A wise person would have taken my mother’s advice the first time.
Alas, when it comes to shopping online there are hurdles and derailments in every corner, waiting to sabotage your efforts. And my mother finds them all.
Why does that matter?
Because my mother is retired and she has a laptop that goes everywhere with her, from home to vacation home. She’s not very tech-savvy but she’s quick with a mouse and has a disposable income. In other words, she’s your customer.
Or she could be, if you didn’t screw the whole thing up so badly!
It’s been three years since my mother and I began our phone ritual of her complaining about a website and me writing it down.
She’s had a lot to say about customer service along the way and plenty on the subject of websites that don’t work.
She may be just one person but where there’s one there are more. They visit your website and silently leave, never to be seen or heard from again. They may not vocalize their frustrations but they’re certainly acting on them – or failing to act, by refusing to buy from you.
If you’re not convinced, just listen to my mother…
Mother Says: What The Heck Is It?
“People should try to shop on their own sites,” she says. “Do you think they’d buy something if they had no idea what it was?”
She’s talking about the shower curtain.
She wants a new one for the guest bathroom in her vacation home. Her vacation home is strictly beach-themed. And the shower curtain she wants has a pattern of small… somethings… that may or may not fit with the theme.
“Is it a duck? Maybe it’s a seahorse. I have no idea.”
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve tried to shop for anything from home décor to clothing and been unable to discern polka dots from plaid, or in this case, ducks from seahorses.
“Sites need a zoom feature. You can’t just look at something that small and say, ‘Oh, ok, I guess it’s fine…’ You have to know what you’re buying. Do you know what I did? I got a magnifying glass.”
She says this with a mix of disgust and triumph – how dare “they” make her resort to such stupid tactics, but kudos to her for thinking of it.
“You know what it was? A seagull! A big, fat, ugly seagull!”
If there’s one thing my mother hates it’s birds of any sort. If there’s another thing that pulls in at a close second it’s being forced to interpret some aspect of a product that should have been clearly identified by the “click to zoom” function or mentioned somewhere in the product description.
And my mother may hate birds but she is really pissed by the effort involved in discovering the birds. The birds have come to represent the entire site. And she’s totally gone.
“And do you know what else?”
The thing about crummy websites is that there is usually a “what else”.
“Half the time the alternate colors don’t work. So when you see a color called ‘majestic’ how the heck are you supposed to know what that looks like? What the heck color is ‘majestic’?”
I have to admit, I have no idea.
If You Want Her To Buy, You’d Better Show Her What It Is
I don’t think this is an issue that needs belaboring. If you haven’t figured out by now that your product photos matter then you can go back and read her previous complaints to the same effect.
Or you can try shopping your own site and looking objectively at your seahorse/duck/bird patterns to be sure another human being – perhaps one with imperfect eyesight – can tell what they are.
And for the sake of overburdened brains everywhere, avoid cute marketing-y sounding descriptions in favor of real ones. If you need help crafting product descriptions, go read this post.
No matter how you slice it, “majestic” is not a color.
Lesson Learned: Details Matter
It could be the indecipherable photos or indescribable colors. Or maybe even the lack of photos and color details. If you’re not paying attention to how your products appear to your customers you just may not have any customers to worry about.
It’s definitely tough to be objective about your own inventory so do yourself and your sales a favor and find an outsider to give you honest feedback.
It could be as simple as recruiting your mother.
A colleague, cousin or Twitter acquaintance will do just as nicely – as long as they are dead honest and maybe even a little nitpicky. Because trust me, your customers will be.
Got a nagging suspicion that your products aren’t selling themselves? Shoot me a question about them in the comments, or get in touch and ask us to perform our intensive website evaluations.
Join the discussion 8 Comments
LOVE THIS!!! I’m going to start today.
Thanks Stephan… moms know what they’re talking about!
Great post! I notice a lot of the same types of problems on eBay. Sellers would sell a lot more items if they would bother to check and see exactly how their listings look.
Ah. eBay can be a haven of crummy photos! Especially if I don’t know the seller then there’s no way I would buy something that looks even a little bit questionable.
I had to laugh Carol because I’ve been to some of those sites too! OMG, really!
Now the ones that let you hover over the picture and it instantly zooms are awesome. At least I can see what the heck it is instead of having to here or there or they say click to see a bigger picture and it takes me off the site. Some of these people need to get a clue.
Now you know my recent post gripe with customer service. I’ve had internet issues all week and that company called me today to complete a phone survey and I gladly stopped what I was doing and boy did I let them have it. You know what! That felt SO DARN GOOD!
I love you sharing this about your Mom! She sounds like a hoot!
Yes, I heard about your internet (or more importantly, customer service) problems. I love that they asked you to complete a survey. Do you think they’ll take it seriously? Sadly enough I bet they get plenty of those every day but nothing much changes.
I’m glad my mother’s words of wisdom amuse you! I always get a pen and write it down when she starts on something because it’s always true. Maybe someone out there will read this and it will save their site!
When writers try to sell a book, they get beta readers. When gamers try to sell a new game, they get beta players. When new apps roll out, they get beta users. I would think that the idea of getting beta customers only makes sense! Alas, sense is anything but common. Tell you what, though — if I ever decide to sell merch on my site, I’m getting you and your mom to look first cuz I know you’ll keep my shit straight! 🙂
PS. Your mom is neat-o.
My mom is inadvertently hilarious. I love the fact that now that she knows that she is blog-famous, she is on the lookout for stuff that she can tell me about that’s wrong. You let me know if you ever want hawk eyes to examine your web stuff and I know just the person…