Every web user has experienced anxiety of some form or another. It might be very mild, but you’ve probably experienced it yourself, even if you were unaware of it.
Anxiety is one of the greatest sources of friction and loss of revenue in ecommerce today.
If you’re a marketer, you have an interest in increasing online sales or conversions. And if you’re interested in doing that, then you must be aggressive about reducing anxiety. This article gives you a strategic and tactical roadmap for doing just that.
What Is Anxiety?
A Definition of Anxiety
I’m discussing anxiety in the context of ecommerce friction elements. Within that context, here is my definition of anxiety.
Anxiety is any psychological discomfort that a user experiences when they are visiting a website at any stage of the buy cycle. Anxiety results in no conversion action taken.
Anxiety, as you’ll see in this article, is pretty broad. “Psychological discomfort” can touch on a lot of things. That’s why I’ve provided more than just a three-step process for nixing anxiety. It’s not quite that simple.
Anxiety is the biggest source of friction.
In my article on friction, I surveyed some of the leading ecommerce conversion experts regarding their definition of “friction.” The word “anxiety” came up several times.
My friend Rich Page remarked, “The underlying problems some refer to as friction are more related to anxiety-causing elements.”
His point was that friction is basically about anxiety.
If you want to reduce friction — and you should — then you’ll want to reduce anxiety.
You’ll never completely remove anxiety from the equation.
Anxiety is part of the larger issue of friction. And friction will always be part of the ecommerce process. The big issue, then, is how do you reduce anxiety?
That is exactly what I’m going to answer in the section that follows.
So, how exactly do you reduce anxiety?
This article has four main sections
Within each section, I dive into detail on the actual how-to.
1. Prove that you’re credible
Use Social Proof
What do other people think about your product or service? “Social proof” is sharing with your users what other customers have had to say about their experience. In today’s review-driven purchasing world, it’s imperative that you reduce anxiety by use of social proof.
Here are four ways that you can do that:
1. Feature your “most popular” product or service.
If you’re selling a product or service, you can highlight it by calling it out as “most popular.” If users see, “Most customers buy this one,” or “This is our most popular service level,” it can reduce their anxiety about the choice they make.
2. Offer plenty of testimonials.
Testimonials can become your best friend. In e-commerce they are essential. Rather than speak for yourself, let your satisfied customers speak for you. Make the effort to follow up with pleased customers and ask them for a quick email or statement. These testimonials will serve as the basis for reducing the anxiety of hundreds or thousands of other users.
3. Create star ratings.
Many ecommerce retailers have found that star ratings are a great way to provide social proof for the value of their product. Amazon uses this effectively for every product that they sell.
4. Allow reviews.
When you open up your products to reviews, you are basically opening the door to anything users want to say about it. This is a clear message that you care about transparency, and want to give users the most honest and straightforward truth about your product that you possibly can.
Show that you’re authoritative.
When you establish your authority in your niche, you are sending up huge trust signals. People will have greater trust in those who are in a position of thought leadership. If you have a level of expertise, and show it in your web presence, you will drive anxiety to the level of near-banishment.
Here are four ideas for promoting your authority.
1. Be big on branding.
First off, your branding has got to look legit. You have a logo, you have a standardized way of presenting yourself on your website, twitter, Facebook, etc. Don’t settle for chintzy. Give your branding the investment it deserves. Your branding is the whole public perception of your brand. Without adequate branding, you do not have an adequate brand.
2. Gush about your awards.
If you’ve been recognized with awards, webbys, achievements, “mentioned in,” or “used by,” tell the world about it. The bigger your trophy case, the more you’ll reduce anxiety.
3. Declare who uses you or where you’ve been mentioned.
One of the greatest ways to create a sense of authority is to mention all kinds of other authoritative sources and sites. If a visitor to your site sees that you’ve been mentioned in Forbes magazine or that your services are used by MSNBC, they automatically import that sense of international recognition and world-class famousness into your brand. You instantly win trust.
4. Create authoritative information.
In today’s content-driven world, you won’t get very far unless you are actually a publisher of great content. A niche’s most notable brands are those that have the most cutting-edge content and up-to-date information.
Information-rich and expert guidance on topics of niche importance are what give me the big wins. If you’ve spent five or six hours crafting a two-thousand word piece of content that delivers awesome information, people will trust you more.
This is the recipe for winning content: 1) Information rich, 2) Expert level, 3) Niche significance. Be a purveyor of information, not just a seller of stuff.
This point on authoritative information could be expanded into an entire series. Rather than spew forth another few thousand words on the subject, let me just make a few final bullet points of advice:
- Make sure your writing is grammatically correct. Typos will happen. Try to keep them to a minimum.
- Research your subject. People might care about your opinions. But usually, people care more about facts that backed by data and driven by research.
- Don’t be afraid of length. Statistics and social sharing show that long-form content gets shared more and read more.
- Interact with others. Although you’re establishing your thought leadership, you still have other leaders to discuss things with. As you publish your writing, link to others’ content, quote other authorities, and discuss their findings.
- Strategically use guest posting opportunities to expand your influence. If you start producing content in some of the industry’s most recognized publications, you immediately gain a sense of authority and expand your reputation. Visitors who come to your site from other widely recognized content sites will automatically have a higher level of trust and a lower level of anxiety.
2. Educate your users
Your users will trust you more if you give them the information that they’re looking for, information they didn’t know they were looking for, and then even more information on top of that.
Information is knowledge. That knowledge reduces user anxiety.
The point I want to make in this section is that educating your users will help to lower their anxiety levels. There are eight specific points I want to make here. Each of these points is an opportunity to reduce anxiety by delivering more information.
Discuss your pricing
Admittedly, this is a controversial topic. Not everyone is convinced of the need to display prices, but it can work as long as you know how to do it.
When you’re transparent about your pricing, you help reduce the potential recoil from sticker shock, or the fear that it’s going to be “too expensive,” or “it sounds so cheap.”
Explain the functional benefits
Users want to know exactly what your product or service does, and how it’s going to help them. A list of functional benefits is the perfect way to achieve this. You don’t need anything really complicated. A bullet list of benefits is good enough.
Provide the emotional benefits
This is where you can unleash the real genius. When a customer prepares to buy a product or service, they have an instinctive emotional hesitation. That’s normal. Whether they are anticipating buyer’s remorse, unsure about the product, or simply worried about spending money, they will have heightened internal emotions
If you can show a customer the emotional benefits of your product, however, they will experience reduced anxiety.
What are the emotional benefits of a product? Let’s say you are a provider of in-home health services for seniors. Your customers are the concerned adult children of these elderly people. You want to speak directly to the emotional needs of these customers.
By trusting you with the care of their parents, these adult children will feel peaceful, confident, assured, happy, relieved. Are you selling peace, confidence, assurance, happiness and relief? Absolutely, yes.
No, these emotional benefits aren’t the deliverable. Your deliverable has to do with blood pressure checks, support pillows, bathing service, and medicine refills. But your ultimate product is indeed emotional.
What do you think? Does this one do it?
When you satisfactorily address a customer’s emotional needs, you’ve basically won the battle against anxiety.
Show your value
Customers also want to know that they’re getting the best deal available. In their mind, the process is pretty simple: They give you money. You give them awesome.
So, your goal is to tell them how much awesome they’re getting. This comes in the form of value propositions. I recommend that you spend a lot of time creating a value proposition. This propositional assertion is the bedrock of your company, and the key point at which a user will lose their anxiety-driven inhibitions.
Compare with other products or services
One of the best ways to show off your awesome is to compare it with the competition. Many service providers show a list of benefits in a graph, explaining how many of the listed benefits they fulfill as opposed to their customers.
Another approach is to display prices as compared to your competitors. You already know that your customers are going to be comparing you with your competitors. Why don’t you make their job easier, and do the comparison yourself?
The visual aspect of anxiety reduction is huge. If you are selling a product, show pictures — lots of big, detailed, professional pictures. These pictures will allow a user to see and experience your product. That experience, provided it’s a good one, will take their anxiety and carry it far, far away.
Even better than pictures, try videos. A professionally-created demonstration video, featuring your product or service, is a great way to pack more anxiety-reducing information into your approach.
If you have a technical product or service, there will be those who crave the details. Details — especially the kind with numbers, decimal points, and abstruse acronyms — these inspire trust.
If you’re selling a Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive, then you should tell your potential customers that the SATA Transfer Rates Supported (Gb/s) include 6.0/3.0/1.5 with the interface option of SATA 6Gb/s NCQ.
To the interested customer, that means something.
Details. Give them details.
3. Be Consistent
Earlier in this article, I discussed the importance of branding. Branding, of course, isn’t just about logo design. It’s about more. The supreme lord of marketing, Seth Godin defines “brand” in the following way:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another
This definition has “consistency” written all over it. That word — “expectations” — has a subtext of consistency. Brands that are trusted have told their customers what expectations to have. Time and again — consistently — they meet or exceed those expectations.
Godin’s definition centers on the “choice” of a customer — the choice to select your brand over any other. When friction is eliminated and when anxiety is done away with, what you have is a customer choosing your brand. Why? Because you’ve been consistent. You’ve created a consistent set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships.
So, here are the four ways to maintain that consistency:
Have a consistent appearance
Make sure that you have a logo, colors, images, and advertisements that look generally the same. To use a really specific example, your cover photo for your Facebook page should have the same color scheme and image style as your cover photo on Twitter.
Deliver the same visual experience, regardless of where a potential customer interacts with you.
Have a consistent presence
By “consistent presence,” I’m referring to your social activity, content marketing regularity, and even your advertising retargeting. If you drop off of a user’s Twitter feed, you’ll be forgotten. If your retargeting expires, a user who used to see your Facebook ads won’t think about you anymore.
Keep a consistent presence on all your platforms.
Have consistent high quality
The most meaningful interaction you will have with your customer is at the point at which they actually experience your product or service. This is your chance to establish your level of quality.
If you get started on the right foot by delivering high quality, then you have established an excellent precedent. But you must carry on this precedent. Your customer expects consistent high quality. Deliver it.
A single incidence of lower quality service will raise anxiety and introduce friction.
Have a consistent message
Your brand has something to say. Keep this message consistent. Customers new or existing have come to expect, trust, and rely on that message.
If Nike stopped being about “Just Do It,” people would rightly experience a touch of anxiety. Hey, here it one of their newest ads. Where’s the “Just Do It” message?
4. Create a sense of security
The final broad category of anxiety reduction has to do with creating a sense of security.
To provide an example of “security,” let me share with you how it feels to live in a secure house. If you know your house is secure, you live with a low sense of anxiety. You sleep better. You work better.
You know that the floor is solid. No one is going to fall through it. You know that the property has been tested for radon levels, so you’re not breathing noxiousness. You’ve tested the windows and know that they can lock, but you can open them if you want. The doors have locks on them. The security system is installed properly and works. There are smoke detectors. This is a home that is secure, and you’re not anxious.
Your website should provide security in much the same way. You need to assure the user — to reduce their anxiety — by showing just how secure it is. Such a feeling of security allows them to move through the conversion funnel with no anxiety friction.
Here’s how to create a sense of security on your website.
Allow users to ask questions
Messaging or chat services are a great way to give users that sense of security by connecting with a real person and getting their questions answered.
Provide privacy policies
Some people are very concerned about what you’ll do with their personal information. Tell them how aggressively you protect their identity and personal details, email address, payment information, etc. You don’t want to be the next Target or SSL.
Show security icons
Many businesses use security icons to demonstrate their legitimacy and business integrity. Whether it’s from the Better Business Bureau or McAfee, these icons help the user feel more secure.
Display physical address and phone number
You can affirm the legitimacy of your online business by featuring a physical address and a real phone number.
Provide a money back guarantee
Creating a guarantee is part of doing good business. Great guarantees help to reduce the sense of anxiety that comes from taking a risk.
Tell them that they can cancel at anytime
Many of us have been scared about everlasting and inescapable contracts. Maybe it’s the coffee delivery company that keeps sending coffee and charging our credit card, or the interminable cable service with the ninety-year contract that you’re not allowed to break.
Tell your customer about your cancellation policy, especially if they’re allowed to cancel at anytime without a risk.
Share your return policy
Some of the world’s most reputable companies are those with the strongest return policies. Returns can be expensive for the company providing them, but they serve as a huge source of anxiety reduction for the customer buying from them. If you can afford it, be generous with your return policy. It will take anxiety away.
Creating a sense of security for the customer shows that you care about them. This helps them connect with you on an emotional level. They understand that you are concerned, and they trust your level of service.
They are far more likely to buy from you.
Conclusion: Low anxiety means lots of sales
Anxiety is probably the largest category of ecommerce friction. More customers bail due to anxiety than for any other reason.
If you want to be truly successful in your space, you will do well to reduce anxiety. Get rid of it. It’s bad. Take it away.
Banish it. Kill it. Eliminate it. Destroy anxiety.
A site with low anxiety levels is a site that can welcome hordes of happy, anxiety-free visitors. It’s an awesome thing to behold.
Read more Crazy Egg articles by Jeremy Smith.