online prospects abandonIn the age of the Internet, more customers than ever are looking online as they begin seeking a service or product. In fact, a recent study by Deloitte states that 60% of consumers say they are going online more often to find the best products and services. So what does this mean for you? It means your SEO and PPC strategies need to be top notch, but it also means your website needs to have qualities that turn browsers into customers, as opposed to chasing them away. Unfortunately you might be doing just that without even knowing it. Here are three ways your website might be turning prospects into customers for your competitors.

58% of online shoppers say they have had a question that cannot be answered by info on a website.

Is your website helpful? You might think it is, but unless you’ve done extensive research, A/B testing, and customer surveys, you might be missing the mark and not even realize it. If 58% of online shoppers say they have had a question that cannot be answered by information on a website, that means chances are high that prospects are browsing your website, not finding the information they need, and are moving on to the next site. Is your site too busy? Too sparse? Take the time to find out what your customers really need to know about your service or product and make the necessary changes. And don’t forget—a pleasing design matters too.

77% of online shoppers are interested in getting help from a real person.

That statistic is interesting on its own, but even more interesting when you follow it up with another stat from the same study*: 82% of online shoppers say there have been times when they have not been able to get help from a real person. And one more: 52% of those who have not always been able to get help say it has affected their decision to not purchase the product.

What do these numbers tell you? It’s simple. A large percentage of the prospects browsing your website want to be able to get in touch with a live agent for help on a purchasing decision, an even larger number have been unable to get help from a live agent, and the majority of those prospects decided to not purchase the product as a result. So what does this mean for you?

61% of consumers said that a telephone number to call customer service or sales was among the top five things they want to see on a company’s website. If you’re not giving them the means or the opportunity to talk to someone at your company, you’re hurting your business.

71% of online prospects expect assistance within five minutes. Yes, five minutes.

If you’re already providing a way for online prospects to get in contact with you (by means of a Contact Us form, for example), great. But your lead response for those customers may be defeating the purpose entirely. To start, are you even responding to the leads? A study by reveals that 55.3% of top companies don’t respond to web leads at all, despite the fact that prospects not only expect a response but expect a response within five minutes. Letting these leads languish is a massive waste, especially given the fact that the odds of making contact with a lead increase by 100x if attempted within five minutes versus 30 minutes, and the odds of qualifying that lead increase by 21x if attempted within five minutes versus 30. Responding to leads is a start, but responding sooner (much sooner) rather than later can keep those prospects from moving on to your competitor.

As customers rely more and more on the Internet to track down the products and services they need, it’s up to you to ensure that you are making your website easy to browse and your agents easy to reach.

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* IMshopping and Harris Interactive Survey (August 2009)