Making decisions is tough. Consumers today have more choice than ever, and in many markets, competition is fierce. For many individuals, pulling the trigger and making a big decision is all but impossible.

Needless to say, consumer inaction is a problem for businesses. If you can't convince potential customers to make the decisions that lead to them becoming customers, you don't have a viable business.

Here are five tips for turning consumer inaction in to action:

Reduce options

More isn't always better when it comes to choice. It's the paradox of choice: the more choices you give your potential customers, the greater the number of potential customers who may not be able to make a decision. So what should you do? Reevaluate the options you're giving consumers and make the options more meaningful, not more plentiful.

Create urgency 

Many individuals, when given the opportunity, will take as long as they possibly can to make a decision. This invariably leads many to put off a decision so long that the decision is never made. But by creating urgency, the two most powerful emotions -- greed and fear -- can be used to drive action.

Case in point: Groupon, which offers time sensitive deals. A great deal leverages the emotion of greed, and a short timeframe in which to make a purchase leverages the emotion of fear. The result: lots and lots of sales that probably wouldn't have happened under any other model.

Reduce risk

Let's say your business sells big ticket items. Naturally, some potential customers may hesitate to pull the trigger because there's perceived risk. After all, what happens if the product isn't nearly as good as the customer thought it would be? The solution to this problem is to reduce risk. This is where money-back guarantees, exchange privileges and lease-to-buy offerings can be so helpful.

Focus your message

How you pitch your product or service can mean the difference between closing a sale and losing a sale. Oftentimes, pitches are overly complex, or try to cover too much ground. In reality, selling successfully often comes down to identifying one or two key selling points that will outweigh all other considerations -- even in the most complex of purchasing decisions.

Know your customer 

No matter how hard you try, you obviously won't be able to convert every potential customer into a customer. And there's no point in trying, which is why it's important to establish who your customers really are and go to work learning all of the tricks that seal the deal for them.

Patricio Robles

Published 4 October, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (5)


Ambergreen Staff, ambergreen staff at ambergreen Internet Marketing

'Focus your message' is very important indeed. Make the call to action clear. Many sites fall down by not clearly pointing out the next step. 'Click here to buy now', 'Enter dates to check availability', etc etc. Decide on what you want a visitor to do, and make sure you tell them! Testing plays a big part in this type of thing too. Split testing, A/B testing, multiple variants. Whatever it is, by changing, monitoring results, and analysing. It can be defined whether the change has been successful. If it hasn't, return to the beginning and try something different. If it has, then try tweaking some more and repeat the whole process. There is never an end point, your site will never be perfect!

almost 8 years ago


Chris Goward

These are good tips, Patricio, that hint at the underlying principles. Reducing options is one way to minimize Distraction on a page and allow the visitor to make the decision about the primary Call to Action. You may appreciate the LIFT Model as a framework for Conversion Optimization: It outlines the 6 conversion factors as principles to follow for maximizing conversions.

almost 8 years ago


Mark Simpson

You’ve made some really strong points here, but let's not forget about testing. In order to effectively put these five tips to use, it’s crucial that e-commerce professionals begin with testing their site, in order to easily and continuously identify which combination of content and design will meet their consumers needs and produce higher conversion rates.

almost 8 years ago


Philip Wilkinson, co-founder at Keynoir

Really good post - nails all the main factors here.  At we do tap into the whole ethos of "sense of urgency" by having one deal a day - we "reduce choice" by picking the best thing to focus on it that one day, "reduce the risk" by offering everyone a member promise, "focus the message" by highlighting the key benefits of the deal backed by editorial, and then "know our customer" - constantly testing and listening..

almost 8 years ago


Fred Held

Excellent discussion. Finally discussing how to convert as opposed to how to attract.

Here are my additions:

1) In know your customer make sure your SEO/SEM team seeks out those customers not just a flood of non-buyers.

2) There is nothing in here about branding and positioning against competition. These two are more important than all the rest. It sounds like a technical person wrote these five tips.

3) You forgot upsell and cross sell at check out, you can get 25% more sales doing this. Amazon is the best at it most of the time.

Fred Held

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almost 8 years ago

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