Picture this: a potential customer comes across your product in a store. They pick it up and eyeball it as they consider putting it in their shopping cart. Then—they stop. They put it back on the shelf and walk away.
So what happened?
Chances are, your customer probably ran into a barrier that prevented them from purchasing your product. We’re not referring to a physical barrier, but a psychological one—and barriers to purchase are a frustratingly common obstacle that can prevent you from gaining traction in the marketplace.
What Are ‘Barriers to Purchase’ in Business?
A barrier to purchase is anything that prevents someone from buying your product. To increase your sales, you need to decrease the barriers to purchase that may be preventing customers from buying (or even finding) your product. You need to make it as easy as possible for someone to buy what you’re selling and preempt any objections they may have.
The thing is, many of us probably try to find reasons not to buy something—we have to work hard to justify purchases (especially large ones) and put careful thought and consideration into our purchase decisions. If you want to convince a consumer, you’ll need to remove as many of those reasons not to buy something as you can.
What are the Most Common Barriers to Purchases?
There are many functional and emotional barriers to purchase that may prevent a prospect from buying from your business. We’ve grouped some of the most common barriers into a few categories and broken them down into more specific objections along with tips for overcoming them.
Poor branding can lead to a wide variety of issues, but it can be a big blocker for consumer purchases. Here are a few ways poor branding can be a barrier to purchase:
Lack of marketplace visibility
Your branding needs to effectively communicate what you do and what you sell. It also needs to stand out in a market; after all, no one can buy from you if they don’t know you exist. Building a solid brand can help people find your products. Additional marketing strategies (like SEO) can help, too—but once people find your brand, it needs to be clear that you’re offering what they’re looking for. You only have a few seconds to make a good first impression, so make it count!
Lack of brand trust
Shoppers love to try new things, but before they can, they need to know they’re buying a quality product from a reputable company. Building brand trust is a crucial part of breaking down purchase barriers and improving your reputation in the marketplace. The level of brand trust your company has reflects whether or not consumers think your brand’s product, service, or corporate behavior matches the promises you’ve made.
There are a few ways to build brand trust:
● Collect and share reviews and star ratings (when applicable) from past customers.
● Take advantage of relevant review sites like Google, Yelp, TrustPilot, and more to collect and share customer feedback.
● Provide clear, transparent communication with customers.
● Be authentic and consistent in your marketing.
Lack of brand loyalty
Lack of brand loyalty is similar to lack of brand trust with a bit more nuance—perhaps you have some marketplace visibility, but your competitor holds the lion’s share of consumer loyalty in your market. A consumer might know who you are, but if you’re a relatively new player in the market, you’ll need to work to gain not only brand trust but brand loyalty.
This will likely be an ongoing effort, but here are some ways to get started:
● Research your competition and find out what consumers like about buying from them. Is it just the product, or is it also the customer service that has them coming back for more?
● Focus on what makes you unique. What sets you apart from other brands, and why is that better?
● Identify gaps in the market that other competitor brands aren't addressing. If you can fill those gaps, you can pull some of that market share away from your competition.
To elaborate on our last point, exploring product whitespace in your market can be a hugely beneficial method that allows you to garner key insights on ways to improve your existing products, develop new ones, and improve marketing language. If you can find out what unmet needs your competitors aren’t addressing, you can establish a foothold and start to attract more prospects to your brand instead of your competitors’.
Poor Customer Experience
A negative customer experience can deter interested prospects and keep them from coming back again in the future.
In today’s world, people want results in seconds—not minutes. If it takes forever to load your site, chances are that people will navigate away before ever looking at what you’re offering. 40% of consumers say they’ll abandon a website if they have to wait just 3 seconds for the page to load!
Small details can make big differences for customer navigation. If it takes too many clicks to get to a product/service/pricing page, or if your navigation menu is hard to find, you’ll lose the prospect. They likely won’t want to search around to out what you offer—they’ll just abandon their search and try another site.
Too many steps
How complicated is it for someone to buy your product? Do you require copious amounts of customer info just to make a purchase? The last place you want customers to get annoyed with your site is during the purchase process. Consider cutting out all but the most necessary steps during your checkout process to help customers complete their purchases faster.
Here are a few other negative customer experiences that may prevent them from purchasing from your brand:
● Poor customer service
● Poor quality and durability
● Poor arrival and packaging
● Poor customer education (they don’t know what to do with/how to use what you sell)
Pricing is often the number one concern when making a purchase, and something being too expensive is typically a customer’s number one reason for not buying. Of course, you have a business to run, so you need to make smart financial decisions and not just slash costs. Instead, you need to prove that your product is valuable enough to justify the price. Building brand trust can help with that, but so can case studies, helpful data sets, and customer reviews. And, when it makes sense, you can always offer time-sensitive discount codes to help push the customer along in the purchase process.
Balance of Information
There’s a certain Goldilocks element to what customers want to know when researching a new purchase. Striking the right balance is key to ensuring customers feel well-informed without suffering from information overload.
Not enough information
Make sure your customers have the information they need to feel comfortable moving forward with their purchase. At the very least, you should have information published on your website about:
● Your company
● FAQ page for common questions
● Customer reviews
● And, if applicable:
○ Return policies
○ Shipping rates and timing
○ Customer warranties
○ Product specs and sizing
If you don’t provide this info, you’ll risk customers abandoning your business for a competitor.
Too much information
Don’t distract customers with unnecessary details. Arm them with the information they need to move forward with a purchase, but avoid clogging product or site pages with superfluous information. It can be distracting and may prevent customers from finding what they’re actually looking for.
Removing Purchase Barriers with your Customers Starts with Listening
Sometimes, the best way to identify barriers to purchase is by learning them directly from your customers. Social listening is the practice of tracking social media platforms for mentions and conversations related to your brand or products/services you sell, and it can be a helpful way to find out customer pain points, needs, and desires. Starlight Analytics offers AI-powered social listening services that scrape customer posts, comments, and conversations (also known as voice of customer analysis) and organizes them into key topics and subtopics you can use to shape your product roadmap and brand messaging. These analyses can also help you identify gaps in the marketplace and opportunities to fill those gaps by directly addressing customer needs.
“Hard” vs “Soft” Barriers
Some purchase barriers are easier to address than others. For example, a “soft” barrier might be a lack of consumer education—they don’t know what you do, but if they did, they’d probably be interested. However, a “hard” barrier might be a lack of brand trust or loyalty, because you’ll need to invest time and resources into building trust with your audience. It’s important to take a hard look at what’s preventing your customers from buying from your brand and be realistic about what it’ll take to overcome those barriers. This is an iterative process, and social listening can be an invaluable tool that can help you quantify your brand perception and determine the best method to address those barriers.
Breaking Down Barriers
Your ultimate goal is to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy what you’re selling. By breaking down barriers to purchase, you’ll not only improve the customer experience but also make more sales and drive additional revenue. And, remember this: positive customer experiences make happy customers, and happy customers become brand advocates who will come back for more (and bring their friends).