Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Web?

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

In our house, we’re happy to order pretty much anything online. From books and oven-gloves to chocolate and software, we’re used to the process of entering our credit card details and waiting for something to arrive on our doorstep a few days later. If you’re a member of the ASP, chances are you feel the same way. The Internet is like the street where we grew up – we know what to look out for, we know the do’s and the don’ts, and we’re pretty savvy when it comes to avoiding mountains of spam and strange Nigerian money-making scams.

We sometimes forget that not everybody is like that. Even in today’s world, there are literally millions of people out there who have access to the Internet, use it for email, news and searches, but are too worried about the potential consequences of shopping online. This is particularly true outside the US.

Take my Dad as an example. An educated Englishman in his sixties, reasonably computer literate, very happy to try out new software, and prepared to spend money on quality products. Will he buy software online? Never. He gets me to sort it out for him and burn it onto a CD which I then send him in the mail.

My Dad is by no means unique. Many of the people who know “a bit” about the Internet seem to have picked up mainly on the negative issues. They worry about identity theft, credit card fraud, and other unknown, looming dangers, and aren’t prepared to take any risks. They’d much rather get in their car, drive to the nearest PC Superstore and buy a nice, boxed set of overpriced software – which they’re more than happy to pay for with their credit card! Ironic, I know.

Here’s my point: these are people who could use your software and who’d be willing to pay for it. This is why it is absolutely vital that you help them along and guide them through the dark and scary alleys of Internet shopping. You have a lot to gain, and so do your potential new customers. So what can you do to make your customers feel more relaxed and less terrified of parting with their name, address and credit card numbers? The answer is to hold their hands all the way through the process.

First of all, it’s not a bad idea to remind them that they’re dealing with a real, breathing person, not just a faceless software droid on the other side of the globe (bonus: this also makes other people more likely to actually pay for your product rather than just go and get a crack for it). Include some details about yourself, your company, what you do, and maybe even a picture where you don’t look like you’ve just chopped up your neighbour and buried him in the garden. Don’t go over the top – including pictures of yourself at your latest poker night or winning a pie eating contest is probably not conducive to creating an image of a true professional, but don’t be afraid to include some personal facts. A lot of people still yearn for Ye Olde Village Shoppe, and many like to feel as if they know exactly who they’re buying from.

You also want to assure them that paying for your software is not going to be the beginning of complete financial ruin through credit card fraud. Explain what a secure server is, and make it clear that it is actually safer to give out their details this way than using it in a garage, diner or department store. If you feel it is needed, include links to official sites such as www.safeshopping.org so that they can see for themselves that safe shopping on the web really does exist.

Explain the concept of shareware – make it clear that you charge a one-time fee, and that your customers won’t have to pay you once a month to use your product (you’d be surprised how often that question pops up). And if they still don’t feel happy about sending information over the Internet, give them other options. If they want to, they should be able to phone and give their details that way instead. Some people prefer sending cheques in the mail – maybe you want to cater to them, too.

Clearly state what your refund and return policies are. Let your customers know that the Internet isn’t a black hole where money is thrown in, never to be seen again. If you collect any kind of information from your customers (address, purchase data etc.), be sure to include a Privacy Policy on your website. This should tell your customers exactly what information is being collected and stored, and how that information is being used. Make it clear that their details will not under any circumstances be handed over to a third party, and be sure to tell them if they’re going to be added to your client mailing list, and how they can be removed from it should they want to.

Most of you will have an FAQ concerning the ins and outs of your software. You may want to consider setting up a separate FAQ for the worried prospective client. Treat each customer as if they’re about to make their very first online purchase – explain each step of the process, and tell them exactly what they can expect at every point. Don’t leave anything to chance.

To many of you, this may seem like a ridiculous level of mollycoddling. Surely people know how to buy things online, in this day and age? Well, a lot of people do. But for those who don’t, you want to present yourself as a safe, trustworthy and easy place to buy software. Welcome those trembling first-timers with open arms, and you could well stand to see a increase in your sales. Be seen, be sold.

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.