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5 lessons from e-commerce to make better proposals

Once upon a time on the Food Network, there was a show called Bakers vs. Fakers. The basic premise of the show was to have professional and amateur bakers compete against one another and for the judges to try and guess who’s who (baker / faker). 

Outside of showing that there’s a very thin line separating professionals and serious amateurs, there was another theme I noticed watching the show: scientists make great bakers. 

As it would turn out, a lot of the same qualities that make great scientists, make great bakers. Scientists, just like bakers, need to follow strict guidelines, be exact in their measurements, and be detail-oriented. 

There’s a similar phenomenon between proposals and e-commerce sites. On the surface, they may not seem so similar, but the more you dig, the more you see how similar they are. The main similarity being they both have the same goal: get the viewer to purchase. 

Though the goals are the same, we don’t tend to optimize proposals in the same way that we do e-commerce sites. When building an online shop it’s common to A/B test colors and button placement. However, with proposals, it’s all-too-common for people to quickly throw something together and send it out. 

In our humblest opinion, that’s a mistake. Because of that, we’re sharing five lessons learned from e-commerce sites you can use to make better proposals. 

Improve your copy

Though visual elements like pictures and video tend to engage viewers more, you still need to have strong copy. Through copy you’re able to explain your key benefits and differentiators. You can also explain in detail how you can solve for any number of obstacles your potential customer is facing. 

So, it’s good to make sure you’re being thoughtful about the words you use and that you’re testing different variations. With proposals you also have an advantage over a standard e-commerce page since you can make different iterations of a proposal for different industries, roles, and clients. 

Along with keeping the specific audience in mind, you need to be aware of how most readers view the written words on the page. According to research done by the Nielsen Norman Group, most people tend to scan copy in an F shape pattern. 

The real-world implication of that fact is that you should include your most important points early (in the first two paragraphs is best). You should also use heading and subheadings to distinguish sections and make navigating the copy easy for your prospect. 

Be sure you’re as concise as possible in your writing. Fewer words means less visual clutter, which can be helpful. Also, bold important words or phrases to make them stand out for the viewer. 

Utilize multimedia

Though your copy does matter, it’s also true that you can further engage your audience with other forms of media. Using things like infographics can be useful to make data points more interesting and memorable. 

You could also consider creating an explainer video to do an overview of your product and its key features. Explainer videos are a great way to show off your product while informing the viewer. In fact, research shows people are 27x more likely to click on a video than a banner ad. 

There’s also the added benefit of having someone narrate the video. It can be difficult to communicate tone through just text. However, when someone is speaking they can create excitement and show passion through how they speak, which can be very impactful. 

Make it responsive

It’s estimated that nearly 45% of all online purchases will be done on a mobile device in 2020. That’s $284 billion a year. In order to make the experience for those using mobile devices seamless, your page needs to be responsive. 

Having a responsive page means that no matter what device someone views your page on, they have a great experience. It makes a huge difference in the overall ease-of-use and customer experience. 

So, if that much of online shopping is happening on mobile, there’s no doubt that prospects will view your proposal on a mobile device. According to our data, it’s around 15%. The best way to make sure your proposals are responsive, is by getting a tool that supports that feature. 

For example, Qwilr Pages are mobile responsive, which allows you to offer the same great experience to your prospects no matter what device they’re on. 

Though it may sound a bit trivial, it’s not. Research shows that people who have a negative experience on mobile are 62% less likely to purchase from that same brand in the future. So, be sure you’re making the experience great no matter what device the viewer is on. 

Be Transparent

Over the past few years, transparency has been a popular topic. There are even entire successful businesses, like Everlane, built around the concept of transparency. People don’t like surprises. 

For example, did you know almost 70% of all online shopping carts are abandoned? And the number one reason is unexpected charges at checkout. It makes sense. Someone could be preparing themselves mentally for one price, then when it’s different at the last second, it may feel like they’re getting taken advantage of. 

With proposals, the same thing could very easily happen. The morale of the story is this, whatever quote you give in your proposal should include any administrative costs, or other charges that could be added. Also, if you’re not including tax, be sure to mention that as well. 

Further, you should provide an itemized breakdown of the charge. That way the customer knows exactly how much they’re being charged for what. It eliminates surprises and should improve the overall trust of your customer. 

Create urgency

Time is an important element in closing a deal. E-commerce sites commonly use things like sales, or messages like “only a few left” to create urgency for the buyer. Those tactics work. In fact, one study found that using an exit intent pop-up helped recover 53% of abandoning visitors

For your proposal, it may not be possible to add in a pop-up window, but you can use the same principals. For example, you could use a tactic Amazon uses by including a deadline. Perhaps offer a nominal discount for closing earlier, or an additional service like access to product webinar or demo. 

You can even increase urgency by changing the color of your CTA button. Research by HubSpot shows that warm colors for the button (red, orange, yellow, etc.) can create a higher-level of urgency and help motivate action. 

Last, using a tool like Qwilr, you can see when a proposal has been viewed and what sections the viewer spent the most time on. With that information, you can craft a compelling follow-up email to create more urgency and encourage purchasing sooner than later. 

Continued learning

Being able to apply lessons from one discipline to another is a great skill in and of itself. Whether you’re a scientist turned baker, or sales person trying to create stronger proposals, being able to utilize outside learnings will serve you well. 

Though e-commerce may seem a world all its own, there are some lessons you can take to make stronger proposals. If you’re willing to take a step back and get a little creative, you might be surprised by what you find. 

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