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Ok, so you’ve looked at your analytics and found that your shopping cart abandonment rate is in the 55-75% range like everyone else’s. You’ve had a good cry and found some consolation in the fact that you’re not alone.
But you’ve heard about success stories like StubHub’s “go button” and Jared Spool’s story about the 300 million dollar button. You’re ready to face this problem head on and create a success story of your own. Let’s get down to business.
The first step is to run some user tests so you can find out why people are leaving; then you can create your improvement plan. But what should you test specifically? What should you be looking for? We’ve got the list for you right here so that you can get great user feedback when you test your checkout process.
Two of the biggest factors in shopping cart success are…
…so we’ve organized everything into those two categories.
But first, we need to start with a bonus tip, because this impacts how you’ll run your tests.
Lose customer confidence, lose your sale. Well, let’s state that more positively: you can increase your conversions by maintaining your customer’s trust and confidence throughout the checkout process.
At the simplest level, you can ask testers open-ended questions about how confident they feel about this purchase. But where and when do you ask the questions? Here are several trust / confidence points to check on.
Shoppers want to know whether your site is safe, but also whether their data is safe with you. Ask users what security information is important to them, and whether they can find it. You might find users searching for items such as:
Brick-and-mortar shoppers know they can talk with someone if things go awry with their purchase, or if they just change their mind. Online shoppers need a similar safety net. Ask your testers to find your return policy (and perhaps your satisfaction guarantee, price match guarantee, etc.), and ask them whether it’s easy enough to find, and whether they have any concerns or fears that haven’t been addressed.
Some shoppers find comfort in the immediate availability of customer support. Not just FAQs and knowledgebases, mind you; but real people, ready to talk or chat. Consider asking your testers whether they know how to get help if they were to need it, and what their preferred support method is. You might find that the addition of a phone number, chat button, and/or 24/7 support icon gives some shoppers the confidence to continue checking out – even if they never actually end up needing support.
Online and brick-and-mortar stores both have to deal with easy price comparison shopping these days, but online stores have the extra challenge of competitors’ stores being just a browser tab away. If the customer has any reason to question the value he’s receiving, there’s nothing stopping him from checking out a competitor. Consider asking testers questions like these to reveal any customer uncertainty about the value you’re offering:
Ask your testers, “Is your order correct?,” and watch how long it takes for them to answer that question. Ask them to explain any elements of their order that are unclear. These questions can help you strike a good balance between trying to simplify the interface (which may lead some companies to drop or shrink product images in the cart) and providing enough detail to satisfy shoppers.
The convenience of your checkout process can’t be verified by analytics alone. The customer might get from page 1 to page 3 quickly, but did he accomplish everything he wanted to, and did he hit any confusing points along the way? Qualitative testing is the next logical step after you have your quantitative data.
Here are several points along the checkout process to test for convenience:
More than 1 in 5 visits to your store are coming from smartphones and tablets, according to Monetate’s Q1 2013 eCommerce Quarterly report. And their shopping experiences haven’t been good, according to a recent survey. What’s more, 33% of them will immediately jump to a competitor’s site if they have problems on yours.
It’s definitely worth running some mobile user tests on your checkout process to make sure those customers don’t encounter any problems that make the checkout process difficult or impossible, such as problems with your forms, or elements such as modal dialogs that can be difficult or impossible to interact with on small screens.
You can get more testing ideas from the research paper The Four Mobile Traps: The Most Common Mistakes Made by Mobile Apps and Websites. The results and tips in that study came from observations of thousands of mobile usability tests.
It’s no secret that offering a guest checkout option improves conversion (a 2008 Forrester report is bluntly titled “Required Registration Lowers Online Conversion Rates“), so you’re probably already postponing the optional account creation process to the end of the transaction like the top retailers do. But it’s still worth watching several new users trying to check out. Do they have any problem finding the guest checkout option? Are you making it as easy as possible for them to create an account with you by the end of the transaction, optimizing your chance to add to your registered customer database? Do testers see any compelling reasons to register?
So you’ve gone through the work of accepting 50 different methods of payment. Kudos. Everyone should be happy now, right? Well, maybe. Watch and listen to users trying to decide among the options. Have you violated the “simple trumps complete” rule?
Remember the day when you first saw a “you might also like” section on a shopping cart? As a store owner, you thought you had died and gone to heaven, right? Now that feature is ubiquitous, although it’s not always used judiciously. When done right, upselling is not only a revenue generator for you, but a convenience factor and positive experience for your customers. Gather tester opinions to find out whether your upselling is contributing to their convenience, or whether it’s just getting in their way.
If you have customers from other countries, have you streamlined their experience? Can they easily get prices in their own currency? Does your form validation allow them to enter their addresses and phone numbers, or do they encounter errors? You could try to account for all of the needs through a ton of research (which is still a good idea), but your testers might raise an issue you haven’t thought of. Use analytics to learn where most of your international business is coming from, and recruit testers from those countries (or use your own customers).
Errors are going to happen, and your error handling can either help the shopper get back on track toward completing the purchase, or cause them more confusion and frustration.
While user-defined tasks are helpful and were mentioned earlier, you might not want to wait for a user to encounter an error on their own, so come up with a list of errors you can force, and then lead the user into the error without telling them what’s coming. Watch their reaction and their recovery.
The gift giver has unique needs during shipping, such as the ability to add a personalized note, the option to have the gift wrapped, and perhaps the need to ship items from one order to multiple addresses.
The browser back button is one of the most commonly used navigation elements, yet some shopping carts fail to support it well. If a user clicks the back button, is any of his information lost? Do odd error messages or browser popups (about resubmitting data) appear that could confuse people?
Locking customers into the checkout process, and helping them focus on the task at hand by removing distractions, has its advantages for sure. But make sure such techniques aren’t interfering too much with convenience. Can a customer who decides to go back and shop for one more item find out how to do it? Are there any items you’ve removed from the interface that customers want back, and if so, does customer opinion and convenience outweigh the benefit of lock-in? Test customer behavior with different amounts and types of information on screen to see which mix works best.
If these testing tips were helpful, you might want to check out the graphic The Anatomy of a Great Shopping Cart, which shows several of the best practices well-executed.
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