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Is The Butt-Brush Effect Killing Your Online Business?

No one likes being hassled when they’re shopping. You know the drill: from the moment you wander innocently into a store to browse the wares, eager salespeople are immediately hounding you. Sure, they’re just trying to do their job, but often these same sales tactics designed to make you spend more money are actually making you wish you’d never walked through the door to begin with.

 In Paco Underhill’s book Why We Buy, he refers to this interesting phenomena as the ‘Butt-Brush Effect.’ A quick explanation: while conducting research for his book, Underhill noticed that women shopping for neckties situated near the busy entrance of a department store were more likely to leave the tie section (or even the store itself) when they were accidentally brushed from behind. So basically, when their personal ‘space’ was violated, they lost interest and left.

 The question to ask yourself then is this: Does your website violate your customers’s sense of comfort to such a degree that it may be harming your business? Here are some common website ‘Butt-Brush Effects’ to look out for:

            -Hiding Costs: This one always kind of blows me away. It’s amazing how stupid some people think shoppers are. Do they really think that by concealing costs until the very end of an online transaction, that they’re more likely to make the sale? That’s like not putting price tags on items only to hit you with it once you’ve saddled up to the register with your arms full of stuff. When something’s too expensive it’s too expensive no matter where in pops up in the process. Better to show it upfront. Being sneaky about it just makes you come off like a money-grubbing rat. Good luck getting repeat business that way.

            -Annoying Music/Video: If you’re anything like me, the moment you visit a website with automated music playing or some weird video, I immediately nip the obnoxious media in the bud. Videos and music are fine mind you, so long as you make them just inconspicuous enough where we don’t feel like we’re not in control of our own experience when visiting your website. Exercise good manners and let your visitors decide whether or not they hear music or watch a video presentation.

            -Inconsistent Page Design: Ever wonder why every Starbucks in the world looks pretty much like all the rest of them, give or take a few minor differences? Turns out, design consistency breeds a natural sense of comfort in visitors. And if it works for Starbucks and McDonald’s, then chances are, it’s probably a good idea for your website to do the same. As shoppers move from one page to the next, if you keep the layout, fonts, color schemes, and images consistent, you’re less likely to cause ‘shopper anxiety.’ That’s bad. Avoid it at all costs.

I want everyone out there to go above and beyond their wildest expectations with their online business. I seriously do. But trust me, until you rid your website of these annoying features, you’re just going to be kicking yourself in the butt, and when that happens, you’ll wish it were just a gentle ‘brushing.’ Keep your page designs consistent, don’t hit us with music and videos as soon as we arrive, and show us the prices upfront. To borrow a well-known phrase: It’s just good business.


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