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Vol. 1 issue #118 Sep 2, 2004                   


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Selling Multiple Products? Avoid These Top Blunders
2004 By  Marcia Yudkin


When your web site sells more than a dozen items, you may  face a fierce challenge of helping shoppers find what they  are looking for.  You'll need to classify products into  categories, but these will serve as obstacles and even deal  killers if those categories do not match those in the heads  of shoppers. 

I've seen again and again web sites using classifications  that aren't known or understood by a portion of their  customers.  For instance, I once wanted to buy T-shirts and  went to the site of a famous catalog company, where I found  a category called "shirts." So far, so good.  But then I had  to choose between a category called "woven" or another  called "knitted." There I got stumped.  Are T-shirts woven  or knitted?  I was not sure. 


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Another time I was searching for a Toyota car part, ready to  buy it, but I could not find it on the Toyota parts web site  unless I knew whether it was part of the drive train, an  accessory, the exhaust system or something else.  I hadn't a  clue.  In both these cases, the site wrongly assumed that  shoppers understood their jargon, and set that up as a  barrier to an online purchase.

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Let's suppose that you solve the jargon problem and someone  finds what they are looking for.  The next hurdle for  shoppers concerns whether or not people can find answers to  all the questions about availability, shipping charges,  warranties and return policies that they could easily ask if  shopping by phone or in person.  In the last year, I would  say that only 50% of the time when I'm shopping online I've
had all of my pre-purchase questions answered by the web  site.  Among the multi-product sites I've toured as a  reviewer, I don't remember a single one that answered enough  questions for shoppers.

Before your site launches, you can think up all the  questions people might ask by imagining different kinds of  shoppers - people from other countries, corporate buyers,  gift givers, etc. - and what they'd need to know.  Once your  site's been up for a while, collect the questions that come  in by email and phone.  Gather the questions and answers in  a Frequently Asked Questions page and make the FAQ  accessible from every page of your site. 


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Especially do not make people put items into their shopping  cart and begin checking out in order to find out the  shipping charges and refund policies!  Another epidemic  blunder is not revealing the address of the company behind  the shopping site.  Not only is this necessary to set at  ease the mind of any shopper worried about recourse against  no-show orders or faulty merchandise, it's important for  some people to know where items are being shipped from.   Ditto for your privacy policy.  Are you going to be renting  out your list of customer addresses and bombarding everyone  who's bought from you with frequent emails?

Online order forms range from easy to use and complete to  baffling and aggravating.  Submit yours to what I call "the  grandmother test" - ask people who've never seen your site  before to place an order and talk through the process out  loud.  Button your lips and listen.  Note where they get  stuck and fix your ordering procedures accordingly.

Finally, do you have testimonials attesting to the quality  and value of what you sell and the pleasures of doing  business with you?  That's the cherry on the sundae of a
well-designed site from a company shoppers recommend and  return to for more purchases!

Marcia Yudkin <marcia@yudkin.com> is the author of Web Site  Marketing Makeover and 10 other books. A four-time Webby  Awards judge and internationally famous marketing  consultant, she critiques web sites and performs web site  makeovers for clients. Learn more about her detailed  critique sessions on five different kinds of web sites  (including multi-product sites) at  www.yudkin.com/websitequiz.htm .
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