This post is for authors that sell their own books from their blogs or websites and are perhaps wondering why they are not making as many sales as they would like.
Before getting started you should probably be aware that the percentage of shopping carts abandoned, according to a white paper I have recently been privy to, is now running at around 72%. That is actually up from a previous survey which indicated around 55% of online shopping carts are abandoned. So the situation is worsening!
Ref: Bronto.com (click on view all to see the paper)
Wow that is a lot of people not making it to the point of sale!
So what did the white paper say were the main reasons people abandon shopping carts?
- Poor user experience
- Technical difficulties
- Cost build up (total cost, in other words, and how different it is to the starting cost)
Poor User Experience
So what constitutes a poor user experience? In terms of shopping cart abandonment it is mostly about how many hoops the potential purchaser has to go through to make their purchase. The average number of pages an average buyer has to visit to make their purchase online is 5.6; at the time of writing. Hopefully it will be a lot less in the future for anyone reading this.
There is always basic information required by the seller that must be supplied to process a sale, there is no way around that. But what many companies do is they pretty much ask the buyer to complete a marketing survey before they allow them to purchase and sometimes they try and force other products on them by making them reject other offers before they are allowed to purchase the product they want. Compare this to Amazon’s one click option, where a purchaser, once registered on Amazon, can make their purchase with just one click of a mouse. Now considering that Amazon is about the biggest and most successful online retailer, you would have to have a sneaking suspicion they have done that for a reason.That reason is clear….the strategy works.
Admittedly, not every site will have the resources or the level of trust that Amazon has and they will have gathered all the necessary information they need to process the sale beforehand. But having done that they then make the sale as simple as they possibly can.
So if you want to be more successful at selling online, then aspiring to as simple a process as possible to effect a sale has to be a good way to go. In addition it is also a good idea to maintain an image of the product, as the buyer goes through the purchasing process, to help them keep a focus on what they are trying to purchase. It’s also a good idea to make it easy to change decisions on quantity, shipping method and the number of products they ultimately decide to buy.
The reason is that when faced with a final cost, rather than deciding it is all a bit too expensive and abandoning the shopping cart, they have a means of adjusting costs to an acceptable level. Better a smaller sale than no sale at all.
Indecision for online shoppers isn’t really a lot different to shoppers browsing in a store. They may decide that they need the input of a partner before deciding or perhaps they haven’t got the funds immediately available and have to wait until they have been paid or they may simply decide that they are spending too much at one time.
The big difference with shopping online is that having put things in the virtual basket, it is much easier to leave it there without having to face an irate storekeeper who now needs to put things back on the shelf. This is one of the main disadvantages of an online store from a supplier’s perspective.
So yes there are many similarities in the shopping process but there are also differences, some that give the online stores some disadvantages, as mentioned, but equally there are also advantages. For example a shopper that has walked away through indecision can be contacted later and reminded that they still have items in their basket, other items that are similar can be offered, perhaps they can be tempted with a discount or maybe items that they decide to remove from a shopping cart can be moved to a wish list for future consideration. These are all strategies employed by large online distributors and to good effect …only requiring, for the most part, an email address and a means of analyzing abandoned shopping carts.
When someone is shopping online one of the primary requirements they have is that they trust the site they are dealing with to protect their financial data and private information. Sites that load slowly, look amateurish or display obvious technical issues will cause a visitor’s trust level to decline and they will feel much less inclined to make a purchase.
As an author selling your own books this is quite important. Probably the easiest way to resolve any trust issues with visitors to your blog or website is to use a trusted online payment site such as Paypal, Google Checkout or one of the other established and trusted Online Payment Systems.
With respect to having a site that looks professional and functions well, my personal recommendation for any author would be to create a WordPress blog and purchase your own domain name and hosting to support it. Clearly this requires that you will need to go through a learning curve in order to manage the blog, but WordPress is one of the best supported platforms on the Internet.
Functionality like adding contact details to the site or even the page where you offering your books for sale becomes very simple and is another way to help ensure you don’t lose a sale. If a purchaser has a problem they can then contact you for assistance straight from your own site.
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, you should audit the purchasing process to ensure that it is easy to get from product selection i.e. a book, to the final payment and this should be done as a new customer, a returning customer and a prospective buyer.
Cost Build Up
The things that increase the price of products are shipping, taxes and any other associated costs. A buyer may get to that final hurdle, when they are faced with the reality of what they actually need to pay and just decide…. nah! perhaps another day.
If you can illustrate the total cost up front or as soon as possible then there is a better chance they may complete the purchase when they get to checkout. Even better if you can avoid those additional costs i.e. keep them as low as possible or maybe even free. Definitely one of the advantages of selling eBooks over physical books, albeit most buyers are looking to purchase eBooks at a much lower price than physical books. Especially in a technical savvy world.
Online shoppers tend to look for comparative prices, even for small cost items like books.
Basically they want a bargain and because it is so easy to do on the Internet, they search for a better deal.
When it comes to books, especially your own books, then you really should be offering the best price if you are selling directly. Bearing in mind that if the likes of Amazon spot the book at a better price than you set on their site, they retain the prerogative to reduce their price to match. Chances of them finding the books on an independent writers blog will be much less than on a competitor site like Kobo or Barnes & Noble however, so just be aware it could happen.
It’s always worth keeping an eye open to what the likes of Amazon are up to, most of what they do is geared towards making a sale and as easily as possible. Just like this reply to Tweet initiative they have just introduced that allows you to reply to a Tweet about a product and place it in your shopping basket without even leaving Twitter.
Don’t be put off by the sophistication of the tools coming from Amazon et al, the very fact you have got this far through the article will mean you are better informed than many people trying to sell on the Internet, books or otherwise. And if you are selling independently on your own site you are unlikely to be competing with Amazon or the other large distributors. It is much more likely you are broadening your market by reaching out to people that prefer to buy from independents or alternative sources to the mainstream suppliers. So if you can pick up a sale there, it is probably going to be one you wouldn’t have got otherwise.