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Graham Jones - Heading Image
Newsletter Published:
Saturday, June 16th, 2018
Dear Reader,

Last night I was proud to watch my wife, Cathy, get an award from the RFU for her voluntary work at our local rugby club where our son Elliot has played since he was nine years old. Cathy runs the kit shop and is well-known for not letting anyone walk past without buying something...! Her sales skills bring in tens of thousands every year to help improve club funds. Interestingly, the partners of the people receiving awards last night were also thanked for "allowing" their other-halves to do their voluntary work. I thought that "allowing" was a strange word. Cathy does what she likes and does not need permission from me...! This use of the word comes hot on the heels of a parent of one our son's friends asking why we had "allowed" him to choose the University of Manchester as his preferred location because it is "so far away". Well, quite apart from the fact that it's only a couple of hours on the train, the only permission Elliot needed was to choose whatever he wanted to do. The notion of permission being granted from some kind of perceived higher authority is a throwback to the old patriarchal days of yesteryear. But we still see it today thriving in many businesses where staff are controlled by a boss. It's worthwhile noting that several studies show that when you don't control staff and allow people to be themselves they are more productive, contribute more to the bottom line and have less work-related stress. These days, organisations without hierarchies, with flat management structures, where people can do what they believe to be in the company's best interests are amongst the top companies in their sectors. Perhaps it is time to ban the word "allowing". 

Are you providing enough detail online?

The word "evaluation" in the palm of a hand
Have you ever watched someone in a department store as they look for something to buy? You should try it; you will be fascinated. Here's what people do. They see something they might want to buy. They pause, look at the item, perhaps even picking it up if it is small enough. Then they look at something else close by the item, before once again inspecting what they want to buy in a little more detail. They might look at any signage associated with the item, and if the box is available, they'll have a good look at that as well. Then, they will walk away.

A few minutes later you will find them back at the item they picked up earlier. They will pick it up again, look at it from all angles, read the leaflet or signage again and then, once more they'll walk away. This time they will probably head off with their phone in their hand. They are almost certainly looking up the product online. They may read a relevant web page or review, and then you'll think it's all over because they head off out of the store.

But be patient. Stand your ground, because half an hour later your shopper will be back. They will go through the touching, looking and picking up routine all over again. Then, they will grab the item and head off to the checkout. Or if the item is too big to carry they'll look for the nearest sales assistant. After all the palaver of looking and touching, a buying decision is eventually made.

Buying anything is a risk, and the human brain is programmed to minimise risk; it's part of our survival instincts. The trouble is, your basic brain functions cannot distinguish between the risk of stroking a hungry lion and the risk of spending too much money. To the human brain, a risk is a risk.

That's why purchasing decisions are so involved. Buyers are attempting to evaluate the risks of purchase by gathering as much information as possible. And the bigger the purchase, the greater the risk perception and the more we want to be sure we are not making a mistake. Hence, people want as much information as they can gather to help them be sure they are buying the right thing.

This is why the typical shopper in a retail store takes part in the "buyer's dance" of viewing, touching, stepping away and returning. It is all part of the ritual of risk evaluation.

The same happens online. People visit a website, see something they might buy, visit a competitor website to see what they are selling, come back to the original site to take another look before heading off to a review website or a social network to gather more information before coming back to the first web page they visited and making the purchase...!

One of the main reasons why websites lose sales is because of lack of detailed information about what is on sale. Take a look at Amazon and you will find that even basic items have pages that scroll down and down, crammed with information and tiny details. Amazon would not be doing this if it did not help sales. They discovered that just 100ms extra on a page load time can reduce sales by 1%. That might not seem much, but 1% of Amazon's sales is a cool $2bn. So they would not want to miss out on this amount of income by having web pages that load slowly because they have too much information. Amazon knows that the depth of information is a key reason for sales taking place - indeed it has tested it.

So too did the Reader's Digest. They once tested a 7-page sales letter against a 21-page sales letter. The longer sales letter dramatically increased uptake with many more subscriptions being sold. The reason that long sales letters work is that - even if we don't read them - they help us perceive a reduction in risk, thereby making the buying decision much easier.

Now, a new study from Avionos, the Chicago-based e-commerce consultancy, shows that in the "Business to Business" sector it is lack of information on websites that is the number-one reason why products or services are not being purchased. This confirms what I said on Page 34 of "Click.ology" where I gave several examples of highly successful websites that achieve great things by providing extensive amounts of information. 

It also shows that the Daily Mail is right. When they switched to producing lengthy headlines, instead of typical short newspaper snappy titles, their readership went up. They are now one of the most highly-read websites in the world and their headlines average 25 words. Similarly, a recent study of advertising from Hawaii showed that even cutting the number of words in an advertisement had an adverse effect.

Wherever you look, the notion that "small is great" is knocked on the head. Your web pages need to be highly detailed and lengthy. Indeed, the most shared items on social media have an average length of 1,800 words, according to one study. Another piece of research found that web pages that are more highly ranked by Google are the ones that tend to be the longest for each specific search term.

In other words, your customers want detail. They want lots and lots of information. Having short and snappy web pages merely makes people think buying from you is too risky.

Sure, they are not going to read thousands of words. But if your web pages have a large number of words, those visitors are much more likely to want to buy from you. If you do not provide lots of details on your website and product pages, you are reducing your chances of selling, whether you are "Business to Consumer" or "Business to Business" because short copy suggests higher purchase risk.

The new study from Chicago and the advertising research from Hawaii confirm - once again - that the more text you have associated with whatever you are selling, the more likely it is that people will buy from you.
Well, Reader, that's it for another Saturday. I wish you well for the week ahead. See you in just seven days time...! If you have a topic you would like me to cover in a forthcoming newsletter you can let me know by filling in the form on my newsletter question page.

Kind Regards

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Graham Jones
Internet Psychologist

Telephone: +44 (0)118 336 9710
Email: graham@grahamjones.co.uk

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