How to Instill Confidence in Your Online Buyers
Summer tends to bring a slowdown in sales for online sellers. While a sales slump can be a test of patience, it can also be a time to focus on improving other aspects of your business. That’s what I’m trying to do this summer and why I’ll be writing a series of posts on how to up your selling game over the summer months.
I typically write posts from a seller’s standpoint. Today I want to turn the tables somewhat and talk about selling strategy from a potential buyer’s perspective.
If you don’t have a Poshmark account, you can receive a free $5 bonus when you sign up with my code SFGIRL2015. On Mercari, you can get $10 when you sign up with the code JENMHM. The amount varies by promotion.
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I bet 99% or more of you have purchased items online in the past. You’ve probably encountered a variety of good and bad experiences such as receiving surprisingly fast shipping, delayed shipping, a product that was better than described, or something that was a dud. How did you feel when you received something that didn’t live up to your expectations?
As a seller, you know your products well. You inspect every inch of the clothes you sell. You handle them while washing and measuring them. You may even try them on or wear them before selling. You know your products inside and out, whereas a potential buyer does not and cannot before actually receiving it.
That’s why it’s important to instill confidence in a potential buyer. She needs to have confidence in every part of the buying process if she’s going to make the purchase. So let’s discuss a buyer’s fears and how to address them. Fear may seem like a strong word, but fear is at the root of many people’s decisions whether stated so or not. When you allay a buyer’s fears, you get more sales and more happy customers.
1 | “It’s not as good as I thought it would be”
A potential buyer is concerned that an item will be not as good as it was described. Buyers only have pictures and a written description to judge an item. They’re right to be worried that the item they receive won’t match the listing. This fear is true for new and used items, but especially for used items because people have varying ideas of how to judge clothing and how much wear is acceptable.
In my opinion, this is the worst fear to have become a reality. Your buyer will be disappointed in the item and lose confidence in you as the seller. This can result in a poor review, a request for a return and refund, no repeat sales, and an unhappy customer.
What to do:
Provide lots of pictures and a detailed description. Buyers rely 100% on sellers for accurate descriptions. I’ve heard that you should take pictures as if no description were available and write a description as if no pictures were available.
Use as many pictures as needed to showcase an item well. If you can use all the allowed pictures, that’s even better. Think about how many times have you looked at an item with interest and been disappointed about not having enough pictures (or a good enough description) to sway you to buy it.
Be open and honest about items. Point out anything unique or special about an item and flaws too.
Encourage questions from potential buyers and answer them within 24 hours.
2 | “It won’t fit me”
This is a legitimate fear because people have different body shapes and proportions. How many times have you bought something without trying it on, only to find out later that it didn’t fit? Your buyer doesn’t get to try on an item, so this is a possibility every time she makes a purchase. While some platforms like eBay may have refunds available, sales are final on other platforms like Poshmark.
Sizing is not standard either. A small in one brand can be an extra-small in another and a medium in another. I see comments from unsatisfied buyers about being stuck with clothing that does not fit. Likely more could have been done by both the buyer and the seller to have avoided that.
What to do:
Provide pictures of items being modeled. This isn’t always feasible, particularly if you sell all kinds of clothing in many sizes. A body form is a good way to showcase items when you don’t have a real-life model.
Note though that real-life modeled pictures are generally not favored by Poshmark buyers. Body forms are a better option if you want to show items modeled.
You can consider using stock photos of items. Most platforms tell you to only post pictures that you’ve taken yourself. This is enforced to varying degrees depending on the platform.
Provide measurements of your items. This is hotly debated. Do what works for you. Some sellers (including myself) list measurements as a way to provide a better description of an item and fit for a buyer. Some people only buy when measurements are provided. Some sellers find it a waste of time, not making any difference to their sales. Does it make a difference to their ratings? I don’t know.
Provide the brand’s size chart. Ask a buyer to be familiar with their sizing in that brand. Some brands are notorious for running small or large.
If a buyer reaches out to you, ask what their concerns are about fit and try to address them given what you know about the item.
Describe the item’s fit. Do you know that the item runs small or large? Give your opinion but make no guarantees. You don’t want someone to claim your opinions as fact if a case is opened against you.
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3 | “I can’t return it”
Imagine how much more careful you are about purchasing items when you know you can’t return them. No one wants to be stuck with something that they don’t want or can’t use. you.
As a seller, I like when no returns are offered. It doesn’t matter if the item fit or not. Unless the item wasn’t as described, then the earnings are yours and you don’t have to deal with the hassle of a return.
It’s the opposite for buyers. The fact that some selling platforms are final sales will cause people to think twice before making a purchase and shy away from buying from you. This is compounded by the fact that they are relying only on your pictures and descriptions to get a sense of the item. Buyers are making a gamble.
What to do:
Select the right platform on which to sell your items. Decide whether or not you’re willing to deal with returns. I sell on Poshmark and Mercari, both of which do not allow returns unless an item isn’t as described.
eBay has the option to allow returns. Many eBay sellers provide returns because it provides them better status on eBay and helps them make more sales. There’s also the notion that if you’re confident about the items you sell, you’re willing to stand behind them by accepting returns. When you sell quality products, a buyer is not likely to ask for a return. A potential buyer may choose a platform like eBay over Poshmark, even just for one item, simply because returns are offered.
eBay sales can be paid using PayPal. PayPal allows returns on items for up to 180 days (approximately 6 months) even if you stated in your eBay listing that you do not accept returns. This is why sellers like platforms like Poshmark and Mercari, where once an item is accepted by the buyer, earnings are released for good.
Make your pictures and descriptions as complete and accurate as possible (as mentioned above) so the buyer knows what she’s getting.
Only sell items that you’re confident about. This may mean selling only new items or things in excellent condition. For others, it may mean selling things that are in a condition they would be willing to accept. This protects your reputation as a seller.
4 | “It’s counterfeit” or “I’ll get scammed”
Buying used online is risky for buyers who want authentic luxury items. The only way to guarantee that an item is authentic with 100% certainty is to buy the item from the original retailer yourself whether online or in-store. But because buyers want to pay less than retail for these items, they’re willing to risk buying from used clothing sites. Their desire for the item and a large number of counterfeit items available makes them susceptible to being cheated.
A buyer weighs whether or not to purchase from you based on a number of factors: the site or platform where you sell, your feedback, images of the item, and any other proof of the item’s authenticity. Even after the sale, there is the risk that the item’s authenticity will be challenged. Both the buyer and seller risk losing a lot amount of money on the product.
What to do:
Provide the best pictures and descriptions of items that you can (can’t say it enough). Show every angle of your item and every distinguishing feature that would indicate its authenticity. For purses, this can be the brand name inside the bag, stitching, zipper pulls, and so forth.
Add pictures of the receipt and any paperwork showing the item’s authenticity. When you’re the original purchaser, you may have receipts from the store where you purchased the item. Be sure to cover any identifying or sensitive information like a credit card number first.
If you’re unsure about an item, bring it to an expert to have it authenticated. This will cost you money, but you’ll make it back on your sale.
State where you obtained the item and why you’re selling it. Not every person will care about these things, but some will. Answer these questions before they ask them. Invite additional questions from potential buyers too.
Build your positive feedback with other smaller sales before attempting to sell a high-priced item. Buyers see that you’re already established as a reliable seller.
Related Post: How to Protect Yourself Selling Items Online
5 | “It’s too expensive” or “I’m not getting the best deal”
How much something is worth is relative. What may be an acceptable price to one buyer is not to another. One thing is for certain though. Buyers on second-hand sites are there because they want a bargain. Otherwise they’d be buying from retailers at retail prices. When a buyer thinks that an item is too expensive, that means she’s not getting the bargain she wants and the item is not worth purchasing. What makes it worth purchasing is its value to her.
A number of factors give an item its value. Here are a few:
What is your price compared to that of retailers and other second-hand sellers? You’re not just competing against retailers. There may be other second-hand sellers on the same platform as you selling the same item.
What does the item cost in comparison to similar items? If a buyer is looking for a black purse from Coach, she might consider that a cheaper black purse by a different brand may do just as well.
How popular or elusive is the item? Rare and popular items tend to command more simply because they’re more in demand.
Will the buyer use the item? You may have a unique or popular item, but it’s only valuable to a buyer if it has some use to her (e.g., she would wear it or give it as a gift).
What to do:
Know your audience. Different platforms cater to different audiences. Poshmark tends to have younger fashionable women, although its male userbase is growing.
Sell what people want to buy. Once you know who your audience is, you’ll want to sell what they like. They will pay more for these items and actually purchase them because it’s what they want. On Poshmark, brands such as Anthropologie, Kate Spade, and Free People sell well. These are popular with their biggest audience (young fashionable women).
Set reasonable prices. Compare how much the item you’re selling is going for on the same site and other sites. Setting comparable prices gives you a chance to sell your item while still giving you fair profits.
Set your prices high and then lower them over time. In contrast to above, try setting your prices high at the start. Buyers like to feel like they’re getting a bargain. So when you later give a discount, the buyer feels she’s getting a bargain while you still get the profit you want. Sometimes I set prices high (approximately 20-40% higher than I expect to sell at) and am pleasantly surprised when someone buys the item at my asking price or makes an offer for close to it.
Share the retail price of the item and your discounted price. Sometimes buyers need a price anchor, a number against which they can compare your asking price. If it’s a large enough difference, then the buyer will feel she’s getting a bargain. If you see something is retailing for $199 and you have the chance to buy it for $99, you might believe you’re getting a pretty good bargain. That may be enough to sway you to purchase it.
Share the item’s non-monetary value. Perhaps the item can be styled multiple ways to get plenty of use. Or it’s this season’s hottest color. Maybe you got lots of compliments while wearing the item. Don’t be afraid to share that information.
Let buyers know you’re open to offers. Poshmark has a built-in offer feature. Some sellers write in their listings that they accept offers and even encourage them.
Offer discounts on bundles and to repeat buyers. Some sellers offer discounts off multiple purchases or savings on shipping. Make sure to market these discounts if you do offer them. This gives buyers the feeling of getting a deal.
6 | “I’ll regret it”
This is similar to the above fear of not being able to return items. People may be hesitant to buy because they might regret the purchase. Maybe they want it but it doesn’t fit in their budget or they’re not sure if they’ll use the item. Some people are wishy-washy shoppers and end up regretting many of the things they buy. I’ve had my share of buyers with buyers’ regret, so I know it’s real.
What to do:
Similar to above, sell on the platform that serves you best depending on whether or not you want to offer returns. If you allow returns, publicize it because buyers will be happy to know they can do that. When you don’t allow returns, buyers will hopefully be more careful about what they buy because they know they can’t return it, but that may deter sales.
I think there’s only so much you can do as a seller in this case because you can’t predict that a buyer is going to regret purchasing an item. If a buyer regrets a sale, she may try anything to get it returned, including filing a false claim stating that the item is inauthentic or was misrepresented. It happens from time to time.
7 | “I have to pay too much for shipping”
There’s no doubt that shipping costs affect whether a buyer makes a purchase. Shipping is a necessary but unwelcome expense. Someone has to pay to transport the item to the buyer, but it’s a service that adds no additional tangible value to a purchase. You can’t touch it, wear it, or keep it. This is compounded by the fact that many retailers now offer discounted or free shipping on their sites. When an item costs $5, paying $6.79 for shipping is a tough pill to swallow. No one wants to pay more for an item than they have to.
What to do:
List items on the platform with shipping options that work best for the buyer (and you). Shipping is a set price of $6.79 (as of 2/2019) on Poshmark. Knowing that, it’s usually not worth selling very low-priced items on the site. Buyers will pay the same amount or close to it just to ship the item, essentially doubling their cost. If you’re selling a nice heavy item like $99 pair of boots, paying $6.79 is a good deal. It’s guaranteed to cost more shipping on your own with USPS.
Offer discounted shipping. On Poshmark, this can be done in a few ways. Lower your prices during their Closet Clear Out days and your items will automatically receive discounted shipping. You can also offer discounted or free shipping when you make a private offer to people who “like” your item. Any decrease in shipping you can provide is more encouragement for someone to buy from you.
Offer a variety of shipping options. On sites like Mercari and eBay, you have several shipping options. You can offer more than one option to a buyer. I like to offer the cheapest available option, knowing that people don’t want to pay a lot for shipping.
Offer free shipping. There’s nothing better than getting free shipping. Offer it to your buyers if you can. Build the cost into your items by listing them at slightly higher prices and lowering your prices only so much so that you can cover shipping and still make a decent profit.
Ship on your own if you can. Use a service like Paypal shipping to get commercial shipping rates, which can save you or your buyer a good amount of money over time.
8 | "The selling platform is sketchy"
There are lots of places to buy and sell goods online. New platforms and groups pop up regularly. As much as sellers are concerned about selling on new sites, buyers are wary of buying on them too. New platforms and groups can be poorly monitored, meaning they have shady buyers and sellers and may be full of counterfeit or questionable items. Some platforms have a poor reputation for customer service as well. So if a buyer has a problem, she’s not confident it will be resolved or even addressed at all. That’s why it’s so important to sell in the right places where you can make sales and buyers have the confidence to buy from you.
What to do:
Again, pick your platforms wisely. I think many platforms are worth trying. You’ll get a feel for the type of buyers and sellers on the site and how the company runs its business. Sell on places that have clear guidelines about how they run their business, enforce their rules well, and have active customer service.
Buyers have fears. They may not state them in those terms. They may not even be conscious of them, but they’re there. You might be wondering how I know of these. First of all, I’m probably one of the biggest worriers when it comes to online shopping.
I rarely buy clothing online with a few exceptions. I will buy it online if it’s something I already have and want another one of it. I’ve bought six to eight pairs of the same Nike shoes online after buying my first pair from a brick-and-mortar store. I did buy my wedding dress online, but that was because I knew I could return it for a full refund.
Secondly, I’ve seen plenty of comments online about both buyers and sellers being upset about something. It could’ve been undisclosed wear or slow shipping. Whatever the complaint is, these comments show us how to improve our listings and procedures.
I’ve been at fault before thinking of only my own perspective as a buyer. I used to not provide hip measurements on bottoms and the fabric composition of clothing. Those things don’t matter much to me, so I didn’t think to add them to my listings. Once I started getting asked those things, I knew they were important and tried to add them.
As sellers, we want to serve our buyers as best as we can while still making the business worthwhile for ourselves. We can do that by addressing a buyer’s fears so that they have the confidence to buy from us. That makes for satisfied customers and profit in our pockets.
What are your thoughts on the above? What are some fears that I haven’t mentioned here? Do you have other tips to help instill confidence in your buyers?
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