as a repeat customer" they will sit up and take notice. I also find that I am much more willing to complain about a website with poor service than an offline store.
Funny how many businesses don't know that - seek out the unhappy ones to convert.
They say that although price is still a major driver of online purchasing activity, buyers choose website ease of use as the most important factor in assessing which sites to buy from online.
And, of all the promotions most likely to convert sales on the Web, free shipping is the top value, for 89% of respondents.
Half of all shoppers will buy offline or reduce online purchases in response to perceived high shipping charges (so you must bundle shipping into the deal in any way you can)
40% will download a coupon;
35% sign up for e-newsletters; (!)
29% read articles (this was the one I personally liked best)
Also, 29% are loyal to sites that are easy to use and give them a good experience and value, choosing to return despite better price offers elsewhere.
(I didn't find this info in the forums anywhere so I thought I'd post it - if you find it useful maybe you can bump it around, I would think the affiliates would like to know too)
At the other extreme, I have an old friend who's a completely right brained, type A personality. He's challenged by the web, despite having a doctorate from a leading university.
One day I showed him one of my sites just to see if he could readily figure out how to make a purchase on the site of a product I suggested to him.
Bear in mind that there was a clearly marked table high on the page, showing products, prices, shipping costs and a "buy" link to click on for each product. All other navigation, IMO, was easy.
He studied the page for several minutes and was frustrated and stumped. Seems he'd looked everywhere but where to click to buy.
I then showed him an extremely ugly site with everything centered and a large, flashing, neon yellow and red "Buy Now" button in the middle, and he told me that he'd have no trouble with that site, really liked it and thought it was well designed. He said I should change my site to look more like that.
You just never know.
My story: The first time I shopped for RAM online all I found were sites that listed the specs and price, and in some cases pictures of the RAM chip itself. That would be fine except I didn't know the difference between a 168pin DIMM SDRAM ECC Non-partity CL=2 from a mousepad. All I wanted to know was what type of RAM worked with MY computer. I couldn't even find that (in that much detail) on the computer manufacturers site.
The site I purchased from did exactly that: right on the homepage was a dropdown menu where you could choose your computer manufacturer, which led to the model, then submodel. Then it not only displayed only choices appropriate to my computer, but linked to explanations of the various RAM features as well. I loved it because I was able to make an intelligent purchase decision. Prices were about $5 higher than the competitors which was not a make-or-break factor for me. They did two-day delivery so I was happy. Been shopping with them ever since.
This is a classic example of a website that went beyond just throwing their catalog online by actually giving me the same benefit I would of had talking to a knowledgeable salesperson.
Why do you use Search Engines for finding products, why don't you just go with the big boys? After all, take a product like flowers, you can buy it from all the brand names that advertise heavily, and even on every portal like Yahoo. So why do you do a search?
Iím brand new to this site and already find this information extremely valuable.
Taking all of the previously posted information into account, I would appreciate additional comments regarding web site appearance and shopping inconveniences vs. product price. Assuming that the shopper is convinced that the site is secure, do minor inconveniences matter as long as the product is good and priced right?
We manufacture costume jewelry and have had an informational trade related web site for several years (developed by myself). Encouraged by our success with E-bay (40-50% purchase rate), I am now in the process of deciding whether to attempt a retail/wholesale outlet for our in stock merchandise. Products that we could sell for $6.00- $8.00 currently appear on other sites at prices up to $20.00. In quantity, we would be able to sell the merchandise even cheaper.
It's been a hard sell to get the owner to fund the project, so we will probably wind up with a site that will not necessarily be a "top of the line" product. I intend to increase our customer's comfort level by supplying links back to our other site to show that we are a legitimate business and not a one room operation, but I'm still concerned that our site will not appear sophisticated enough to make us successful.
The elasticity of price, security, usability, and so on vary widely by the kind of product and price range being offered, and the wants and sophistication of the user. Price is much more important to me when buying a book than when buying a painting. If I can't get large, detailed photographs of a sweater, I won't buy no matter how cheap it is offered. On the other hand, I feel I can make an informed enough decision about a microwave oven's looks from a thumbnail.
As everyone has noted, confidence-- confidence that I'll get a product that looks/functions like the one you show, and that I'll like it, and that you don't have shady employees snatching my credit card number-- is key. Some things that lower my confidence in your site include
- anything which blinks, but especially flashing ads which to me seem like they are designed to take advantage of people's ignorance, such as those that resemble a Windows error message or announce that the person viewing the ad is lucky customer #1098232, click here to collect your prize
- I don't even bother to open keyword-keyword-keyword.com- or keywordkeyword.com-like domains, like I wouldn't buy a used car from a corner outfit called Crazy Achmed's. Three times out of four Achmed is a fine, upstanding businessman and pillar of the community, but that fourth time's a doozy.
- obvious off-topic clutter, like banner ads for mortgage consolidators on an auto parts site. Also looks very amateur and shady
- lectures about why I should be using either IE or Netscape. Being a Mozilla user, I've gotten both. Are you selling web browsers? Then shut up!
-I may not go through with a purchase if you are a Paypal house, depending on the product. Webmasterworld, yeah, I expect they'll be around so I'll do it. I'll happily Paypal over cash to sculptors for their sculptures. Computer parts, though, not on your life.
- On a similar note, I strongly prefer American Express and will pay a small premium (<2%) to be able to use it-- I only keep a Mastercard for emergencies.
People love free shipping. I've seen several people go in on one order to up the purchase amount to get it.
Then, naturally i tend to visit a few of sites, which sell them (either google or follow links from those info pages..i click Adwords because it tells me they are serious about business..probably adwords are the only type of ads i ever click..i know..i am a parnoid*). From my past experiences, i tend to avoid sites which talk so loud and have tons of buy this or that..etc. .links.. flashing banners...irrelevant pop-ups..no contact address...no proper email-ids...no clear product specs...sleezy frames...BIG wild colored fonts..tiny images of the product..or just one image instead of atleast 3 images (top, side, front, back of the product)..not mentioning what additional things i might need..and service offers...
From this chopping, usually i end up with 3-4 sites..I like when the sites say...this is how much you pay..nothing more...otherwise, i click till the shopping cart to see if there are any hidden charges..and taxes and shipping charges..etc..and any tiny disclaimers...(i rarely buy stuff that says 'as is condition')...
then, if all things considered equal, there will be the price...(inclusive of shipping charges)...there are many times in which shipping charges are enormous..that i prefered the other site.....usually at this stage, the site is likely to have an online chat help or a 1-800 #..if not, i write an email about some obvious question to see if they are reply..then knowing that i am good hands...buy! :)
also, i dont like websites which say..'check this to save credit card info in the browser' option...makes me nervous :-)...and sites which say 'click this button ONLY once or else you will be charged twice' option..(i think it shud be programmed to deactive the click button, once it is clicked)..i love sites which usually track the order and update me an email everyday (especially for gifts that i want to reach on time, this is a life-saver)
this process may seem long...but usually in an hour or two, i tend to get the best thing that can be bought for the money...i have saved a lotta $ thru this process...and usually i tend to buy at the same site till something major change makes me look for another...
Questions about this:
Does this only apply to products you've not had before, such as clothes or flowers? If you were buying, say, a new windscreen wiper for your car or a set of batteries, would you expect a picture when you already know what it looks like? Or does it help the confidence of the shopper?
ease of use is a big priority! I have one loyal customer that spends a lot with me for relatively high ticket items. She always sent a check saying "it will save you the CC fee". Recently, I suggested she use my cart because she was in a hurry.
Minutes later I received this email exclaiming how easy my cart was to use, how speedy, etc. etc. Why aren't all carts like yours? she said :) It was obvious she was really sending checks because she was imtimidated by dorky poorly functioning carts.
If it doesn't have a picture, I don't buy. Again, this has to with confidence because if they don't have a picture, can I really be sure their description matches what I know the product should look like?
I just bought an AC adapter to replace the one that died. I copied the page, including the image of the offered item. Good thing, because when the product arrived it was for a competely different camera and would have harmed the one I had. They insisted it was the right part, but after I told them I had contacted the camera mfg to check, they backed down and agreed to a refund. Think I'll ever buy from them again, not a chance! And, think I'll ever risk another online purchase without "seeing" the item, nope.
This is a great topic! :)