Customer Inertia and its effect on business

Many a times while running a business, we spend a large amount of money on advertising and marketing our product or service .However in spite of this, we find that customer is probably uninterested in our product or not even signed up to view a demo.

We learn from our experience and our readings of business books or suggestions from our friends we try to determine the reason why no one is buying our products and services. Some of these could be that either there is something wrong with our marketing or we have not given the right message with our advertising.

The usual response is to spend more money on advertising, designing better campaigns and working hard on cleaning up the message to the customer. While these may be the possible causes and remedies , there is a bigger enemy than these which is making our sales go away and we are not even responsible for it.

It is called as customer inertia.

A customer may be at any stage of sales cycle. He or she may be thinking about getting a new curtain for his/her home . She may be already in your shop, looking for something.

Moving from one stage of sales to the final stage however gets difficult as customer goes to purchase a product. Here are some more examples of various stages of cycle a customer may be in and the inertia to move on to the next sales stage.

  • Customer is too busy to check out your shop
  • She  really does not need to check out the store because she is probably not interested in the goods sold there
  • Customer may visit the store but find no suitable customer service
  • She wants to buy online but website is too badly designed and takes a lot of time to load.
  • She has added the items to the shopping cart but at the checkout changes her mind because she is scared of using credit car.
  • She is not interested in filling up lengthy forms just to sign up for a service.

You must be saying to yourself by now,yes, I have been through one of these steps. If you are a customer, inertia may not be troubling you much but if you are a seller, inertia may be sales killing force. Infact it is a proven fact that most customer back out just before placing the order.

But why the inertia? When a customer sees something of value she should come and grab things as soon as she can.

Here are possible reasons for customer inertia.

  1. Customer may be really busy
  2. You offer may not be very enticing
  3.  is already hooked on to your competitor
  4. She is scared of sharing her details with you
  5. She is looking for a better deal
  6. There is a high barrier to purchase and sign up
  7. She may have had bad experiences previously
  8. Your shop may be located far away from where she is located.

How does it affect your business?

Customer inertia is hurting to your business not only in the terms of increased customer acquisition cost but also cost of winning customer from your competitor.  Once the customer is saddled with a vendor, she normally finds it very difficult to move on to other vendor if the service is not too bad.

In another example, customer who is used to transact offline has a real inertia to adopt technology and move to online transactions. A number of barriers that exists such as inertia to learn new things, slower internet speeds and trouble of procuring credit card and threat of online theft. The younger generation may have lesser inertia about technology but most of the purchasing power is with the older generation. They however are reluctant to adopt new technologies.

Thus customer inertia brings lesser sales, lower adoption of technology and more competition.

Do you think customer inertia is a major force when people defer the purchase decisions ?Have you or your own business has experienced customer inertia ? How do you make sure that sales happen with customers who are not interested in buying or trying your stuff?

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Your comments and replies

  • As sales/marketing people it’s our job to take obstacles, barriers and doubts away. My basic rule of thumb is to make it as easy as possible for a customer to buy. Everything that stands between him and the offer should be reduced to a minimum.

    Great read Ashvini!
    Wim

    • Wim,

      Classy advice from you !!! You have actually simplified the complex sales process by dissolving whatever inertia customer has to make that purchase. I think you have many such tricks up your sleeve. I would love to read about them on your blog.
      Thanks bro for commenting and sorry for late reply.

  • Very well written and explained Ashvini. I think yes..it could be one of the major reasons why people change their decision at the last moment. Not sure if it has happened to me though I agree I have been faced with a very similar situation in the past. I agree to what you have said about people being in isolation with technology as they get older. This I have read a lot and have also seen many real life examples. I think you cannot do much in such cases. I think only mass awareness programs can help in such cases. People need to be told about technology, latest products and offerings, the benefits they offer. Give them a free demo. Let them test it before they can try it out. Once they get comfortable, it is likely to achieve better sale.

    • Hi Aswani,

      I think good customer experience and customer inertia go hand in hand. It is important for a business to determine what makes his or her market tick and make people move.
      I think your suggestions are really helpful. If we can provide demo’s before product is launched, we can help in acceptance and reduction of inertia.
      Thanks for comment. I really appreciate it .

  • In my business of insurance sales, it means someone is getting fired if they are going to do business with us. Sometimes the owner can’t do that when it comes right down to it. Therefore, you need to know this up front.

    They might not like what they have, but it is a known. Sometimes the unknown sounds like work as well so it is easy just to stay status quo…………

    • Hi Bill

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

      Yes, you got it right. The unknown is a lot of work sometimes, too much to understand for many people. The more they have to change, the more resistance is there.

  • Inertia will tend to keep your customer doing nothing. There are many thing one can do to boost response. E.g. give Free Gift, Money-Back Guarantee, give Limited-Time. These offers are particularly good for raising your sales.

    • You nailed it bro . Customer inertia is already a very big problem and companies develop complex programs to turn off the customer. If they think in the ways you have suggested , they can really get good sales or conversions. Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your comments :)

  • Hi Ashvini, Well, I look at this from the perspective of a consumer. I went to a candle store the other day and ended up buying a ton of candles because the sales person was so engaging. She recommended some wonderful scented candles and some beautiful candle holders, including one that was on sale that “saved me money.” (Sorry, you might not be able to understand how I saved money by spending it. My husband is the same way…) ;-)

    But I will leave items in my online shopping cart if I find the purchasing process too difficult. One pet peeve I have is when you enter a coupon code at the very last step. You have no idea if the coupon code will work until it’s too late. I want to know right away.

    Thanks so much for another brilliant article, Ashvini! :-)

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Thanks for great comment and examples. I think these real life examples are those that makes a business case worth it :) .
      In my opinion, humans do have a lot of inertia. Inertia to get up and learn new things, move over technology. By putting more hurdles in the way of performing a transaction ( one that you talked about), it is only increased . Customer will either move to least part of resistance or abandon the process in total.

      Sorry for the late reply. I was on vacation and trying to find new topic for my blog :). As always great to see you here :)

  • Hi Ashvini,

    Hmm… I’m going to have to ponder the concept of customer inertia. There are clearly different “levers,” so there also isn’t one solution.

    I do have to quibble a bit with you on your examples — I believe inertia as you are using it implies the customer has opted not to act (I’ve left things sitting in a “cart” more than once, which means I was mostly browsing AND the company just didn’t made a compelling enough ask/offer).

    But I think a couple of these are (company) structural versus (consumer) inertia, including a poorly designed Web site and crappy customer service. I’m not sure qualify as customer inertia so much as poor customer experience.

    Thanks for making me think! I’m thinking aloud here, so feel free to disagree if you think I’m off base.

    • Hi Daria,

      Its great to see you again :)

      I think there is a definite overlap between customer inertia and bad customer service or poorly designed website. This is the point exactly I want to tell( and you got it). There is a huge inertia that already exist in many people not wanting to be out there and try more/better things .
      Let me give you an example from my career. Old organizations are usually stuffy. They do not want to try new things. May be this is more in India’s context where there is a resistance to change. Give them a software which does not work that well, they are first to abandon it.
      Today still there are plenty of people who find it difficult to learn new tech or they are so happy with their current status, nothing ever make them move.Let us say you are the competitor of a company, whose customer you would like to move to your company. The cost of crossing over the inertia needs to be added.
      Good customer service and great website design will definitely add to that appeal.
      Thus my next post would be how to help customer overcome this inertia :).
      Hence the question is “what will make them move ?
      Your thoughts ?

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