Dating is kind of like marketing when you think about it. You’re trying to maximize the positives, minimize the negatives, convert a window shopper at the bar to a buyer of drinks or dinners, and eventually a repeat customer. (Feel free to use that in your wedding vows)

Whether it’s partners or patrons, one universal truth exists: the problems in relationships often have more to do with the last relationship than with the current one.

We bring baggage with us wherever we go. A woman once broke up with me in an IHOP parking lot, so now my current partner ain’t getting no pancakes. Meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend was a restaurant snob and never let them eat at IHOP. Now her and I are locked in an epic brunch battle (that I will win), despite the fact our problem isn’t with each other, but with the lingering baggage of past letdowns.

Writing for the Huffington Post, health and wellness coach Robin Hoffman writes that the best way to deal with baggage is with understanding and communication. You can’t stubbornly refuse to change in the face of obvious problems in your relationship. Your partner won’t eventually yield to your way of doing things. They’ll just go find someone else they’re more compatible with, someone willing to go the distance to make the relationship work.

Are your sales and conversions suffering because of buyer baggage? The same words we use when talking about healthy relationships come up when we talk about ecommerce conversions, words like trust, honesty, communication, appeal, and feedback. We should add baggage to that list. What past ecommerce disappointments are poisoning your relationships with your buyers? And more importantly, what can you do to heal the wounds, strengthen your relationship with your website visitors, and increase conversion rates?

To answer that question, let’s have some fun. Here are five types of emotional baggage most of us have seen (or even brought) in our relationships and how they relate to online shoppers.

Poor Communication


Communicating is such a vital part of a successful relationship that it almost feels like a cliché. If your partner’s been in relationships where their feelings weren’t valued, it’ll be harder for them to open up to you and communicate in effective ways.

Is this happening in the seller-buyer relationship? Customers who’ve learned from previous purchases that their concerns aren’t addressed may not communicate with you about issues during the purchase process. They might want that leather belt in a different color, or that Pokémon iPhone case with a different character, but they’re nervous about asking if you can accommodate the request, so they just don’t convert. Another buyer might receive a defective item, and rather than contacting you with their concerns, they just post negative feedback, don’t respond to your offers of assistance, or ignore the situation entirely and never buy from you again. This method will mostly likely not increase your ecommerce conversions.

You’re probably nodding your head right now, remembering buyers exactly like this. But remember, in relationships and in selling, we can’t control what others do. We only control our response to it but by improving communication will most definitely increase ecommerce conversions. We have to mitigate poor communication with customers before it begins.

Tip: Take Trigger Words Off the Table

Relationship psychologist Dr. Kristen Davin writes that one method for hurdling communication issues is to create and discuss relationship rules. Do the same for your buyers. Clearly spell out how you can be reached with issues, how quickly you can respond, and what types of issues you can accommodate. Include a reminder in the package of the item.

Davin also suggests taking certain “trigger words” off the table in conversations. These are phrases that could possibly incite more emotional animosity out of a situation, phrases that aren’t solution oriented. Here are some words and phrases you should consider banning from your customer communication.

  • “No returns.”
  • “No refunds.”
  • “You made the mistake.”
  • “I’m sorry.” (Some say “I apologize” is a much stronger option, as saying you’re sorry suggests a state of being rather than a response to an individual situation.)
  • “No one ever complains about that.”
  • “That’s not my responsibility.”

Trust Issues


A relationship without trust is like a slip and slide without water. You can try it out, but it won’t be fun, and you’ll just end up getting hurt.

Trust issues are common in relationships because we’ve all been let down by people at some point in our pasts. It’s when your current behavior is dictated by that past hurt that the emotional baggage becomes an issue. It manifests itself in all the familiar ways. Your partner finds any reason not to believe the things you say.

It’s the same thing when buyers land on your website. If buyers don’t trust you, they won’t commit to spending their money with you. Shoppers will scour your listing, photos, and reviews looking for a reason not to trust your item. I once bought a pair of distressed skinny jeans, but when they arrived, they only had two rips in them. That’s not very distressed at all. Now whenever I buy clothes online, I’m reading through every review under three stars looking for discrepancies. If I find one, I’m not buying. Sellers who tracked my traffic behavior would have no clue my bounce wasn’t their fault. It’s my buyer baggage from a past transaction.

Tip: Create Listings That Build Trust

How do you build trust with your site visitors? Elizabeth Arthur suggests that partners struggling with trust issues can help each other by staying open and sharing secrets. That means maintaining honest listings about your products, including their conditions and history. Use common-sense descriptors and don’t embellish.

Another tip is to include illustrations that spell out measurements on your product photos. You might even consider adding other items to your product photos for scale, as long as you clearly spell out what in the picture is included in the same.


She also points out that being aloof in the face of your partner’s trust issues is sure to cause resentment. Mistrust can be toxic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Your buyers have every right to be discerning and protect themselves when deciding whether or not to convert. When they raise concerns to you, no matter how silly they might seem, remember that these concerns likely stem from past negative experiences. Be patient in your response and make sure they feel acknowledged, respected, and reassured by the exchange.

Self-conscious Thoughts


It’s almost impossible to compliment someone who’s very self-conscious. They won’t believe you no matter what you say.

We can be just as self-conscious when we buy online. We stare at the same six product photos over and over again wondering if we really have the skin tone for that makeup, if we have the biceps for that sleeveless hoodie, or if we’re good enough at guitar to justify getting the Les Paul we’ve always dreamed of.

I’ve wasted so much money in my life buying things online and then not being able to use them. That mini deep fryer just takes up space on my kitchen counter. Now I’m self-conscious about whether or not I’ll be able to use an item once I buy it. Psychotherapist Carmen Cool says that self-conscious thoughts can limit our abilities to fully enjoy life, and that includes buying something we want online.

Tip: Foster Confidence Within Shoppers


Dating coach Evan Marc Katz suggests the best way to counter your partner’s self-conscious baggage from parents or ex’s is to build new positive experiences. For sellers, this means you have to introduce your customer to positive perceptions of your products. How do you provide a positive experience with a product before the customer buys it? It’s not like a brick and mortar where the customer can physically interact with the product. You have to show them the experience in a different way in order to increase their chances of converting.

One method is product videos. John Lawson, Chief Consultant at ColderICE Media, had his first great marketing success by making product videos for bandanas he was selling on Amazon, showing potential buyers how to tie a bandana like Tupac. These were customer who wanted the bandanas, but were worried they wouldn’t be able to use it like they wanted. Lawson was able to build a small empire on Amazon by easing self-conscious buyers through product video. You can see the same results too. Internet Retailer reports that viewing product videos makes customers 144% more likely to add an item to their cart. Seeing an actual visual is a good way to increase ecommerce conversions.

Other ideas:

  • Highlight insightful reviews
  • Crowdsource user tutorials and unboxings on YouTube
  • Write evocative, narrative product descriptions in the 2nd person

Playing the Blame Game


We all have trouble admitting we were wrong sometimes. It’s natural. The desire to be right can begin to damage a relationship however when it gets prioritized over keeping the peace. If you’d rather argue about who was right than resolve the underlying issue, your happy home will quickly turn into a warzone. But if you want to increase ecommerce conversation rates sometimes you have to take a deep breath and apologize.

Your buyer will often lay all the blame for mistakes at your feet. An email demanding a refund because a pair of high heels were too small can elicit feelings of anger. Why are they mad at you when they’re the person who ordered high heels in the wrong size? On the other end of the email the customer is convinced this is your fault for selling heels that “run small.” Who is in the right? The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You want the sale and she wants the shoes. This exchange can still end with everyone happy, but the moment you let it become about whose fault the mistake was, you’ve already lost.

Tip: Deliver Appropriate Responses to Feedback


Psychologist Dr. Lisa Firestone notes the root of this kind of emotional baggage is formed early in life. The blame game is a defense mechanism caused by a fear of being open and vulnerable enough to admit you were wrong. She points out that poise, compassion, and an openness to feedback can stop the blame game in its tracks. What does that look like for sellers?

  • Poise – Do not play the blame game with the buyer. This is a game that needs two players, and if you don’t opt in, you can’t be dragged down an unwinnable path. Stay calm and professional.
  • Compassion – Acknowledge and validate the feelings of the buyer. Tell them you apologize that their item didn’t arrive how they imagined it, and that you understand why they’re upset. The customer who was ready to do battle is now disarmed by your kindness.
  • Openness to feedback – Really listen to the customer and reflect on the process. Maybe, just maybe, you weren’t clear enough in your product descriptions. Maybe there were better descriptors you could’ve used. What is the customer asking for? A refund? An exchange? Be open to delivering it. 95% of customers who ask for a return will buy from you again if the return is painless.

In the example above, Nike responds to a customer who is having trouble finding their order number. Nike is patient and poised in responding to the customer, approaching the situation not as a behavior the customer needs to correct, but as a problem in need of a solution.  Through this they were able to diffuse what could’ve been a frustrating situation.

Final Thoughts

Relationships are tricky things. If there’s one universal truth to relationships, it’s that they take intentional work. You’ll never accidentally have the perfect relationship. When that relationship is between a buyer and a seller, it’s even more difficult. But by modeling what we know about interpersonal relationships to apply to our selling, we create more human exchanges and avoid headaches. It may not be your fault, but it’s your responsibility and with these tips, an increase in ecommerce conversion will be a piece of (wedding) cake.


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