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Retention, Part 36: Take My Money, Please

By Sanya Weathers

You may have experienced this scenario – you’re on a free trial, or a limited use trial, or you enjoyed your free sample of something. However you got to the provider/seller, you are now ready to release the credit card hounds. You are, in short, ready to switch from being a parasite into a full-fledged customer.

And then you discover the company didn’t want your money.

You know what separates mass market pleasers from the niche groups? The big dogs made it easy for you to give them money.

Here’s some helpful advice on making it easy:

–    If the method of payment is popular with your target audience, offer it when you open your doors. Got a family game? I know a lot of parents who use their Discover cards whenever possible because they’re saving miles/points for special vacations. Make ‘em happy, add Discover to your list of acceptable cards. Do your users like Paypal? Offer it. Are you going after a group that likes time cards? Stop making excuses and offer them for sale, at least through your own website.

–    Don’t stand between the customer and the purchase button. Do not pop up other offers. Do not redirect the user. Do not try to upsell anything. Once the customer has pressed the “checkout” button, do not put up any obstacles. Keep it about that transaction, and let your “continue shopping” button speak for itself.

–    Browser compatibility. Test your billing/checkout programs with as many browsers as you can. If there is a browser (or a popular plug in, like NoScript) that will render your checkout process invalid, say so up front. (I.e., “Chrome users, please try another browser – we like Firefox!” or “NoScript users, please allow our page.”) Once someone has typed in his name, address, password, billing address, code phrase, shipping option, credit card number, mother’s maiden name, expiration date, and unchecked the newsletter button… he’s not going to want to do it a second time unless you’re selling something he can’t live without. Are you willing to bet your business on being that indispensible?

–    Don’t reinvent the wheel. Go to the market leader in your niche. See how they take money. Now copy it. There are all kinds of features that should be standard. If you require users to have an account, then your forms should autopopulate with the data you have for them once they’re signed in. If you’re selling a physical product, there should be a checkbox that says “shipping address same as billing address?” There should be a newsletter button – and a note saying that subscribers get discounts and freebies.

Because subscribers get discounts and freebies, right?

–    Error messages that tell the user something. If the card is declined, don’t flash up “ERROR 273.” Say the card was declined. If the user will be double charged if he presses the buy button while the system is processing, say so. If you’re not careful with your messaging, you’ll make quite a bit of work for your customer support staff. Speaking of:

–    You need customer support if you’re going to be taking money. Once money is part of the process, customers become remarkably invested in your product and in good outcomes. Every billing page needs to offer the user some method of contacting you should there be a problem.

The entire billing process is your first retention opportunity. Customers quite rightly realize that if you’ve messed up the billing process (an area where you have a lot of motivation to get it right), you might not have polished the other parts of your product or service.

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