online shopping

My Attempt at Giving Up Online Shopping

This winter, I thought I’d try to give up online shopping for 40 days. I don’t think I spend too much money online, most of what I get is stuff I need- and I’m actually part of the 8 out of 10 Americans that participates in ecommerce (source). I even started writing this post about the experience 2 weeks in. I had to change the title of the post, though, because…well, I didn’t make it through the whole 40 days. Instead of writing about my successful endeavor, I get to write about how and why this experiment was a glorious failure.


Perhaps the biggest hurdle going into this experiment was the knowledge that everything I needed/wanted wasn’t exactly right at my fingertips for 40 days. Instead, I’d have to be a little more thoughtful about upcoming purchases (especially since we live in a place where geographically you might have to drive a bit for certain things). This isn’t impossible, just inconvenient at times.

Mindful Internet Browsing

The thing that was surprisingly hard was how much more of a conscious effort I had to make whenever I was online. It was actually a bit jarring to realize how complacent I’ve become in my internet browsing. For instance, I’d go on Facebook and an ad for a dress or something baby related would appear in my newsfeed, so I’d usually just click on it and see what there was to see, whether or not I was planning on making a purchase. During this experiment, “window shopping” also wasn’t allowed (meaning I couldn’t just go to Amazon and put stuff in my cart to save for later)- which made things a little trickier.

Scarcity Mindset

Another thing I had to battle was a scarcity mindset. When I got emails with subject lines like “You’ll never see deals like these again,” a very small part of me almost went into panic mode. It was like hitting a tripwire in my brain and suddenly I was like, “Wait, I should probably check and see, just to be sure.” The rational part of my brain knows that next month, I’ll still be getting emails from the same companies with the same message. The irrational part of my brain desperately wanted to see what these deals were, just in case. It doesn’t sound like it should be that hard, but I was fighting against some brain wiring.


The other thing that was hard to work around was making purchases on registries. Around the one-month mark for this experiment, my cousin shared her Amazon Baby Registry with the family for her upcoming baby shower. Then, we got the registry information for my brother and future SIL’s registry for their wedding this fall.  Sure, worst case I could’ve waited until the last minute to buy something, or just gone rogue and purchased some things off-registry, but as someone who just went through the whole birth thing, I understand that registry stuff can be based on needs so I try to be sensitive to that. Point is, there are a lot of things that you can only find online (some stores will even have certain products listed as “online only,” for instance).

Overall, this was a pretty interesting learning experience, even if I ultimately failed.

  1. I’m not as impervious to marketing messages as I thought. And it turns out, 71% of people believe they’ll find a better deal online than in stores (source), and it might have something to do with really good marketing.
  2. I’ve gotten used to the convenience of online shopping. It’s so easy to “just order it online” when I’m getting low on something…and it’ll just come right to wherever I am, no driving or having to deal with crowds (ok, that part isn’t as much of a concern).
  3. It might actually be really hard for me to give up online shopping. Not in a way that I think I’m overspending or anything like that, but in the case of online registries, it’s a part of the lifestyle I’m used to having. I remember the days when you would have to go into a store (like Filene’s) and find someone’s registry. It’s a lot of effort compared to what you can just do from your couch these days.

I do recommend this experiment to anyone who might want to get control of their budget or anyone who wants to understand what kinds of online marketing they are most susceptible too. It’s one thing to buy things because you like them but knowing why could help you find awareness, discipline, and intention in other parts of your life, too. In the meantime, if you have a business, think about what kind of business you could be doing online (our course might help). 

Now please excuse me while I run three errands at once from my web browser.

How To Help People Buy From Your Business Online

You have a great product/service. You even have a website setup to sell said product/service.

Yet, you get the feeling that business could be better. Maybe your customer needs a hand to buy from you? Here are some ideas:

1. Make Yourself Easy To Find.

Follow SEO best practices. 

Search engines like three things (to overly simplify): words people are looking for, links coming into your website and frequently updated content. For more information on SEO best practices, check out some of our blog posts on the topic:

Playing well with search engines means that the people looking for you (or more accurately, your product or service) can find you.

Consider listing yourself on other websites or marketplaces. For example, if you sell Wordpress themes, maybe a marketplace like Themeforest or if you make handcrafted cribbage boards,  make a listing on Etsy.

Like anything, listing your goods on a different website has pros and cons. One pro is that you’ll be able to see a wider selection of the market. You’ll be in a position to increase awareness about your product, as well (out of the population of people who use Etsy, only a handful may already be aware of your business).

The con is that you don’t always have full control over order information. For instance, on your own website you may have an email newsletter signup as people check out. But at least consider making yourself easier to find by having a presence on websites where customers are looking for your product.

2. Make It Easy To Buy.

Accept multiple forms of payment (ex: credit cards and PayPal). What happens when people go to your online cart? What are you offering in terms of payment processing? Having more than one option, such as PayPal and a credit card processor (i.e. Stripe), could improve your checkout rate. 

If big product, consider payment plans. If you’re selling a big ticket item, consider breaking it down into payment plans (based on the actual price). This makes your product more attainable at no

Make sure payment/cart works on mobile. It’s expected that 50% of purchases online will be from a smartphone in 2017. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, or cannot handle purchases online, it’s worth taking the time to add this ability.

Watch ten potential customers navigate your website (and be quiet while they do it and take made notes). You’ve probably spent time working on the setup of your website, so the ins and outs of navigation probably make complete and total sense to you already. Watching someone else try to navigate your website from start to finish will give you a more accurate perception of a user’s experience on your website and where any shortcomings may exist.

3. Make It Advantageous To Buy.

While you don’t necessarily need to offer this for every product on your site, adding some form of incentive once in awhile can give sales a little boost.

A few ideas for making your product advantageous for customers include:

  • Coupon codes
  • Affiliate programs
  • Early Registration Discount (or other time sensitive promotions)

Someone will always think they can buy it later. By incentivizing action, you can turn ‘later’ into ‘now’.

4. Make It Easy To Share.

We’ve talked about making products easy to share, perhaps by adding social share options for coupons or on the product itself. Zulily combines these tactics in the following product post:

A few things you may notice at the bottom of the image:

  • Incentive to share the product for a discount
  • Three options for sharing- Email, Facebook, and Pinterest (Email is a great sharing option for customers without social media, or those who want to share with a person who doesn’t have social media).

Sharing is only a click away, and if you’re saving $15, why wouldn’t you want to “share”?

5. Make It Easy To Stay In Touch.

In some cases, creating an easy way for customers to stay in touch or communicate with you/among themselves will encourage them to follow through with a purchase. Some examples where this would be helpful include online fitness programs (i.e. month long challenge groups where people can interact with one another), any sort of online class, or any event where it’s helpful to have a ‘community.’

Another fairly simple way to stay in touch with people is to add an email signup somewhere in the checkout process. This gives them a way to stay in touch with you after a purchase, perhaps so you can ask for feedback or send information about future offerings. The idea is to check in at a regular increment, maybe weekly-monthly, not to be the email equivalent of a “Hey what’s up” text that you didn’t sign up for but for some reason keep getting every 12 hours anyway. Communication should be helpful, not annoying or unnecessary.

By making it easy for your customers and potential customers to buy from you online, they’ll be able to show more love to your business. Let them love you, but be easy to love too.

Tech Thursday: What Cart Should I Use?

Online shopping cart, that is! After doing some research for a client, we thought we’d share our findings on a few of the different options for online stores that people may find useful, including Amazon, E-Bay, and setting up a cart on your own website.

If you have any questions or ideas for future topics, let us know!

Marketing Monday: Netflix

Every Monday, Breaking Even profiles a business, non-profit, or blog doing cool things online. Have an idea? Let me know!


Netflix is causing 1/5 of internet traffic after the workday. I bet if people could sneak it more easily, it would also be affecting traffic during the work day too.

I heard this crazy statistic a few weeks ago: 20% of all internet traffic during prime time (7 pm-10 pm) is used by people streaming Netflix videos.

What is Netflix doing that’s allowing their influence to grow and grow?

It allows you to try it for free.
My friend Sam gave me a try Netflix for free for two weeks card. You can also find this same deal online. And as a Netflix user, I got this offer over email to send to my friends.

Clearly the two weeks free offer is in no way exclusive but I bet Netflix is tracking how all these offers are coming in… and adjusting strategy accordingly.

Netfix has a flexible pricing structure, nice for different people using the service.
Recently, you can now stream Netflix online for $7.99/month, which is slightly less than the minimum DVD mail service, which makes sense since the streaming allows Netflix to save money sending DVDs.

If you are going to offer services, it makes sense to have a tiered system, allowing you to serve more people effectively.

Netflix has a ‘Give Netflix’ tab… perfect for the holidays.
If you have a website, you need to address how/where people can get gifts on it, or at least put the idea in peoples’ minds. Netflix has a tab that makes you think about it. This is the time of year where people are looking to spend money, and increasingly spend that money online. Why not on your site?

But remember people aren’t buying gifts for themselves but for others. Make it so people can ship to a different address, add a gift tag, or do other services that make a purchase more gift-y.

To see more cool things Netflix is doing with marketing, see this great blog post…

Four Great Ways Ways I Saved And Wasted Money In 2009

Daniel Scocco, author of Daily Blog Tips, is running a group writing project on his blog called 2009 in Review. I thought it was a fun idea so here are my best and worst ways I saved money in 2009.

Here are some of the best lessons I learned in saving money over the past year:

Asking for something if I need or want it.
When I moved into my house, I couldn’t help but notice my neighbors left a cool looking bookcase outside in the rain.

Maybe they were putting it outside while they moved furniture around or were giving it to someone else. Really though, I didn’t ask at first because I was worried I’d look like some cheap vulture.

I hopped onto the Ikea website to look at pricing some options. The cost was $69 for a Billy Bookcase… and $250 to ship it. Even my cheap local options still involved similar costs and the hassle of transport and assembly. Was my pride really going to get in the way of saving $100 or more?

I finally worked up the nerve to walk over a few days later. I introduced myself as their new neighbor and told them I was looking for a bookcase when I saw theirs outside. Did they still want it?

“We’re getting rid of it. It’s a good thing you asked too because after work tonight, my husband was going to chop it up to bring to the dump.”

It really does never hurt to ask if you do it politely and handle the answer to your request graciously.

Shopping online carefully.

I now automatically go to Google, Ebates, and RetailMeNot before I do any online purchasing for price comparisons, cash back incentives, and coupon codes. When I do buy online, I save between 10 and 20% or at the very least get free shipping which makes my needed purchases a little more worthwhile.

More importantly, I also use the online resources to see if I can get things cheaper locally. Most of the time, in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling of buying local, the comparative hassle of shipping or waiting makes me take the plunge locally, which is really good for both me and the economy.

Negotiating the big bills.

I negotiate prices for my business all the time, why wouldn’t this extend to my personal life? I finally realized this and in my search for a new apartment, I was able to negotiate $150 a month below the asking price of my dream rental so I could afford it.

In the best financial book I’ve ever read ‘All Your Worth’, the idea is to save money on the big expenses before beginning to pinch pennies. I finally now no longer feel weird calling up companies I do business with and seeing where I can save money and I put this into practice in a big way this year.

Relaxing about the small stuff.

It was weird one day to realize I was debating getting rid of my Y membership. It would have saved me $40 a month but to what end? Reducing exercise time and social interaction is not worth that $40 a month to me.

Sure, it’s nice to save a few bucks but as of this year, I am now no longer feel guilty for putting money towards things that are important to me. Because in business you have to spend money to make money and in your personal life, you have to spend a little bit of money sometimes for overall happiness.

And here are four ways I thought were actually saving me money but were really me wasting money:

Waiting until December to get an accountant.

Ignoring finances (besides cash flow) for my small business until this moment was not my brightest idea. The good news about dealing with money, or anything in life really, is that you can always choose to start and anything you do will help.

While I would have paid for an accountant initally, a good one would have saved me money not only on taxes but in helping me make good decisions. Lesson learned.

Not keeping track of money spent while vacationing.

When I am on vacation, my saving money standards get lax. I eat the ridiculous meal (I’m only there once) or visit the attraction (It’ll make a great photo op!). Then I get home and have to tighten my belt for a month.

My next vacation I go on, I am going to budget before I go, not try to figure it out while I’m there. It’s not about deprecation but putting the money instead where it counts, speaking of which…

Using self deprivation as false security.

Can I skip going to the grocery store for a week or trim my own bangs to save a few bucks? Sure. But really, it’s cutting down on the big expenses more than the little ones that’ll make a difference. So for the stuff that matters to me (like good food!) I am going to spend a little more and not feel so guilty about it in 2010.

I think it’s easy to get caught up in saving a few bucks, but to what end? It’s a good question, and one I’ll ask myself more often, rather than just saying ‘no’.

Being impatient about getting things ‘fixed’.

Two things that happened this year that freaked me out: 1) My dog’s health started to decline and 2) My check engine light came on (and stayed on) in my car. Do these have anything to do with one another? They sure do!
I paid over $100 in both cases to get the answer of “wait and see’. Facebooking my dog’s health problem yielded the really good suggestion of switching her food because she could have developed an allergy. And with some asking around, I found out Subaru oxygen sensors are notorious for making the check engine light turn on. Sure enough, I waited a week and it went off. And I switched my dog’s food and she seemed better.
So rather than worrying and going immediately to a professional, I am going to do my homework, and maybe even just wait when problems first arise and see if they resolve themselves. Maybe I am just a lucky person but they really do seem to!
Wow, I learned a lot this year! I’m really glad I wrote this post; I didn’t even realize I had taken all this in.
Here’s to a profitable 2010, and I can’t wait to see what the other participants in this writing project wrote about their past year…