It was the hottest day of the year. Hotter than a fish fryer’s armpit.

And my hosepipe sprung a leak.

The seedlings I’d lovingly tended to over the past few weeks were wilting.

I needed a new hosepipe and quickly.

So I did what anyone would do. I opened up my laptop. A few taps later and I was immersed in a world of hosepipes.

Extra-long hosepipes… Wall-mounted hosepipes… Hosepipes on wheels… Hosepipes that rolled themselves back up automatically…

I found one that looked kinda okay but as my hand hovered over the ‘buy’ button something stopped me from clicking.

A bucket-load of questions came flooding into my brain.

What makes an £80 hosepipe better than a £20 one?

Did I really need a wall-mounted version?

Would it arrive in time to rescue our garden?

What if it arrived and something was wrong? Would it be a pain to return? Could I even return it?

Cursed with indecision I slammed the laptop shut, sighed with defeat and started the first of sixty billionty journeys around the garden with a watering can.

What I’d experienced was purchase anxiety.

If you’re selling online, it’s likely your customers will sometimes suffer from purchase anxiety too. And it doesn’t just apply to high-ticket items or physical goods. Customers can suffer from purchase anxiety when ordering pretty much any product or service.

What causes purchase anxiety?

Surprisingly, price only plays a small part. Lots of other factors come into play too.

It’s a desire not to be ripped off… Not wanting to look stupid… Not wanting the hassle of starting over if they make a mistake… Not wanting to feel regret by making the wrong choice.

So if you can help your customers overcome purchase anxiety, everyone benefits. The benefit for your customer is that you’ve solved their immediate problem. the benefit for you is an increase in sales, orders or subscriptions.

How can you overcome purchase anxiety?

There are lots of elements on your website that will help counter purchase anxiety, like using a professional design and a trusted payment system.

But what I’m really interested in is how your website content can help ease purchase anxiety when selling products or services online. Let’s take a look:

Add detail, then add some more

Buying online is often an angst-inducing process for customers.

They see something they want. But they can’t squidge it, stroke it, or feel the weight of it. They can’t try it on or test it for comfort.

They can’t immediately ask questions or hold one product up against another.

But you can help overcome these barriers by providing as many details as possible about your product or service.

If it’s a physical product, include details about the size and materials used. But don’t just give the facts; put them into context. So rather than saying your widget is 6cm x 12cm, say it’s around the size of a modern smartphone. If it’s made from titanium, say it’s made from the same material used in spacecrafts.

If you’re selling a product or subscription, let the customer know exactly what they are getting for their money.

Include facts and stats

Adding facts to your writing is a great way to add credibility and provide reassurance for potential customers. If you’re making a claim about the performance of your product, back it up with statistics or add a quote from industry research.

The more specific your facts are, the more believable they will be. It’s better to say your product saved customers on average “£218 a year” than “around £200”.

Add testimonials

Whatever you’re selling, testimonials from previous customers are one of the best ways you can overcome purchase anxiety. New customers love the reassurance that comes from reading about the experiences of others, so pepper testimonials around your site.

Be clear who you are

People buy from people they know and trust. So let people know who you are. Add an ‘About’ page to show the people behind the company and reassure customers about your credentials.

Make sure your contact details are clearly displayed. Seeing an address, telephone number and email all provide reassurance.

Leave no question unanswered

The biggest reason people abandon their basket (or cart, for my overseas friends) is because they had a question that wasn’t answered, (like the questions I had when looking at hosepipes).

Just one unanswered question is enough to put a person off buying.

Think about all the questions a customer might have about your product as well as the delivery and returns process. Then answer them fully. You can address the questions throughout your website content and also include an FAQs page to make it super-easy for your customers to find the info they need.

Reassure on privacy and safety

With so many news reports about stolen data and the misuse of personal details, many shoppers are worried about providing their details online.

Make sure your privacy statement is prominent and easy to read. Provide reassurance for the customer at each stage. For example, if you’re asking for personal details, include a link saying ‘how we use these details’.

You can also include a link on your payment page that says ‘how we keep you safe when shopping with us’. Seeing how you’ve addressed their concerns will give your potential customers reassurance.

Be clear on returns

Returns policies are often an overlooked piece of website content – but one that many potential customers will seek out.

Don’t tuck your returns policy away out of sight. When a customer knows they can return an item easily, it takes away one of the biggest purchase barriers. So have a well-written, easy to understand policy.

You can even make your returns policy a big benefit of shopping with you, rather than with your competitors. So include prominent buttons highlighting how easy it is to return an item. For example, ‘FREE RETURNS’ or ‘No quibble returns’.

When creating your returns policy, let the customer know:

  • How long they have to decide before making a return
  • What the process is for returning an item
  • How soon they will get their money back
  • Whether they will get the full amount back or whether there will be a deduction for postage
  • What happens if the item gets lost in the post

Offer a money-back guarantee

Companies are often nervous about offering a money-back guarantee but if you provide a good product and service, people rarely take up a guarantee offer. And if your guarantee generates 100 extra sales but only one person asks for a refund, it’s got to be worthwhile.

Avoid post-purchase anxiety

Just when you thought you’d nailed purchase anxiety, along comes post-purchase anxiety. This is the feeling of panic customers sometimes feel shortly after placing an order.

Perhaps they’ve seen the money leave their bank account but have nothing to show for it (yet).

Maybe they’ve seen the same product elsewhere at a lower cost. Or maybe they mention their purchase to a loved-one who shakes their head sagely and says, “Oh, you should have gone to…”

You don’t want your customer to cancel the order or return the product as soon as it arrives. So take steps to avoid post-purchase anxiety. You can easily do this by keeping the customer up-to-date with their order at every stage of the process.

Send an email as soon as the order is placed. Another when it’s being processed and one when the product is dispatched. Then follow up to check everything is okay a couple of days after the customer has received their order.

As well as including practical details, you could end each email with a quote from another satisfied customer to reassure your buyer that they’ve made a smart choice.

Ensure all communication is in your company’s tone of voice

Whether it’s your returns policy or your dispatch emails, it’s important to keep all communication in your company’s tone of voice. I often see brands use a light-hearted and friendly tone in their main copy but then adopt a more stilted tone when it comes to practical info like delivery details.

There’s no reason why you can’t maintain a friendly tone – even when providing practical information or delivery updates. A consistent tone not only helps build your brand but also provides reassurance to the customer. They recognise your voice in emails and instantly know that the communication is from a trusted source.

Take action

If you think purchase anxiety might be limiting your sales potential, take a look through your website today. Are there changes you could make to the copy to give your customers the confidence they need to buy?

Let me know what you think. And if you’ve enjoyed this article, click over here to download my ebook and discover 19 ways to improve any piece of sales writing.