Thoughts From The Cloud: Barriers to Purchase

Thoughts From The Cloud: Barriers to Purchase

I won’t lie, this week has been sort of a huge mess, but it did give me a rare opportunity to really ponder the concept of barriers to purchase.  If you don’t know what I mean, this is a term that marketers and behavioral economists use in reference to just how hard it is for someone to go from an interest in a product to actually buying it.  It’s actually a huge problem online because we seem to think everything needs to be overly complicated or no one will take us seriously.

I spent the better part of the week fighting with my pharmacy and insurance over refilling my insulin.  As a Type 1 Diabetic, I am extremely interested in purchasing insulin because it keeps me alive (interest and motivation right there!).  However, without insurance coverage, I can’t begin to afford the stuff because it’s literally more than my house payment.  Because of this, I need the insurance to pay their part, but they were feelin’ squirrelly and creating a barrier to purchase.  They wanted forms and telephone calls and all sorts of stuff from my doctor, who was willing to do it, but struggled to hit their moving target (my barrier to purchase).

We Are Our Own Worst Enemies

Of course, we all know that insurance is kind of a racket, it’s not like I can go down the street and pick a different insurance company that’s not going to make life so difficult.  But it got me thinking — really thinking — about barriers to purchase and how we often throw them up online in the name of sales funnels or data capture or design.

Here’s an example: I was looking for some information for an article I was writing and I came to a site that was jam packed with goodies (and one I would have subscribed to if not for this incident).  It seemed like every time I moved my mouse something popped up asking me to sign up.  The first one I understand.  The second one was annoying, but passable.  But after that I was just done.  I bounced, never to return.

I spend a ridiculous amount of my time doing research online and I see problems like this every day.  The website where you can’t find the contact information, the e-Commerce site that demands so much personal information that you start to wonder if they’re planning on cloning you, the emails that don’t tell you how to learn more — it’s everywhere.  And most of the time we throw up these barriers to purchase accidentally because we’re a bit blind to what our audiences actually want.

I can tell you, overwhelmingly, your customers and potential leads want:

A quick in and out.  CrazyEgg, a software company that tracks user-site interactions, says that an average user spends about 59 seconds on a website before they bounce.  If you don’t have their attention by then, you’re already behind in the game.  Designing blogs to be scannable can make a huge difference in engagement levels.

To find what they need easily.  That means that your subscribe button needs to be prominent, your contact information clear and concise and that you streamline your site layout.  Remember, you’ve got 59 seconds to hook ’em, make sure that they see what they need if you want to continue having a relationship here.

Fewer pop-ups.  This has been a thing for a while.  Sure, you can get some kind of interaction with pop-ups (mostly users cursing as they shut them down), but users are fighting back with pop-up blockers.  Chrome has even integrated pop-up blocking into a fairly recent update to the popular browser.  That cheeky, hard to get around pop-up is more than just obnoxious, you’re giving potential customers something they really don’t want.  I can’t imagine a situation that makes it harder to buy a thing than that.

You Can Lubricate That Sales Funnel!

[Aside: I kind of hate the term “sales funnel.”  I understand that it’s a thing and that it’s a metaphor, but it really just sounds incredibly dumb to me.  My background is in journalism, though, and I’m mighty skeptical of business lingo anyway.  Anyhoo, back to barriers to purchase.]

When your site is getting plenty of visits or your emails plenty of opens and you still struggle to get the customer to the end of the funnel, it’s probably time to spend some intimate time with your system.  Go through the site as if you were a visitor yourself and ask questions like:

  • How many steps are there between the site opening and the action I want a visitor to take?
  • Is there a highly visible way to do the thing I want leads to do (contact me, buy this thing, etc)?
  • Do I make it clear that I want them to do the thing (calls to action, big red BUY ME buttons)?
  • Where might this site create a bottleneck for visitors (think complicated sign-ups, other things that are unnecessary and slow people down)?

Find all your trouble spots — heck, enlist the whole family to do some serious clicking — and check yourself in multiple formats.  Maybe your desktop visitors are just fine, but the mobile version of your site is impossible to navigate because of something in the design.

Honestly, this is why I placed the “Packages” button right there at the top of the In The Cloud site.  I don’t want you to dig, I want you to find out what it costs to hire me and then hire me.  It’s also why I created a URL just for this blog, — you’re instantly transported to a magical place full of marketing advice and other musings about attracting or holding on to customers.

Happy Endings for Us All

In case you were curious, they did eventually get my insulin approved.  I was down to the wire, though, and it was pretty scary, frankly.  My doctor went above and beyond, like we all should for our customers or clients, by contacting the insulin manufacturer and asking for emergency supplies on my behalf.  I didn’t have to use them, but now knowing that he’s that kind of person, there’s no way I’ll be trading him in for a newer model.

I hope that my clients feel as loyal to me me as I do to my doc.