Gotta Have It!

Impulse buying on the Web? Why not? Sometimes all customers need is a little nudge.

You've seen impulse selling in action at the grocery checkout line. But impulse selling on the Internet?

That's right-believe it or not, the Web offers a great opportunity for persuading your customers to make purchases beyond their original intents. In fact, Ruth P. Stevens, president of eMarketing Strategy, a New York City customer acquisition and retention consulting firm, points out that the Net is a perfect forum for impulse selling. "Consumers on the Web are roaming all over the place, with their minds and pocketbooks open," she says. "They are ready and willing to be influenced."

When it comes to encouraging visitors to buy on impulse, you've got plenty of strategies to choose from. But first and foremost is making sure your Web site is designed for fast, convenient sales. "Do everything you can to get out of the way of the purchase," suggests Stevens. "Make sure your site has smooth navigation. Reduce the number of clicks required to get to the purchase. Streamline the order page. Rework the page content to eliminate scrolling."

Stevens also suggests placing guarantee statements throughout your Web site and in highly visible spots, including the home page. "Anything that makes the purchase risk-free is going to work," she says. It's also a good idea to disclose shipping charges early in the buying process to avoid shopping cart abandonment when your customers meet the unpleasant surprise of an additional cost. "Some statistics show that shopping carts are abandoned at the rate of 75 to 100 percent, and I think one of the culprits is shipping and handling charges that are not disclosed early," she continues.

In addition, you should make it a point to examine your site's log files to help you understand how people move around your site. That way, you can pinpoint the most popular-and least popular-pages. Factoring that information into the design of your site, you can make the popular pages easier to get to and eliminate the least popular pages unless they're required. "The point is, you should rearrange the navigation so people can get to the sales quickly."

Another tip: Put a daily special on your home page. "The flexibility and infinite variety and updatability of the Web is screaming for us to make frequent new offers all the time," Stevens explains, "and a daily special is an obvious opportunity to grab people's attention and get that impulse working."

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at

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This article was originally published in the April 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Gotta Have It!.

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