Jonathan Leger – SEO And Internet Marketing Blog Internet Marketing Blog


How NOT to sell anything online — Ever. (Please, don’t do this!)

So I was in the market for a new help desk system, and I decided to go with the one that my primary hosting provider uses because it's really great to interact with from the user perspective (in my opinion). I file support tickets with my host all the time to get all kinds of things done, and it's always very straight-forward and easy to do. As I look through the back-end demo on the support software vendor's web site, I see that it does lots of great things that will help my support staff.

Wonderful, I'm ready to buy.

Problem #1: Where's the buy link?

But, wait, how do I buy? I'm looking around on the page describing the various levels of the software I can purchase, but there's no "buy" link next to any of them.

After a few moments of hunting, I finally see it in the upper-right hand corner of the page -- masked by its background color. Not easy to see at all.

I click Order Now.

Problem #2: I can't buy without an account.

After clicking Order Now, I'm taken to a screen informing me that I have to create an account or login. What? Why? Why do I need an account to purchase a piece of software?

I'm annoyed, but I start filling out the form. It asks for all kinds of irrelevent information: my address (it's a software download, why do they need my address?), my company name, fax number (does anybody fax anymore?) etc.

At least it doesn't make me verify my email address before logging me in.

Problem #3: I can't buy using the email address I gave them.

After logging into the system using the account I (for some reason) had to create, I have to step through four pages of selections before finally getting to the "make your payment" button (yes, four pages of unnecessary selections).

I click the "make your payment" button -- but wait! -- I'm informed that I can't purchase using a Gmail email address.

Seriously! They won't take my money because my email address is through Gmail! How ludicrous is that??? On top of that, they inform me of this AFTER I go through four pages of selections and NOT before I create the account!

So after hunting around the account screen, I finally find an 'Account Settings' link where (I assume) I can change my email address to an email address that I never use (since they won't take the one that I use all the time).

Are you sensing what's coming?

I can't change my email address!

Nope, I have to contact their support staff to have my email address changed. Their support staff which is currently offline.

Problem #4: Where's my software?

Rather than going through the process of contacting their support staff, I just logout and create a new account (under an email address that I never use) and walk through the four pages of selections again. I make it to the "make your payment" button again, and, holding my breath -- I click it.

It works! I'm taken to WorldPay to checkout. They don't take PayPal (which I prefer to use), but that's okay -- I just generate a one-time use credit card number via PayPal and use that instead.

On the checkout page, there's a big box asking for the billing address, and a box below that asking for the zip code. Hmm... do they want my FULL billing address in that box, or just the PO Box number? I don't know, and the help under the Billing Address link doesn't tell me.

I enter in my full billing address and other details and -- holding my breath again -- click submit.

Yay! It works.

After the payment is made, though, I'm immediately informed that my transaction has to be verified by the vendor before I'll get my software, and that the process will take 24 hours.

What??? Why on earth do you have to verify the transaction? You have my money, where's my download link?

NEVER sell ANYTHING online like this!

The support software these guys sell is stellar, but their sales process is the most painful I've ever had to get through. The ONLY reason I didn't cancel and walk away from it is that I know how good the software is. I actually did walk away for a while before deciding that I had to put up with it in order to get the best software to provide the best support for my customers. Had I even a little less conviction than I do, I would have left them behind (and they would have lost about $300).

I'm telling you about this because you need to know how NOT to sell online. People purchasing online are impatient and easily put off by long and difficult sales processes. The high rate of abandoned orders at major retailers is evidence of this.

When you want people to buy from you, make it work like this:

  1. Show them the product, complete with description and price and a BIG VISIBLE "BUY NOW" BUTTON (or link).
  2. When they click BUY NOW, take them immediately to the checkout process. Don't require them to create an account first, and PLEASE don't prevent them from buying just because they use Gmail.
  3. After the purchase is complete, if it's a digital product, deliver it instantly. Don't wait to "verify" the sale. If your payment processor doesn't support that, GET A DIFFERENT PROCESSOR. There's too many out there that support instant delivery to use one that doesn't.
  4. If you need the person to have some kind of account with you for support purposes, etc., have them create that account after the sale. Send them directly to the account creation process after purchase, and email them a link to create their account in case they fail to do so. Trust me, when they need support, they'll eventually create an account with you!

Whew. Okay, I had to get that out of my system.

Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment on this post.

[Edit]To respond to some of the comments: I'm not giving the name of the software because the purpose of this post is not to bash the vendor. Let me just say that it's a BIG NAME in the help desk market. Also, the software is GREAT, but their sales process is lousy -- must be different teams responsible for the two![/Edit]