There are many advantages to shopping online, and these advantages are the reasons we're doing more and more of our holiday shopping online every year. Mostly, shopping online is convenient. The stores are open 24 hours a day, you don't have to get in your car - you don't even have to get out of your pajamas.

Nevertheless, there are still some disadvantages to shopping for certain things online. You can't try it on, or see how it looks and feels in real life. You have to pay for (and wait for) shipping. These disadvantages are all reasons for people not to buy on your website. Here are five e-commerce tips to overcome the disadvantages of buying online, and make more sales.

Woman behind a store counter

Give people a lot of information about your products. When shopping in a traditional store, you can pick things up, play with them, look at all their sides, and try them on. Online, people will only have the information that you choose to give them. If you only supply one photo, then they will only see your product from one angle. If you don't tell them, your customers won't know how big something is, or how much it weighs. This is a problem, because people like to make informed decisions, and will be hesitant to buy if they feel they don't know enough. So give them everything they need to know. Be very clear about the size. Supply photos from a number of angles. Be as descriptive as possible. Enable your customers to make an informed decision, because otherwise, they might think there's something you're trying to hide.

Minimize shipping costs, and be upfront with those costs. There's no denying that people love free shipping online. Even though items are often cheaper to purchase online, the thought of paying for shipping, and especially paying exorbitant shipping fees, turns some people off. But the most important thing is to be upfront with these costs, and make it easy for your customers to see how much they should expect to pay for shipping. Nothing is more frustrating for an online shopper than having to go through the entire checkout process just to see how much they will be paying for shipping and handling. Make it easy on people by providing this information prominently.

Make returns easy. A misconception that deters some people from buying online is that returns are difficult or impossible. However, Zappos is one example of a company that makes returns extremely easy. Shipping is free on all Zappos orders both ways, so you can purchase and return as many pairs of shoes as you like before you find the perfect fit. I have heard many people will purchase two consecutive sizes, and return the pair that doesn't fit. While I'm sure this strategy costs Zappos some money, they recognize that when it comes to shoes, people need to try before they commit to buy.

Make your shopping cart easy to use. One nice thing about shopping in a store is that all you have to do to check out is hand your items to the cashier, and pay the total amount. Ideally, an online checkout would be just as easy. Some online retailers, however, make the checkout process so confusing that some, less tech-savvy people will get frustrated and give up before they finish their order. Or if they do finish it, they will never want to go through that hassle again. Make your checkout process simple enough for anyone to understand and complete.

Don't make people create an account. Oh, sweet anonymity! Even in 2010, you can still go into a store, pay cash, and never hear from that retailer again. No email address needs to be supplied, no account needs to be opened, and you won't end up on any mailing lists. Creating an account on an e-commerce site is often convenient for frequent purchasers, but just accept the fact that some of your customers will simply not want to do this. Even if you think it is truly for their benefit, remember that the customer is always right, and let them pass through your shopping cart as a Guest user.

There you have it. Five ways to overcome the reasons why people might not want to buy online. We all know the advantages of shopping online, but if your e-commerce site overcomes the disadvantages, then it will be a no-brainer to shop with you.

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