Why We’re Accepting Failure As The Norm Online – The Real Reason People Don’t Buy From You

What do physical stores and ecommerce sites have in common? What are the most obvious similarities in both?

For starters they both promote themselves to generate traffic to their business, they both have a range of products and they both need a steady flow of revenue to keep their heads above water.

Setting The Scene

Let’s take a minute to set the scene…imagine you own a clothing store on a busy city block and it’s the Saturday of your big radio advertising campaign where you expect to bring in at least enough sales to make back the money you’ve spent on advertising plus 50% which is fair.

On the Saturday as you arrive at your store to open as normal to your enjoyment you see a line of eager customers waiting to enter and buy your latest fashion and cash in on the great deal you mentioned in your radio ad. You open the doors telling the now crowd to wait 5 minutes while you turn the alarm off and turn the lights on, you then come back and open the doors to let them rush in!

Throughout the day you have 500 people enter your store which is a great result, and your shop neighbors ask you how you managed to get so many people through the door, you proudly tell them about your radio ad which you had done for you.

That evening after closing up you sit down with your two staff to go over how much was sold throughout the day. Your face turns bright red and your staff have a “it wasn’t me” look on their faces because what you’ve just noticed is that although you had 500 people walk through the door as a direct result of your radio ad, the money that came in won’t even cover the costs of one staff member for the day.

Confused and deflated you ask your staff to stay back to go over the finer details of exactly what went on, or more to the point what went wrong…

Together with your staff you write down how many people did what and put them into the below categories.

The Breakdown

  • 307 People walked into the store, spent 2-5 seconds at the entrance looked up and down, left and right didn’t touch anything then with a hurried look turned around and left.
  • 63 People entered the store, walked around a little then found and picked up some clothes which liked off the rack then walked to the cashier. Your staff then tells you that as soon as they asked the question “would you like to pay by cash or card” the shoppers had a puzzled look on their faces, looked around the room once more then dropped the clothes on the floor and sprinted out of the door without saying a word!
  • 115 People entered the store with a happy smile on their faces and immediately knew exactly what they wanted to buy. They rushed to the winter clothing corner of the store straight for the coat they’d been searching for but as they tried to pick it up off the rack the hanger that was holding it became stuck and wouldn’t come off, they began to tug and fight with the rack until they just gave up. Now frustrated and upset with their experience these shoppers left and won’t be coming back in any hurry.
  • 15 people found what they wanted, paid you by card at the counter, said thank you and left.

Do you see where this is going? We’re accepting failure as the norm online!!!

Now in a real retail situation this would constitute a miscommunication where by either the radio ad produced a severely incorrect message or the actual store has their product offering completely wrong amongst other things.

But online it’s seen as okay due to the amount of traffic contributing to the high bounce rates and low conversion rates.

Happy To Lose

The average conversion rate or amount of visitors that become customers from an ecommerce website is 3% according to research undertaken by MarketingSherpa. Now looking at that figure in isolation you could say that its a good result given the amount of business being done through your ecommerce site… right?

The real question is however why is it okay to lose 97% of your visitors online but it sounds like a story from hell when reading the above example? Although the above situation sounds very farfetched, it is exactly what is happening every second of every day on sites throughout the web that sell products, services, information or anything else you can think of.

An ecommerce store has one major difference to it’s physical counterpart, it’s SUPERCHARGED!, it’s a retail store on steroids, it’s an ecommerce world in which people come and go by the millions not hundreds. To the point where as a global economy we are on track to spend in excess of 1.5 trillion dollars this year alone.

Ecommerce sales worldwide
Source: emarketer.com

The global accessibility of ecommerce stores over physical stores has meant that traffic can come and go from far more directions at an increasingly fast rate. Whether they come from search engine results, social media, blogs, links, or offline channels into our website is besides the point. It’s important to tackle to one all important numbers game to understand why the numbers in their analytical traffic reports don’t actually reflect the numbers in their bank accounts or revenue reports.

Increase in organic traffic doesn't match your revenue
Source: advancedconversion.com

For those of you who have already thought ahead it may be true that visitors coming to a website may not be ready to take action to buy or contact just now and may have just clicked over to your site because they liked the women in the picture or the urgency created by your free shipping for the next 12 hours banner. Whereas a physical location implies a stronger commitment and a much more difficult escape as your out of your comfort zone and physically involved.

Is it due to the labels we place on our traffic?

Browsers/Visitors not Buyers/Shoppers

There are in fact hundreds of reasons why a browser or a visitor will not buy from you and it’s because they are just that…

  • BROWSERS – noun a person who looks casually through publications or websites or at goods for sale.
  • VISITORS – noun a person visiting someone or somewhere, especially socially or as a tourist.

Both definitions taken from Wikipedia.

So if a browser is someone who looks casually and a visitor is someone who just visits as a tourist, how can we ever attempt to fulfill the need they don’t know they have?

What do we call people who walk into a clothing shop? Shoppers right?. If someone called you while you were out looking at clothes and asked you what you were doing, you’d most likely say “I’m out shopping”. Something peculiar then happens because when a salesperson from the store approaches you and asks “do you need a hand with anything” what do we say, “No thanks, I’m just browsing”. So we’ve just gone from being an active shopper when speaking to our friend on the phone to just browsing for some reason.

It may be the case that the exact same psychology we use with physical locations we as humans can’t help to use online because it’s what we’ve always done. Much like the above example you can imagine the situation online, a browser/visitor comes to your website and the minute they feel that what you’re offering doesn’t meet their fleeting needs or potential future wants they leave or bounce. The minute they feel that their needs aren’t being met or that you’re “selling” to them, they leave. Most people don’t wants to be sold to, especially not in the digital space, the internet has given us control of more information and choice than we could have ever dreamed of and that’s exactly what we expect from our “browsing” experience, to have enough available information and choice for us to make our own decision not be sold to.

In terms of a practical method for overcoming the broken communication link between browsers and buyers, try the below.

Reducing Lost Traffic

An easy way to start off correcting some of the wasted traffic is to remember what David Beckham would do if he were in ecommerce web design… Huh? You’ve got to SCORE!


  • S Security through external credibility to remove anxiety and increase trust
  • C Clarity of website function, navigation and business aim
  • O Organised and logical design free from distractions and clutter
  • R Relevant to what the user searched or the site that referred
  • E Emotional through urgency, scarcity, lust, loss or other

The rules are simple be relevant and connect your message with your audience in every way so that they begin to feel more comfortable with buying into your brand before your product.

As opposed to selling to your market here you’re trying to make it easier for them to become a customer by removing the roadblocks between your product and their browsing/visiting habit.

It’s all easier said than done, but it takes drastic measures to achieve drastic results, to conclude the question of why people don’t buy from you, it’s clear that there are many little reasons which each might mean 1-10% of the reason why people don’t buy from you. The truth of the matter is that if you can begin to fix some of these key items chances are you’ll begin to achieve higher conversion rates closer to that of a retail store and far far away from the average 3% ecommerce conversion which we have become accustomed to accept.

Welcoming comments, feedback and connections.

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  1. As a web developer I find more times than not the client is more concerned with how THEY want the website to look and how THEY shop and they completely lost sight of the fact that THEY are not part of the equation and they need to put more focus into how their customer shops, how their customer feels about something and how their customer want to be treated! Site owners need to pay more attention to their analytics and less on their own personal emotional attachment to how they view their product or services.

    • Your spot on Kevin,
      Without looking at what the market wants and needs from your business/website how can any business owner endeavour to create enough need from their audience.

      The more we understand about our market and customer and the better we can tailor a message to their specific needs the more successful we will become.

  2. This is so true, promoting yourself correctly is huge, and unfortunately wasted traffic is going to happen on the web but I see the difference now with visitors and browsers. Thanks for the share!

    • Thanks Teelah, your right wasted traffic in inevitable in both physical and online stores however the major difference which sets online a part from offline. is…….. The ability to track and know exactly which channel/sources/keywords/referrers/locations produced the wasted traffic. This then gives us the ability to adjust and evolve our digital marketing strategies to further align with the market.

      There’s no one size fits all solution, because there is no one size fits all consumer.

  3. Cool Article,
    really helped me

  4. Some great points made in this article. I always find adding a personal touch to the website goes a long way. If the user feels like their dealing with a person rather than just an online store they will make more of a connection and feel at ease completing the sale.

    • Spot on and that’s where the future is heading. Its all about personalisation and making the online experience more about the user than the product and company.

  5. Seriously, you put in a lot of effort in creating this tutorial. You made it too easy for us and I’m stuck at the simplest step .

    • Which step are you stuck at Maidul?

  6. Well this is something I have been trying to create for a while though mine didn’t come out exactly like Thank you for this tutorial.

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