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How to make them buy!

By Paul Boag
Posted Sunday, September 26, 2004

Discover how effective web design is as much about psychology as it is about pretty graphics and cutting edge technology.

I have learned that web design is less about graphics and more about psychology.

I have been building websites now for over seven years and have come to the conclusion that you can have the best designed site in the world, but it doesn't mean your visitors are going to buy anything. This used to really frustrate me. As a graphic designer, I thought that if my site was attractive enough people would stay and eventually buy. However, I have come to realise to that in order to get visitors to buy you have to get inside their heads. You need to know what motivates them. I have learned that web design is less about graphics and more about psychology.

Never buy on the first date

One thing has become particularly apparent as I have worked on a variety of ecommerce sites. Users rarely make a purchase the first time they visit your site. Indeed, it may take many subsequent visits before they actually commit themselves to buying something. The exact number of visits depends on the size of the purchase and the industry you are in.

The sales process

If we have concluded that users don't purchase on their first visit, then the next question has to be how you get them to return to the site in the future. In my article “ keep them coming back for more ” I look at some practical ways of doing this, but here I want to step back for a moment and consider the psychology behind it.

The basic approach is the same as that used in traditional sales for years. It consists of a number of steps which you attempt to guide the user through. Below I outline these steps and how best to encourage a user through them:

Get their attention

The first thing you have to do is grab their attention. If you fail to do that they will leave in search of better sites elsewhere. This is where my graphic design does come in. A well designed site should grab a user and excite them. However it will not do the job alone. It needs to be accompanied by snappy headlines, clear navigation, well written copy and good imagery. Most important of all is that no matter how the user arrives at the site he should be instantly aware of what you do and what services you provide.

Keep them interested

Once you have grabbed their attention you need to keep them interested. The important thing you need to remember here is that your users don't want to be sold anything. Their primary motivation at this stage is information gathering. They don't want you forcing your product down their throats. Rather you need to provide clear, appropriate information that is relevant to the audience. But this is the real key; content should be constantly updated in order to encourage them to visit again in the future. You can do this through news, articles, polls, newsletters and various other approaches . The important thing is that the user can see this site is worth visiting again. I know you're thinking that, this sounds like a lot of work. But remember users don't purchase on their first visit. In case you need further motivation it is worth noting that 80% of sales normally come from the 20% of customers who are the regular purchasers. In other words, once you have built a relationship with these people they will buy from you again and again. Part of that process is getting them to come back to your site.

Make them hungry for more

Once you have their interest the next step is to create a desire for your product. There are a whole variety of ways to do this and it does largely depend on your industry. Free demos are a common one. Headscape provide free site reviews. If you can engage a customer and get them interacting they are much more likely to desire your product or service. The key is to make sure whatever you offer is useful and demonstrates the benefits of your product. Whatever the approach, the result should be the same; to create a desire in your visitors.

A call to action

The final step is to get them to act on that desire. The trick here is to make it transparently clear what it is that you wish them to do. Also don't always assume the call to action is to encourage them to buy. Depending on your industry it may be more relevant to get them to contact you or sign up for a newsletter. But whatever your call to action is make sure that there is one. Too many sales are lost because at the end of the day nobody suggested to the user that they might want to buy now!

It's not rocket science

Nothing in this article is ground breaking and much of it has been around for years. However you would be surprised how few people actually apply these principles to the web. You have to remember that a website is just another outlet for your products. As such it needs to demonstrate all the sales techniques you would use in any other environment.

About the Author
Paul Boag [ Director ]
Web: strategy, usability, design, development, marketing.
t: 02392 432 829 | m: 07760 123 120

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