Are You Making Enough of Your Sales Online?


Do you want customers to buy online or offline? Parallels experience working with service providers shows a high percentage of small business hosting plan purchases are made on the phone talking to a living, breathing salesperson. Depending on the type of service provider, as few as 10% of direct channel sales by small businesses are via online purchase with up to 70% being made “offline” – via inbound phone calls – and the remainder being outbound campaign sales to existing customers. To be sure, these “offline” purchases are driven by online content. SMBs call after reviewing the service provider website. Research done through our SMB Cloud Insights report series reveals that for SaaS applications, for example, an SMB’s own online research is their number one source of information with more than 60% of SMBs citing it.


If that’s the case, why are so few hosting plan purchases by SMBs made online? Typically it is because of services discoverability issues on the website and the natural tendency for a generally non-technical buyer to need reassurance before pulling the trigger. 

But if your goal is to increase the number of purchases your SMB customers make online because you want to spend less on your call center staffing, what can you do? One area to investigate is your buying and checkout experience. The Baymard Institute does an unusual annual study related to customer checkout experience. They take users and watch them go through the checkout processes of 15 different popular e-commerce sites. What they discover from this is general principles around usability-related issues due to poor checkout design and how that increases customer abandon rates.  


Their findings are massive but touching on a few high level items might help get you pointed in the right direction.


+ The top reasons for checkout abandonment:

– Extra cost (shipping, tax, fees) 33%

– Forced account creation 23%

– Credit card trust 18%

– Complicated checkout process 18%


You may say that the top two don’t apply to service providers. But the study found it wasn’t so much the charging of extra fees, for example, as it was the confusing way it was presented or explained.


+ A disruptive problem with copywriting: Try to avoid technical jargon – think about who your audience is. That’s an obvious one, right? Here’s one that isn’t so obvious on the copywriting front and it is even more harmful: Not having descriptions for form field labels. In many cases what may seem obvious to you (“Address line 2”) will make no sense to some of your potential customers and in other cases what is obvious makes buyers balk (“Email address”) because they need an explanation of why you need that information (“To communicate with you – we never sell your email address”).  

+ A layout problem: Unclear error indications. This is the most harmful issue related to layout. If buyers can’t find the error on the form or don’t understand it there is a very high probability they will abandon the checkout process. This is especially true if they can’t find the error and submit the form again only to have it rejected yet again. In those situations they think the problem is a bug on your site. Ouch.

So while you may always have a high rate of “offline” purchases just because it’s the nature of the beast with this type of customer and product, you might want to take a look at your online checkout experience to see if it’s as buyer-friendly as you need it to be.



Scott Fallon, Senior Director, Partner Marketing