Reducing Customer Anxiety About Products on Product Pages

The final variable in the Marketing Experiments conversion sequence is “a” for anxiety about following through with a purchase.

Some of this anxiety is about the product, some is about you as a retailer. You must address both. And unlike friction (resistance) which must be minimized and balanced with an attractive incentive, anxiety needs aggressive overcorrection on your website.

Ecommerce anxiety comes in a number of flavors, including fears about:

  • Quality of the product
  • Quality and reliability of your customer service
  • Will the item arrive on time?
  • Will the product be as described or as appears on screen? Is it the right color or size?
  • Will it fit? Is this item true to size?
  • What if the product needs to be returned?
  • Is this site secure (privacy, credit card information)?
  • Is this really the best price?

Today’s post will focus on anxiety on the product page specifically.

Addressing Anxiety About the Product on Product Pages

The e-tailing group conducted a consumer survey last summer and found that product descriptions were the most important to help make a purchase decision, followed by the merchant’s guarantee, stock availability and quality of images. (One can assume for certain categories like jewelry and apparel, images are even more important).

The survey also found:

  • 76% believe content is insufficient to complete research or purchase online “always, most often or some of the time”
  • 79% “rarely or never” purchase a product without complete product information
  • 72% will abandon a site for a competitor or research further online, typically finding what they want elsewhere

Product Descriptions

One of the most effective ways to address customer fears in product descriptions is to research what actual buyers of the product care about by reading customer reviews — including reviews on other sites like Amazon, Buzzillions and competitors.

Product Images

Multiple views and zoom tools are very helpful for customers to get a closer look of a 2-dimensional image. Showing products in context can dramatically improve conversion because it shows the relative size of an item, what it can hold, how it looks on a person and so on.

The increasing use of video merchandising like Martin + Osa’s shop-by-outfit and Tiger Direct’s video reviews/demos are also effective.

Customer Reviews

There are many statistics touting the virtues of customer reviews, even negative reviews, improve conversion because it gives customers more information about a product (that doesn’t come out of a marketer’s mouth) and a better sense of trust.

Beyond just having reviews, the usability of your reviews can improve conversion, like allowing customers to hone in on 1 star reviews or 5 star reviews:

Or allowing products to be rated by attributes:

Amazon also allows customers to vote reviews as helpful and not helpful, and shows the top positive and top negative reviews, and allows search within all reviews:

Pluribo is also an exciting technology that uses natural language data mining to summarize a product’s strengths and weaknesses extracted from a number of product reviews. So far, it’s only available for select categories on Amazon through a Firefox browser extension.

But Amazon doesn’t have all the review-toys, uses Bazaarvoice’s Ask & Answer product, and Shoeline has its own Return-o-Meter to reduce customer fears about products.

Stock Availability

Showing that an item is in stock is good usability, as well as sizes and colors in stock without the customer having to add to cart to find out. Nine West does this well with rollovers and broken outlines:

Overstock creates a bit of anxiety — good anxiety (urgency) on products close to selling out:

Limited Inventory!
Sell out Risk: VERY HIGH
In Stock if you order today: Leaves our warehouse in 1-3 business days.

Note the buying guide link and “you can always remove it later” assurance are appropriately placed as these are other fears customers may have.

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16 Responses to “Reducing Customer Anxiety About Products on Product Pages”

  1. Tim Leighton-Boyce says:

    I think sometimes reducing anxiety can have greater impact than the quality of the information would suggest.

    I had a classic experience of this during a usability test on a clothing site.

    The candidate said that she was expecting to find sizing information and very specifically explained that she wanted guidance on how this retailer’s sizes compared with the sizing of the most prominent high street retailers. That’s a very difficult bit of information for any retailer to supply!

    What the candidate actually got when she found the link was a jpeg scan of a size chart comparing UK, US and EU sizes. And what she said was “ah, that’s good” and carried on.

    Perhaps my comment should be about the perils of vocalisation in usability tests! But I think there was still a lesson in what happened there: the potential customer wanted reassurance about sizing and had set it up as some kind of internal barrier to making the purchase. When she found something which only made a token attempt at satisfying her objection, it was sufficient to remove the point of friction.

  2. Tim,

    I’ve witnessed similar responses in usability tests. I sometimes wonder whether the subjects’ reactions would be the same under real (rather than testing) conditions. But I suspect there is something to this: some shoppers really WANT to complete a purchase, and are looking for justifications to proceed.

  3. Just came across this example of video merchandising from Lingerie retailer La Senza, “Men’s guide to buying Lingerie”.

    Are guys going to buy what they like on the model, rather than what’s appropriate for their partners figure?

    I’d like to see more videos like this when I shop online, with the option to select a range of models with different figures.

  4. Erica says:

    Interesting stat about 76% of people finding content insufficient on the product descriptions. In our world (teen apparel), it is not a heavily-considered purchase and our teens rely mostly on the product images. We launched a revised product page layout in May of this year w/ larger product images and more zoom views, and have seen overall conversion go up. I guess another example of how it all comes down to knowing your audience (and maybe to also apply appropriate filters to blanket statements revealed in research) :-)

  5. Shopping search engines were very good at this. Makes me wonder why they are a dieing breed?

    • I *hope* the answer to shopping engines losing steam is that customers have used them to success, discovered stores who have successfully retained them as loyal, repeat customers through email marketing and fabulous customer service, and blow-out site usability and relevance.

      Am I dreaming?

  6. Maybe Linda, but another problem with them losing out is on search traffic. For a while many of them ruled the SERPs for many top terms, but after a while Google and other SE’s felt that searching and getting to another search page was not an ideal experience and at that point you saw many of them lose traffic from the search engines. When that happens to website lots of times you cant survive.

    Many years ago I worked on and we rocked on search engines before all of this took place. They were acquired by Yahoo and then my contract with them was not renewed. Soon after that short-tail rankings started to go down because fo the above reasons.

  7. I wonder if Google Product Search is also a factor. I see product search results appearing in different positions on the page, even with thumbnail images to stand out even more (I’ll try to get a screenshot) — not that Google makes money right now off of Google Product search but…if it drives enough traffic to retailers it might justify a premium listing product in the future.

  8. Good day,

    Partnerships with other top level outlets can sometimes reaffirm your direct-buy (point-of-sale) in combination with comparison information between your entity and another licensors application(s).

    Simplified distributorships do not carry weight against competitive pricings and overall influxes of cheaper products; not by choice (but attainable by someone in a particular district of retail).

    Articles like these never seem to reach out to the candor of conversionary politics (as much as that doesn’t drive every product sold).

    In the same token, they never address the climate for the different types of purchasers (or fans of franchises) which is a very distinguishable facet of any branding, marketing, and distributing.

    Most online business falls under the terms of ‘rights-to-resell’, typically controlled by non-exclusive agreements, allowing for other carriers to provide a publisher’s backend as their frontend operation.

    It has never been fair business but it is what has caused the craze of multiple streams of income via the internet – At the same time, it has degenerated available selections to the customer.

    To me, this has always been the wrong conversation to be having altogether. In some regards, it is an unnecessary conversation – Thanks for taking the time to present the article despite my perspective.

    Respectfully & Sincerely,

    - Ss

  9. Thanks Linda, These are some great tips and some very excellent presentation for reducing customer anxiety. I think one could greatly improve conversations by following theses examples and tips.

  10. A very interesting article indeed on how stress, both good and bad, can be used to enhance sales.

  11. [...] images can help increase conversion. Showing a product in use, on a model or its relative size reduces customer anxiety about the appropriateness of a product. Of course, video can be even more effective (just ask [...]

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  13. yup, reducing the customer’s anxiety to the minimun level is what we should do now.

  14. well, ease the customer’s doubt and anxiety about us is very necessary.

  15. Thanks for the post!

    Anxiety can be due to any reason. It can be cured naturally by some herbs or relaxation, etc.

    Deep breathing exercises are excellent for anxiety and many people report positive results from meditation. Some other natural anxiety remedies to look into are St.John’s Wort, SAMe, L-Theanine, and Tryptophan.

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