5 Reasons Why People Don’t Buy

Conversion rates fit into one of 3 categories: “disastrously low”, “excellent”, and “somewhere in between”,

This article is aimed at people whose sites are in the 3rd group. But, before I get into it, let me say something about the other categories…

If your conversion rate is really, really low

Something is going horribly wrong. Maybe you’re getting the wrong visitors to your website, or they just don’t want your product or service – or don’t want it at that price, or there’s a significant trust issue…

Whatever it is, the rule of thumb is that big problems require big solutions. So you need to look for something that would result in almost no-one buying.

If your conversion rate is great

If you’re in this situation then, (a) well done, (b) you’re probably not going to find any one change that’ll make a huge difference to your conversion rate. It’s far more likely that you’ll be able to find a lot of small improvements – e.g. 4 improvements of 8%, rather than one improvement of 33%.

And, because those improvements are fairly small – and because so many factors cause your conversion rate to fluctuate – you’ll be unlikely to tell the difference between a winner and loser without a proper split-test.

OK, let’s move on to the 3rd group of websites…

Your conversion rate is good, but why isn’t it better?

Reason #1: A weak proposition

We advertising people like to believe that it’s our magic words that bring in the sales – but the truth is a little different.

Bill Bernbach, named No. 1 in Advertising Age‘s list of advertising’s most influential people said, “The magic is in the product, not in the copywriter’s pen”. He also said, “Advertising doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it…No matter how skilful you are, you can’t invent a product advantage that doesn’t exist.”

Another famous marketer, Gary Bencivenga, wrote, “Your product is the horse; your copywriter is only the jockey”.

Most people aren’t fools when it comes to spending their money. If there are no self-serving reasons for the website visitor to buy from you – rather than buying from someone else – you should expect a low conversion rate.

Solution: look at the competition. What benefits are they offering that you aren’t? What benefits are they mentioning that you are forgetting to mention? If you were a prospect, who would you buy from? And why? If you’re more expensive, what are you offering that’s more, or better?

If, at the end of this analysis, you find your offer is weak, you’ll know why it’s weak – and have some idea of how to improve it.

Reason #2: Lack of information

Most businesses seem to be determined to say as little as possible on a web page. This is a big mistake. Every benefit you forget to mention, every objection you fail to address is another sale lost.

Direct marketers – the ones who test different approaches and measure results – have a maxim, “The more you tell, the more you sell”.

In less ‘enlightened’ times, they’d say, “Sales copy should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover everything important, but short enough to keep it interesting”.

Solution: Again, looking at competitors’ websites will give you an idea of what they feel they need to mention. If you get calls or emails from prospects, are there common questions they ask? If so, you might want to address those questions on your website.

Finally, there are also survey services you can use to ask your web visitors questions as they’re about to leave your site. This will give you an idea of what’s missing.

Reason #3: They don’t believe your claims

People are very cynical about advertising claims. If you make big claims and don’t back them up, you should expect people to doubt you. And, if they doubt you, they’ll be unlikely to buy.

Solution: Gary Bencivenga, after decades of consistently beating other top copywriters in split-tests, concluded you should, “Never make your claim bigger than your proof”.

So, how do you make your proof bigger? As a copywriter, I use 18 different ways to do this. Here are a few of them…

Testimonials – always more believable than what you say about yourself
Demonstrations – if you can show the product in action, achieving the promised result, that’s very persuasive
3rd party expertise – if someone very credible has said what you want to say, piggyback on their expertise. Scientists, government, industry leaders, respected figures
Guarantees – a guarantee removes the risk from the prospect and puts it on you. The ultimate “put your money where your mouth is” approach.

Reason #4: You don’t justify your price

Ultimately, the prospect has to make a decision: will this product/service give me a result that’s worth more than the price? If you don’t help him put a value on the result – a value that’s far higher than your price – he might not buy.

Solution: can you do the cost/benefit analysis for them? Can you show how the price compares to money saved? Or to time saved (which you could then multiply by an hourly rate so your £50 product is saving them £1000 a year in time).

If there’s no obvious comparison, can you make the price look trivial by breaking it down (e.g. £25 a month for a subscription is “less than a pound a day”).

Or you could trivialise it by using an “apples and oranges” comparison. An example I saw recently said, “It’s an absolute bargain when you realize that’s less than a daily cappuccino at Starbucks for a couple of weeks.”

Reason #5: No reason to buy now

Let’s be honest, if we can put off making a decision, we’ll often do that.

Solution: If you can use scarcity in a legitimate and credible way – a real reason why this offer is genuinely limited – you’ll normally see sales increase significantly.

One way to do this is to offer bonuses (e.g. extra products, extra services, free reports, free reviews) for a specifically defined period e.g. “Until 1st May”. If you do this, make sure you remove/change these bonuses once that date is reached. (Of course, you can then replace then with different bonuses.)


There are, of course, many other reasons why people don’t buy, but hopefully this list of conversion problems and solutions will help you identify and fix at least one issue with your own site.

Of course, if you’d like help with this – for example, if you’re so busy running your business, you know you’ll never get around to this – drop me an email. I’ll be happy to help.

Best wishes,