One of the biggest problems with purchasing online is that your customers can’t actually feel or physically see what they’re buying like in real life. This is especially apparent when you take into account the research done by Suzanne Shu and Joann Peck: Customers who psychically touch items while shopping reported statistically significant higher of perceived ownership and were willing to pay more for the items they had just touched.

Although you can’t provide the exact same experience for your customers online as you would in real life, there are certain things that you can still do to help them make their purchasing decision easier and help them claim ownership.

  1. Make those photos bigger! This is one of the main reasons people abandon a site without buying. They can’t see what they want to buy. If your site has a feature that allows people to click on a thumbnail graphic to make it bigger to view the product in more detail, make sure that photo really is big enough to see the small details. Test it if you can.Provide multiple photos showing different angles of the product and have versions of all the photos in large sizes. Zappos does a good job of this with the photos of its shoes from different angles.You may also want to think about implementing flash or javascript that allows customers to hover over the photo and see small details. This is especially important if you sell things like clothing, shoes, and handbags. People want to see the quality of these items before they buy. Don’t force them to go to Google to find better photos!
  2. Show product variations. If you sell different versions of a product, make it easy for customers to see all of the different versions right on the same page. Again, you don’t want people to have to search elsewhere to make a decision. The easier you can make it for your customers, the better.Speaking of variations; If you sell a product that has different color variations, please don’t use the same photo and Photoshop it to change the product color. I can tell you from first hand experience that if I see variations of the same photo in different colors, there’s no way I’ll be able to trust that the color in the photo is accurate. I want to be confident that the color in the photo is the one I’ll get.
  3. Use videos. Use real videos of your products highlighting your product features and showing a 360 degree view so that your customers can see it from all sides and angles. Or, if your company provides B2B services, show a video of the best person to represent your company. Allow people to have a feel for who they’re working with.
  4. Have photos and videos of customers actually using your products. Recent neuroscience research shows that we have “mirror neurons” that allow us to learn complex behaviors from others. Instead of doing something ourselves, we can learn just by observing others. Now, since we are able to learn just by observing, doesn’t it also make sense that seeing photos and videos of people using products helps us “feel” like the product is our own in an empathetic way too?
  5. Provide demos. Provide demos of your products, especially if you are selling software. And if you can, allow people to use the demo freely without needing to sign-up for an account or mailing list. This will allow people ample time to decide if your solution is right for them beyond what simple features and benefits lists can do.
  6. Craft compelling stories and messages. Through the use of rich copy and descriptions, you can help your customer envision in their own mind how it would be to own your product. Spread your story or message in a way that helps them connect with your brand on a human level. Leave enough information to pique their interest and intrigue the customer, but not so much that you leave in unnecessary details that take away from the experience.As an aside: I have no idea what the conversion rates are for (I’m guessing very good since they only sell one product at a time and have an extremely loyal customer base, not to mention great deals), but I love the little anecdotal stories they tell along with each product. I know that the stories rarely have anything to do with the product in a logical sense and the stories are not even real and are there solely for entertainment purposes. But, I love how I feel connected with their brand and culture through their stories.
  7. Provide the right atmosphere. Through your design, you can make the “atmosphere” of your site or landing page warm and comfortable or exciting and fresh, among other things. Take a high-end furniture store, for example. How does it normally feel when you walk in? It has soft lighting, warm colors, and lots of textures, right? You can recreate some of those things on your website too in order to help make the experience more inviting for your customer.

As with many other things, in order to provide a compelling experience for your customers, you must first put yourself in the shoes of your customer. What do you often wish could be better from your own online shopping experiences?

This is a guest post by Naomi Niles. Naomi talks about conversion rate optimization and about how companies can connect better with their customers over at her site. She also runs a custom web design and development studio with her husband over at Intuitive Designs. We like how Naomi thinks about conversion, and we hope you enjoy this post from her as much as we did!