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Does your website close the sale?

by Chris Sutton | January 19, 2012

That’s a question I often ask an ecommerce store owner, and surprisingly frequently, it’s clear that the site hasn’t been thought about in those terms.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the jargon of online commerce; conversion rates, cart abandonment, fulfillment systems etc etc, and of course these things are all important. The problem with focusing on the technology though is that we tend to forget the psychology of buying and selling.

And here’s the key point, irrespective of where or how the sale is being made, purchasers still make buying decisions for the same reasons now as they did 50 years ago.

So what are the classic steps for closing a sale? I don’t think I ever read two text books that agree exactly, but there are some key steps that most everyone agrees on:

  • Build Rapport
  • Ask questions
  • Identify wants and needs
  • Present Product Benefits
  • Gain agreement
  • Close the sale

You’re probably thinking already, how on earth can I identify wants and needs on a website, how can I gain agreement?

The reality I’m afraid is that mostly you can’t directly, so you need to work through these steps using images and text. That’s actually not as hard as it sounds, but it does rely on you understanding your target customer really well, and writing text that answers customers questions, identify wants and needs and describes the benefits of the product.

Here are two examples of a product description for essentially the same product:

White Panama hat features a black band detail around the base of the peak”


“Here’s a sophisticated way to top off your look and protect your face and neck from the sun. Coolibar’s Classic Panama Hat is the real deal: an authentic Cuenca weave hat that’s beautifully constructed and handsomely finished. A true find among grade 8 sun hats!”

The first example is certainly a physical description, but absolutely nothing more. The second covers a lot of bases in a very concise paragraph. It assumes that panama hat wearers are style conscious and want a hat that meets that need, and “sophisticated way to top off your look..”  certainly implies that the hat is going to meet that need. It also doesn’t neglect the basic need for, and benefits of, hats; protection from the sun. With those points well covered, the text then goes on to answer possible customer questions, is it authentic, how is it made, what is the protection level?

So two entirely different product descriptions, the first providing nothing that couldn’t be gleaned from a photograph, the second makes a serious attempt to actually sell the hat.

But the point of this post isn’t to focus on how to write your product descriptions, it’s about what you are trying to achieve when you write them. Remember, you only have photographs and text to persuade your customers to buy from you, they are your salesperson. If you don’t make use of your product descriptions to sell, your photographs are going to have to be pretty amazing!!

SiteSuite Website Design - Online Marketing Blog Author Chris Sutton

Co-founder and Managing Director of SiteSuite Australasia, Australian pioneers in web design and ecommerce since 1997. For more from Chris you can follow him on Google+ or Twitter, and for further professional musings and thoughts on his other passions in life,

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