Are You Preventing Your Customers From Spending Money?

  |  January 23, 2009   |  Comments

Companies must understand how customers use their services and provide easy paths for them to make purchases and upgrades. What you can learn from two brands.

In the past, we've looked at various barriers to entry you might be placing in front of your customers. In this troubled economy, you should make it as easy as possible for your customers to transact with you. It's hard enough getting them to the point where they are ready to open their wallets. Once their wallets are open, you can't afford to make things difficult.

Case Study: Adobe

Today we'll look at how Adobe has placed a barrier in front of potential customers. Now I really like Adobe, and my company's partnership with Scene7 means that technically Adobe is a partner of ours, too. But my frustration with a recent attempted order underlines the need for companies like this to enable users to easily transact with them.

I own CS3 Production Premium, one of the versions of Adobe Creative Suite (CS) 3. I applaud Adobe for being user-centric with its product bundling. In addition to selling each of its applications separately, the company has created user-centric bundles of its applications that will generally be used by the same type of person to achieve a specific goal. One bundle is aimed at Web designers and developers. One is aimed for television/movie people. And so on.

I wanted to upgrade from CS3 to CS4. Should be easy enough, as there is specific pricing just for those who are upgrading. However, after I purchased the upgrade and installed it, I got error messages. The software wanted me to enter my serial number for CS3 to make sure it was an upgrade, yet when I did, it wouldn't accept it.

Turns out that Adobe's licenses are not cross-platform, and my company recently switched from Windows to Mac. So while CS3 was on a Windows machine, we no longer use Windows (except for testing the sites we build). My CS4 upgrade was for the Mac. Unfortunately, Adobe doesn't allow you to easily do a cross-platform upgrade.

After a call to customer service, I learned there was a cross-platform upgrade, but my understanding is it requires you to destroy the previous version of the software. This makes no sense to me, as I could easily have CS3 and CS4 running on the same machine (if the bundles I bought had different programs and I wanted to run all of them).

I was told Adobe would refund my upgrade purchase, then I would have to get a cross-platform license. Adobe couldn't just give me a serial number that worked on the Mac. Additionally, to get the refund, I had to fax the company a letter saying I had destroyed the software from the upgrade. Now, the software from the upgrade is simply the trial download package anyone can download from the site. So what does destroying it mean? The whole thing is silly and archaic.

Other companies that make software for both platforms tend to have cross-platform licenses. I use Digidesign Pro Tools and Sibelius regularly. When I upgraded to the Mac, I downloaded the Mac versions of the software and entered my existing serial number. Simple and easy.

Case Study:

On the other end of the spectrum, CVS just launched a new Web site. For years users have been able to reorder prescriptions via and pick them up at the local store. However, you had to know your prescription's individual numbers (from the labels) to reorder them. There was no way for the system to track all the prescriptions you have, and it was a nightmare to remember which were still active, which had refills, when they expired, and so on.

The new CVS site is very easy to use, and the new prescription center has a listing of all the prescriptions you have and how many refills are available for each one. CVS makes it easy for its customers to continue to transact with it by understanding its customers' basic needs.


While this column emphasizes one specific gripe I have with one company, the point is not that companies should offer cross-platform licenses. The point is that companies need to really understand how their customers use their services and provide easy paths for them to make purchases and upgrades. If you are a financial institution cross-selling services, you aren't going to make users enter in all their information again, right? If you are a pharmacy (like CVS), you aren't going to require users to have all their bottles from past prescriptions and make them keep track of what they can reorder, are you? No. You will do what you can to make it as easy as possible to gain a greater share of wallet without putting users through their paces.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Let me know!

Until next time...



Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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