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September 20, 2021
Ecommerce purchase anxiety affects everyone. You’ve probably felt it yourself. It’s when you’re about to hit that “checkout” button, but something makes you uncomfortable. You just aren’t ready to commit to the purchase.
Purchase anxiety refers to the customers’ innate fear over making an online purchase. Since customers can’t see and hold the product before buying, or speak to a live person, or visit a physical store, the online experience feels risky.
Here are some common concerns customers have when making an ecommerce purchase:
And that’s just a general list. Your customers have plenty of concerns in regards to your specific products. For instance, a T-shirt shopper would wonder if the material shrinks in the wash. Someone looking to buy a fishing pole would want to know how much it will bend before breaking.
Think of purchase anxiety like a meter. If the meter fills up, the customer will abandon your store. As the ecommerce store owner or manager, your job is to keep that meter as low as possible to encourage more sales.
Seemingly trivial elements can increase purchase anxiety. For instance, using a childish font on a serious web page could impact your customers’ perception of your brand. If they distrust your site, they probably won’t buy.
As you can imagine, purchase anxiety is a bigger problem for small retailers without much brand recognition than it is for big retailers like Amazon. If you are running an independent Shopify store, it’s critical that you think carefully about your customers’ purchase anxiety and how you can minimize it.
Before we dive into some strategies to reduce purchase anxiety, it helps to understand how people make decisions. According to Dr. BJ Fogg from Stanford University, every decision requires three elements: motivation, ability, and promptness. This is the Fogg Behavior Model.
In order for a conversion to happen on your e-commerce website, customers must have sufficient motivation and the ability to purchase, and they must be exposed to a prompt.
For instance, your motivation to purchase a wedding gift for your friend increases as you get closer to the wedding. At a certain point, that motivation becomes intense. But you also need the ability to pay for it. If you can’t afford a gift, no amount of motivation will help.
The prompt is your marketing: your images, copy, ads, emails, calls-to-action, etc. If a motivated person with the ability to purchase is exposed to the right prompt, they’ll make a purchase. Your job, therefore, is to design an ecommerce site that presents credible and trustworthy prompts that quell your customers’ anxiety.
According to psychologist Dr. Elvira Aletta, anxiety thrives on ignorance. The best way to reduce purchase anxiety is to educate the customer and address their concerns. Ideally, they should come across this information organically, without needing to do any deliberate research.
Follow these steps to clear their concerns and provide them with the information they need to feel comfortable buying:
Give the potential buyer as much information as possible about the product. Include everything they may need to know in order to make a buying decision. Put the information that is most important upfront, but don't be afraid to include lots of details lower on the page.
If you sell laptops, for example, your product descriptions should include every detail: display size, RAM size, storage, CPU, accessories, battery life, built-in camera, etc. Not including these details limits the information customers have to make decisions. Plus, they will grow suspicious if you’re missing any of this information.
Additionally, make sure to include a gallery of high-resolution images for each of your products. This helps your customers get a sense of what they’re buying since they can't feel or see the products in person.
Shopping for products is really just problem solving. Your customers need to address some kind of issue, so don’t be afraid to get definitive with your copy if you can back up your claims.
Instead of saying, “These rain boots protect you from the elements,” make a guarantee: “Not one drop of water will ever touch your feet.” Then offer a refund if your product doesn’t live up to that standard. This is a great way to put your customers’ minds at ease.
If your customers don’t understand your pricing structure, there’s little chance they will add products to their cart. They want to know exactly how much their order will cost before they’re willing to take a step forward. (Remember, they need to know if they have the ability to pay. This is part of the Fogg Behavior Model.)
Furthermore, unexpected costs are the top reason people abandon their carts during checkout. If you need to take on fees and shipping charges, make sure customers are aware before adding those items to their cart.
Image: Baymard Institute
Expose the potential buyer to third-party opinions by including feedback, testimonials, reviews, and ratings on your product pages. Encourage reviewers to share pictures and videos of the products as this further helps to reduce purchase anxiety.
When a customer browses your site, there’s a good chance they’re also browsing your competitors' sites. Sometimes they have multiple stores open in different tabs. Since they are scrutinizing your competition, so should you.
Look at your competitors’ sites and ask yourself what they include to help customers make a decision that you lack. For instance, if a competitor uses the term “non-GMO” on their product pages, consider if that’s something your customers should know as well.
It’s smart to send signals to buyers that you behave responsibly with payment information. Promote your payment gateway and/or processor logos in a prominent location. Show off that your site is secured with encryption so that you never have access to their credit card number.
Add trust signals throughout your site wherever appropriate.
Create a shipping page on your site that outlines your processing and delivery timelines as specifically as possible. Explain how long it takes to package and ship an order. Provide estimates for different delivery locations (e.g. 5 days to continental U.S., 12 days to Europe, etc.). This is also a good place to include information about remedying processing and shipping errors.
It's also smart to include these policy details throughout your website, not just on your shipping page. For example, you might add a small banner to each product page. Or you might add a note in the sidebar of your cart and checkout pages.
49% of consumers check the return policy before purchasing. They want to know what steps they’ll need to take to get their money back if they aren’t happy with their order. Do they need to call your support number? Chat with someone? Do they have to pay for return shipping, or do you cover that? Returns can be a major hassle for ecommerce purchases, so make sure this process is simple and frictionless for your customers in order to reduce their anxiety.
Just like your shipping details, your returns process deserves its own page. You should also add notes on your product pages, cart page, and checkout page so this information is always available to potential buyers.
Creating an online store has a low barrier of entry, so many customers wonder if you are a legit business. You can make them feel comfortable by offering details about the company and leaders on your About Us page, including company history, photos, business achievements, and mentions of any high profile clients. You should also have a Contact page with multiple methods of contacting you.