Impulse software sales on your website
Conventional wisdom holds that software developers
would make more money if they inspired web site visitors to make impulse purchases. While this sounds like a good software marketing strategy on the surface, I'm not sure that generating impulse sales is a worthwhile goal for most software companies.
An impulse buy is an on-the-spot emotional decision to buy a product or service. The most common example of the impulse buying technique is the displaying of candy and magazines in supermarket checkout lines.
While software websites on the Internet are effective for upselling and cross-selling, these web sites are not ideal for generating impulse sales.
Impulse buys in the food market
We know why people are in the supermarket checkout line. It's the only way to leave the store with product, and not go to jail.
In the supermarket, people make impulse buys because a magazine cover or candy wrapper looks new or looks great. Their kids are lobbying for candy bars. Parents are exhausted, and feel like they deserve a reward for the intense shopping that they've been doing. Interestingly, magazines and candy bars are rarely sold at discounts, because people decide emotionally, not rationally, to buy them.
The long wait in checkout lines bores people, causing them to investigate the items at the checkout area. They're already in the process of purchasing, so there is no significant additional investment of time to buy "just one more item."
The items at the checkout area are inexpensive, familiar products which won't require future commitment of time or money, and which don't pose any unexpected risks.
Finding your website
There's very little similarity between the reasons people buy on a supermarket checkout line, and the reasons they buy on your web site. There are three paths that brought people to your web site:
(1) Search engine visitors buy software
Some people came from Google or some other search engine. They typed words or phrases into the search engine, and they expected to find links to relevant software sites. There's no similarity between their mindset when they arrive on your site, and the mindset of a supermarket shopper who has just seen their favorite movie star on a magazine cover, or their favorite chocolate bar in a new, supersized package. People who arrive at your web site from a search engine are not inclined to make snap, emotional purchase decisions.
(2) Download site visitors buy apps
Some people came from Tucows, CNET, or some other download site. It's hard to get them to make an emotional decision to buy. Your web site visitor knows that there are a dozen similar programs listed on the download site, and your sales presentation had better be first-rate if you expect to close the sale. It would be difficult to get them to make an instant, emotional buying decision.
(3) Press releases create software sales
Some people came because of a recommendation from a computer magazine, a newspaper column, a blog, or from a friend. That's why press releases are such an effective software marketing tool.
These visitors are the most likely candidates for impulse buys. They've heard from an authority that your software has what they want (safety, power, an easy learning curve, great support, a low price, rock-solid stability, or whatever it is that's important to them). You can lose the sale if you don't make it obvious and clear what platform your app runs on, and how much it costs, and how easy it is to contact the company if you're having a problem with the product or with the order. But they came to your site because they had heard good things about your program, and many of them are ready to buy. They're great prospects for impulse buys.
While some of these visitors may seem to be impulse buyers, that's probably not the case. Although your web site may not have made them instant buyers, a previous visit by them or by someone else did the selling work. Or maybe some marketing you'd already done had convinced them it was time to buy.
However, since these ready-to-buy visitors look the same as all other web site visitors, good all-purpose web site design will serve them well, too. Instead of trying to design your web site for impulse buying, you should design for general sales. And I'm confident that your web site won't present visitors with the boring checkout line wait that would backfire here. Make your web site attractive, easy, and safe for visitors to buy.
Work on your software product mix
Pay attention to the software that you're selling, how your applications are structured within the family of products that you offer, how you're positioned against your competitors, and how you're describing your software to appeal to each of your target audiences.
Plan your software marketing, advertising, and promotion
What are you doing to advertise and publicize your products and web site? Do you have a search engine keyword purchasing strategy? Are you buying banner ads and space ads in print publications? Are you swapping links with well-targeted, high-traffic sites?
Fine-tune your product layout
Optimize the location and descriptions of the products on your home page, product pages, order page, and support pages. Look at your web logs, and find out how people navigate your site. Create a great navigation scheme, atmospherics, and look and feel. Determine if you want to look like an old, established, professional company, or a hip, modern firm.
Make it easy to buy
Design your site for sales, not for downloads. Make it obvious and easy for potential buyers to buy. Don't confuse your prospects by subjecting them to a convoluted sales process. Don't frighten them by asking for lots of personal information. Don't require them to read a multi-page license agreement. Streamline your order page.
Portray your software company as friendly and accessible
Display your postal address and phone number everywhere. Invite people to contact you. It's good software marketing to be accessible.
Streamline the checkout process and make it friendly
Your prospects may not be familiar with the eCommerce company that you're using to process their credit card payments. Introduce your prospects to your eCommerce provider. Don't require a shopping cart for a single item purchase. Make prospects trust you and feel comfortable about becoming customers.
Test your software sales presentation
Try new sales approaches, measure the results, and adjust your sales presentation. Offer daily or weekly specials. Try coupons. See if rebates generate more sales. Create a frequent flyer plan that rewards existing customers for buying your other software, and for sending their friends and colleagues to your web site. Find other ways to welcome back old customers, and make it easier for them to buy a second time.
Keep track of holidays throughout the world
Make special offers for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and any other holidays that make sense.
Encourage people to sign up for your software newsletter
In Seth Godin's book "Permission Marketing," he actually suggests that Internet retailers rebuild their web sites, and transform them from brochureware to a focused permission acquisition medium. In short, use your web site to get people to sign up for your newsletter, and use your newsletter as your primary sales vehicle. In the software world, it's easy to create both a strong, selling web site and a content-rich newsletter that sells software. There's a book review of "Permission Marketing" in my newsletter archives - http://www.dpdirectory.com/3news001.htm
Software marketing and impulse buying -
Your web site visitors came to your site because they were considering buying software like yours. There's no impulse involved, and not as much emotionalism as some would have you believe. You might be able to introduce an upsell or a cross-sell. But it's not likely that your customer's main purchase will be an impulse buy.
There is no "one size fits all" path to effective software marketing. It's complicated. It requires imagination and original thinking. It's necessary to try things, test, measure, and try again. And again.
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