Shareware Beach

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Ordering Pages from The Customer’s Point of View

Filed under: Marketing — Jan @ 20:03

In a comment to my previous article, reader Ahmad Gneady ponders whether he should spend the time to create integrated order pages for his web site, or just keep sending customers to an e-commerce provider’s order pages. The core of the question is of course which will bring more sales. So we have to look at it from the point of view of the (prospective) customers.

Ahmad argues that a 3rd party sales system is better because the customer knows he can deal with the 3rd party in case the publisher of the software decides to take the money and run. I agree. If Ahmad is your customer, he’ll be more likely to buy if he can do so through an established e-commerce provider. That’s because as a shareware author, he’s very familiar with the way these companies do business. He may even have collected a whole bunch of their freebies at the shareware software industry conference in Denver last week.

But what if your customer is more likely to be an intelligent businesswoman who confidently uses her computer every day. She’ll gladly spend money on any software that will save her valuable time. But she doesn’t hang out with geeks and would rather take her kids to the park than keep on top of the latest online developments. How does she approach your web site and your business?

Nobody will argue with me that she’s never heard of Little Shareware Guy Inc. But has she heard of Digital River or Plimus or BMT Micro? She might have purchased something through them in the past, but I doubt she’ll notice your ordering pages look exactly the same. And if she does notice you’re using an e-commerce provider she’s dealt with before, I’m sure she won’t realize that the fact she had to wait two days to get her license key last time was the fault of the author of the program she bought, and not the fault of the e-commerce provider. All in all, your 3rd party e-commerce provider isn’t going to get much positive brand recognition from her demographic.

In fact, I’d argue that LSG Inc. enjoys far more brand recognition with this prospective customer. She looked around your website to see what you’re about, and compared your site with that of your competitors. She likely downloaded your free trial version and used it for a few days or maybe a week or two. She may even have tried and uninstalled a competing product or two. At any rate, with the typical shareware sales cycle, she has a pretty good idea of your reputation in her mind when she decides to make the purchase.

She’s comparing your product and your site with that of Other Shareware Dude Inc. She’ll compare pricing and payment options, and may even look at the actual ordering pages while still checking out the web sites, before risking a trial installation. But in her mind, the ordering pages are a part of or an extension of your web site. She doesn’t care that SWREG existed as a service on Compuserve since before anyone had ever heard of the Internet, or that Digital River is a large company. Enron was a large company too.

And what if your customer is Granny, who has never bought any software before, and still hasn’t gotten over the shock of having to call her grandson to clean up a sypware infection only three months after he gave her her first computer? She won’t bother with a trial. She shops for a puzzle game like she shops on Amazon.com or any other big online retailer. Does Amazon suddenly send you of to a 3rd party site when it’s time to enter your credit card details–the most risky step in the entire transaction? Of course not! How serious is your business if you can’t take your customer’s money on your own?

This last consideration, in fact, is something I personally look at when trying to determine if I’m dealing with a fly-by-night venture or a serious business. Marble flooring doesn’t make you a better lawyer. But if you can sink your money into the floor and still have enough left to pay for that designer suit, your practice is probably quite successful. At least successful enough to negotiate a nice credit line with your banker. Geeks tend to stick up their noses to fancy fluff. But I bet our smart businessgirl is very aware of how she looks, and how the people she deals with look. While on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog, everybody knows if your website looks like a dog.

In fact, as an aside, geeks are also very aware of how they look. They wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. While peacocks inconvenience themselves with huge tails, and therapists inconvenience themselves with overpriced furniture, geeks inconvenience themselves with shoddy dress. “I’m so smart I can offend all the suits and still strike it rich!” It’s just as folly, of course. But peahens still know what to look for.

You’re probably wondering when I’m going to get to the point. Well, all of the above is the point: you have to put yourself in the mindset of the people you’re trying to get something from. Give people what they want, and they’ll gladly part with their money. But think in terms of real people, not averages or statistics. I learned in high school that the average woman has 1.6 children. Well, during the 24 years I lived there, I never met a woman who had 1.6 children. Most have two. Don’t worry if 40% of your customers think this way or that way. Decide which market you’re after, and optimize for that.

So, what’s my answer to Ahmad? Ha! Have your cake and eat it too! Implement the integrated ordering pages, and keep your current payment processor as an alternative. You’ll impress the people who trust a company that takes the responsibility for their own ordering system. And you’ll still have a safety net for those who’d rather trust a 3rd party provider.

Even if you don’t want to go through the trouble of implementing integrated ordering pages, it’s still a good idea to have more than one e-commerce provider. No matter who you use, you’ll run in the situation where one site is down and the other is not, or one can’t charge the customer’s card for some unknown reason, but the other can. For maximum redundancy, use at least one that’s not owned by Digital River. Nothing wrong with DR. Just that the companies they own share many things on the back-end.

4 Comments

  1. “I’d argue that LSG Inc. enjoys far more brand recognition with this prospective customer.”

    I’m not in the Shareware business, but I think that’s the key (along with reputation and perception, which you also discussed). I would give my credit card info to PayPal before LSG Inc., and I would probably give it to LSG Inc. before Digital River, Plimus or BMT Micro, which are names I do not recognize, even as a technically savvy user (although, granted, I don’t own a ton of shareware). And there’s no question in my mind that a good looking website helps to build confidence. If a software package has an unimpressive website (i.e., the type run by many shareware developers), that software had better have an impressive feature list and lots of good-looking screenshots if they expect to get my money.

    Comment by Steve — Friday, 20 July 2007 @ 6:05

  2. “She doesn’t care [...] that Digital River is a large company. Enron was a large company too.”

    Very true ! From time to time I am being asked what would happen when I got hit by bus or something, and my usual answer is the same – Enron case – the fact that company is big does not meant that it can not disappear.

    Comment by Tomasz — Friday, 20 July 2007 @ 17:31

  3. I’m impressed, Jan! Your argument is very convincing.

    “Implement the integrated ordering pages, and keep your current payment processor as an alternative”

    I think I’ll do exactly that :)

    Comment by Ahmad Gneady — Saturday, 21 July 2007 @ 9:59

  4. Well written, and I agree completely. We forget that we, as geeks, have a different view of the online world than others. Wait, that’s not quite right… we’re not just geeks, we’re internet marketing geeks, so we know little things about selling via the internet that most internet users don’t know, including your average geek.

    Saying “I know who the eCommerce company is, and I trust them, so therefore, my customers will too” is a mistake, IMO. Most people outside the internet marketing world don’t have any idea what the word “eCommerce” means, let alone what an eCommerce company does.

    When a user comes to your website, unless they are an internet marketing geek, they think they are buying from your website. They trust YOU.

    Of course, if all your customers are internet marketing geeks, then perhaps the equation would be different. But even then, maybe not. When I see a company that has integrated credit card processing on their website, my first thought is respect – they’re a big boy, serious about their company. So…

    Comment by Sue Pichotta — Saturday, 21 July 2007 @ 22:22

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