printer, scanner, technology

Ordering Offline Boosts Online Sales?

In another forum, a listener to my call with Gary Halbert, where Gary mentioned that ordering online is a strategic error, asked me the following question:

“After listening to your seminar with Gary Halbert, what's your opinion on Gary saying not to take orders online?”

That's a great question. As you know, I conducted a free teleseminar with Gary Halbert Tuesday night. (You can access the recordings by clicking here.)

My personal opinion is that Gary's right in principle — but not in practice.

Here's why…

For example, he's right about efficiency versus effectiveness, and that it's better to be effective than to be efficient. And he's also right especially about people abandoning their order forms and shopping carts… or that the online ordering process is too hard for some people, etc.

(I'll explain these in greater detail later on.)

Another supporting reason is, people click on the “click here to order” now because they're only checking out the price, which is, as a matter of efficiency as well, on the part of the buyer, a speedier way to skip the sales copy and learn the price…

… and then…

… they leave.

(People are lazy. If they can skip the copy, they will. And they will check out the price without knowing the true/full value of the offer, which is explained in the copy.)

But for the exact same reasons, I don't agree with Gary.

Because of 3 major points…

(And you'll notice, too, that my points also support Gary's principle, but for the opposing viewpoint.)

1) What about impulse buyers?

Removing the chance to order online slows down the process of ordering, causing them to “think” (it's what we call, in selling, “cognitive dissonance”). It means that people get 2nd thoughts. If given the chance, they will PROCRASTINATE. Because people fear being hurt, being wrong, being defrauded.

It's also the reason why removing external/extraneous links, and only having one order link, as Internet marketer John Reese teaches, increases response. Because you are not giving people a chance to procrastinate. You are not giving people a chance to “think it over.”

2) People are intrinsically LAZY.

Say what you will, but “efficiency,” for many people, is not just for efficiency's sake. Because it's more effective to make it as convenient and as comfortable for people to order. While some people can't or won't order online because technology does make this inconvenient…

… If it's counter-intuitive (and believe me some shopping carts and order forms I've seen are indeed hard to work with!)…

… Or if the market is made up of newbies and technophobes who are either new to the Internet or simply hate technology — like Gary Halbert is, for example (remember, he said on the call wanted a cell phone that does nothing else but take calls, and doesn't have a gazillion other features)…

… The majority of people buy products and services because they make their lives easier, better, more convenient.

So why would they order online if the process of buying works against that nature? (That is, if the ordering process is long, counter-intuitive and, of course, inconvenient?) But then, for people who can and prefer to order online, what about THOSE people? Would they prefer to order online for the same reason? (That is, because it is more convenient?)

Of course, both are right.

3) Some people want to feel and be in control.

That's why it's best to offer options so THEY can choose. Not you. You should give them control over when and how they order. (Of course, the “when” is dictated by many circumstances, not the least of which is how targeted they are for your offer and how good your copy is.)

So as you can see, these reasons support Gary's principle. But they are also the same reasons why it's important to order online, too.

The solution?

Don't remove the order form or link. BUT definitely offer two options to order: 1) online way and 2) offline way (such as a printable order form they can fax, call or mail in).

I've tested this and in the majority of cases, it has increased response.

All you do is create an HTML form that's printable or printer-friendly, even with a “print-this-page” javascript. It almost looks like a direct mail order form, for example. I do this on most of my salesletters, and it's often a link that opens up in a new window, which they can print, fill out, call in, or fax right away.

Now, back to my earlier point.

My guess as to why people need both options is both partly based on Gary's assertions, partly because people are still skeptical about security and ordering online, and also partly because of the stage at which the Internet has penetrated the marketplace, which is still in its infancy. (Many people still don't even know how to ‘click here'. Believe me!)

Forrester Research has even created a new “category” of buying behavior to describe this, called “technographics” (in addition to demographics and psychographics, for instance). That is, your market's technographics are either “technology enthusiastic” (technophiles) or “technology averse” (technophobes).

So many people have now jumped on the Internet that they're still not comfortable with it.

(Recent studies show that people are buying computers and logging on to the Internet for the first time, and that the majority do so almost strictly for email and instant messenging… and not even for browsing or buying online.)

The Internet is still a child!

This will change soon, of course, as the Internet's adoption curve bolts upwards (“adoption curve” is an academic marketing term, meaning as more and more people become educated about, familiar with and use/adopt the Internet).

You see it now with “convergence” (where TVs and stereo systems are now becoming integrated with computers), with cars becoming equipped with OnStar and GPS digital dashboards, and kids learning to browse the Internet and use it as a research tool as early as kindergarten!

Bottom line, any new technology or new process, there's a “speed bump”. We're still in that speed bump right now. The early adopters (13% of the marketplace, also called “enthusiasts” and “visionaries”) are usually those techno-nuts who are innovative and buy everything (or try anything) new, technologically, the moment they appear.

But then, the market hits a gap — until a period of time goes by, and the “middle majority” (or 64% of the population, often called “pragmatists” and “conservatives”) adopt the new technology and become familiar with it, as well as when more and more people see others adopt it too, and when they become more educated about it, get better tools to take advantage of it and acquire more experience in using it.

A great book on this subject is ‘Crossing the Chasm' by Geoffrey Moore, and his sequel, ‘Inside The Tornado'. Moore explains this exceptionally well.

Example: Look at DVDs. When CDs and DVDs first came out over a decade ago, they sold like crazy… and then…. Wham! Sales went crashing down. (It's also the same major reason behind the dot com bust of 3-4 years ago.)

People are creatures of comfort and habit. They are used to VHS, for example. Why change something they are comfortable with? Most people are pragmatic and conservative, so they prefer to stick with the familiar until such a time where a new technology becomes the norm — and, since we're social animals too, as they see and follow the crowd.

So they cross the chasm.

And then sales skyrocket.

You see, as more and more people bought DVDs, and more and more DVD players penetrated the marketplace (and all of them went down in price as they become cheaper to make), then the more and more people became educated on DVDs (i.e., what they are, how to use them, why they're better than VHS), and, over time, they became more and more affordable.

(Price usually goes down with time, as it becomes cheaper to make because it's increasingly produced is larger quantities, thus making the cost of acquiring raw materials cheaper as they are purchased in bulk.)

Anyway, here's a link that explains it more.

Specifically to your question:

My point is, it's best to cater to all segments of your market — both early adopters and techno-nuts (by offering a link to order online, as well as a phone number or a printable/faxable form to order offline).

Case in point: Dell computers reported a huge increase in sales when they added 1-800 numbers to their order forms, at the last minute, thus decreasing shopping cart abandonments.

Also, by giving a chance for people to order offline, the perception is, it increases buyer confidence (they feel it's a real business, and it's more secure), and buyers also get a chance to speak to a human being or ask questions, before they make a decision to buy.

Remember, we're social animals.

But we're also lazy.

So this proves Gary's theory… in part.

Another example: that's why “hybrid” products are becoming so popular these days on the Internet. That is, selling a package that includes both digital and physical components — i.e., immediate delivery online of the digital component, and a physical product sent by mail or courier.

Why? Because people get the best of both worlds: instant gratification that the Internet offers (they order online, and get to download or access something right away), and then they also get the physical product by mail.

(This is also great for businesses, too, as it reduces buyer fraud. They can't ask for a refund unless they wait for the physical product in the mail and are forced to return it. Physically.)

It's also what product consultant Fred Gleeck calls the THUD! Factor. People also like something they can touch, smell, feel, keep. And in some cases, the bigger and bulkier, the better. Perhaps because the perception of size is equated with value and/or justification of purchase.

(Illogical, true. But perceived truth is more powerful than truth itself. Size is often synonymous with value.)

Another similar example is software: many people will opt to buy the software, download it but also add to their shopping carts a “backup” CD to be sent by mail. With hard-drive failures and computer upgrades being commonplace, having a backup CD makes one feel more secure and flexible.

Again, it's all about convenience, being lazy and being in control.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth.

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