How to Reduce Web 'Purchase Anxiety'

From proof of privacy protection to effective testimonials to constructive follow up, here are 8 tips to make visitors feel more comfortable buying from your site

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

December 27, 2007

6 Min Read

You know that moment when you're thinking about buying something, but you're just not sure if you should pull out your wallet? That's "purchase anxiety." Most people feel it at some point, especially when they're buying a big-ticket item. Or when they're buying something over the internet.

Online shoppers tend to suffer from purchase anxiety more than offline shoppers. After all, when you buy something over the internet, it's often a product you've never seen before sold by a person you've never met before.

Here are some very simple elements you can add to your site that will reassure your visitors you're a reputable business offering a quality product--and that will get them to click that order button.

1. Include proof that you value and protect their privacy. Identity theft and credit card theft are the two biggest fears that limit and even prevent people from shopping online, according to the market research firm TNS. Make sure you include a privacy policy on your site, reassuring people that you will never share their personal information with anyone.

In addition, process all purchases through a secure server, so that no other computers are ever able to access any of your purchase information. You can go even further and include "security seals" on your site, reassuring visitors that you have done everything possible to protect their site from hackers. Some of the more popular security seals are VeriSign, TRUSTe and Hacker Safe.

2. Add testimonials to your site. Nothing reassures visitors like testimonials from real people who can vouch for the quality of your product. And yet so few business sites actually have testimonials.

Why? Because they don't ask for them. It can feel awkward to ask people to say nice things about your product or service. But testimonials have so much trust-building power that you should go out of your way to get them.

When you request a testimonial, ask if it's OK for you to include as much information about the testimonial provider as possible. Along with the testimonial, include the person's:

  • first name;

  • last name;

  • city;

  • picture, if possible; and

  • URL, if possible.

However, this much personal information isn't necessary for every industry. For example, if your business helps people dealing with alcoholism, eating disorders or similar problems, then your testimonial providers won't want to reveal that much information about themselves. In that case, a first name and initial is probably good enough. Stick with the conventions within your industry.

If you want to know more, here's an earlier column with details about adding testimonials to your site.

3. Be specific. When talking about statistics or results, always be as specific as possible. It makes your copy seem more credible.

For example, if you sell a weight-loss product, don't say that it helped one client lose "more than 100 pounds." Say that it helped her lose 107 pounds.

The more accurate you are, the more realistic your claims will be.

4. Citing a statistic? Include your source. If you include statistics or other forms of industry information to back up the claims in your copy, be sure to cite your source of that information.

Let's say you sell natural fiber carpets, and you recently read an article in the American Journal of Public Health about childhood asthma being aggravated by indoor pollutants. Include that information on your site--and cite the American Journal of Public Health as the source of that information.

When you cite a reputable source of information, you borrow their credibility. And that builds your own credibility.

5. Include your contact information. Imagine that you go to a website and find a product you want to buy, but you have a few questions you want to ask about it first. Then when you look for some way to get in touch with the business owner, all you can find is an e-mail address. Nothing screams "shady" like a lack of contact information.

Be sure to include your full name, street address, phone number and e-mail address--and link to that information from every single page on your site. You might even want to invest in a 1-800 number. By showing you're willing to pay for people to call, you prove that you'll do whatever it takes to address their concerns.

6. Include certification from reputable organizations. If you belong to any professional or business organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, include prominent mention on your "About Us" page. Just make sure you don't feature only local organizations; the internet is a global medium, and if you want to sell to international visitors, you have to come across like an international business.

7. Let your customers know who you are. People want to buy from someone, not something. So help them get to know you. Your visitors want to know something about you that relates to your industry. How long have you been in this business? What made you get into it? Why do you enjoy it?

Also be sure to include a photo of yourself on your "About Us" page, as well as a photo of your employees or the office where you work. The effort you put into making yourself seem more real to your visitors will definitely pay off.

8. Follow up after the purchase. Purchase anxiety doesn't end with the purchase. There's another syndrome called "post-purchase anxiety." You can alleviate it by keeping your customers informed until your product is in their hands.

Your order confirmation page, confirmation e-mail, shipping information and receipt are all opportunities to let the customer know that you're on the case.

Even better, you can use each of these to reassure customers that they've made a smart purchase. You can re-state the benefits of the product or give them further information about it. Include your contact information again and state that you'll answer all questions.

If you don't already have these elements on your site, add them as quickly as you can. The shoppers are out there in full force right now. Online retail buying is expected to account for 22.7 percent of all holiday shopping this year, according to So make sure when shoppers get to your site, they feel confident they can buy from you.

Derek Gehl is's "E-Business" columnist and the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses. His comprehensive internet marketing guide, The Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet, covers all aspects of growing a real and profitable business in a step-by-step format.

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