Palmer Web Marketing Blog - eCommerce Blog PWM Products Justin Palmer Contact Justin Palmer at Palmer Web Marketing Free Internet Business e-books Palmer Web Marketing & E-Commerce Blog

FAQ Pages are Dead… Answer Questions in the Right Place

by Justin Palmer - December 16th, 2007

When was the last time you actually took the time to find an answer on a FAQ page? What about searching through a customer service knowledge base?

For me, if information I need is not immediately accessible, I will leave a website immediately. Likewise, most web customers are impatient and demand information at their finger-tips. In the post, I thought I would share some common questions I have throughout the buying process on a website. If questions such as these are answered on the spot, rather than through a hard to find FAQ page or knowledge base, I am much more likely to buy.

Product Pages:

When a customer reaches the product page for an item he or she is considering purchasing, many questions arise. The suggestions below are in addition to the obvious questions about the product itself. We’re going to assume that your product pictures and description answer those.

  • Is the product in-stock? - Most of us have received an unwelcome email from an internet store telling us our item is out of stock. If you are confident in your inventory counts, assure your customer that the item they are viewing is in-stock and ready to ship.
  • How much will shipping cost? – Seeing the product price is not enough. Mentally, customers want to figure in the cost of shipping as well. Reminders about free shipping are welcome sight on the product page.
  • Where can I find similar products? - Showing related products (make sure they are relevant) can greatly decrease the bounce rate of your product pages. They increase the likelihood than your visitor will continue browsing if they aren’t interesting in the item they are viewing.

Shopping Cart Page:

Battles of conversion are often lost on the shopping cart page due to unanswered questions.

  • What’s in my cart? – Customers tend to forget which items are in their shopping carts. Simply showing the name of the product isn’t enough. All shopping carts should show pictures of the items to help customers remember what they’re buying.
  • How do the items in my cart compare with each other? - Shopping carts are often used for comparison shopping, not as a final repository for items that will be purchased. By allowing users to view relevant product features in a side by side comparison, you’ll simplify the buying decision.
  • How can I pay? - At this point, customers begin thinking about payment options. Showing credit card logos, the PayPal emblem, and other 3rd party payment option logos will give users the confidence to continue.
  • What is your return policy? – When I used to work in retail, the number one question asked of me at the cash register was “what is your return policy?” A link to a pop-up explaining your “hassle free returns policy” would be helpful in the shopping cart.

Contact Information (during Checkout)

When you begin asking for personal contact information, red flags may go off in your customer’s mind.

  • What is this website’s privacy policy? – How is the information you are capturing used? Will it be used for marketing, 3rd parties, or only for order fulfillment? A link to your privacy policy would be much appreciate by many customers.
  • What info is necessary? - Be sure to clarify what information is necessary and what is optional. Most site’s do this with a simple asterisk (*) to denote a required field.
  • Can I opt-out? - Many customers are paranoid about being added to a mailing list. It’s not worth losing an order over, so provide a check box that allows shoppers to opt out of marketing communications.

Shipping Information (during Checkout)

Shipping is always an area of uncertainty and confusion. If customers can’t be assured their package will arrive safe, sound, and in-time, they will abandon the order. I’m surprised at how few eCommerce sites link to their shipping policies from the checkout pages.

  • How will my order ship? – Customers sometimes have preferences as to which carrier will be used. Providing this information will assuage their concerns.
  • When will my product ship? - Make sure customers understand the processing time involved. If possible, always ship next business day.
  • Do you ship to PO Boxes, APOs or International addresses? – Linking to your shipping policy will ensure customers understand your shipping restrictions.

Payment Information (during Checkout)

Even after years of shopping on the internet, I still find myself hesitating a moment before entering my credit card information. All sorts of questions arise at this point in the conversion funnel.

  • Is the transaction secure? - Having click-through verification through your SSL provider is a good faith measure.
  • How do I input my credit card number? - If your payment page requires a certain format for entering credit card information, such as no dashes between the numbers, be sure to specify that.
  • Where do I find the CVV Code? - Personally, I dislike requiring the 3 or 4 digit CVV code in order to process a payment. However, if your site uses it, be sure to link to a good description of what is is, where to find it, and why it is being asked for.

Receipt (Order Confirmation) Page:

Online retailers too often waste their receipt pages by displaying an order confirmation page that basically says, “thank you for your order, now get off our website.” Receipt pages are a great place to preemptively answer common customer service inquiries.

  • When will my product ship? – Now that your customer has handed over their money, when will you deliver the merchandise?
  • When will my product arrive? - Providing delivery estimates from your shipping carrier(s) will prevent needless inquiries to your customer service department. Don’t over-promise, just give honest shipping time estimates to the delivery location.
  • How do I track my order? - From the moment the order is placed, customers expect to be able to monitor the progress of the processing and shipping of their order. Linking to your order tracking page would be very much appreciated.
  • How can I change my order? - The order confirmation page is often the place where the customer realizes they screwed up and ordered the wrong product or entered incorrect shipping information. Providing information on how to edit their order will prevent them from panicking.

The suggestions above are by no means exhaustive, so please leave your comments with other common questions you see during the checkout process.


Related Posts:

3 Responses to “FAQ Pages are Dead… Answer Questions in the Right Place” by Justin Palmer

  1. Tim McGuiness Says:

    As someone who does most of his shopping online, can you do me one simple favor?

    Can you make EVERY online company do EVERY one of these items?

    Thank you! It would make shopping so much nicer.

    For real, as I read this, I found myself taking off my ecommerce hat and putting on my consumer hat. Good stuff.

  2. 13 Best Practices for Handling Web Returns - Internet Return Policy Improvement Says:

    [...] about your hassle free return policy early and often. During checkout, I believe this is one of the most frequently asked questions and stumbling blocks. Linking to your return policy during checkout will assure customers you stand behind the [...]

  3. Esther Says:

    Good point, I hear ” I never knew that” all day long from customers after they purchase an order. Most customers don’t read policy and FAQ pages. Your so right about that.


Blog Updates
RSS Twitter