eCommerce Conversion Rates | Part 3: Optimising the Customer Journey

eCommerce Conversion Rates | Part 3: Optimising the Customer Journey

eCommerce conversion is complex. We’ve already covered a number of different ways to add value to your eCommerce site and convert more traffic – by presenting yourself and your products in the right way, by putting your prices and shipping costs at the right levels and by augmenting your services.

We’ve also kept a keen focus on the user-experience. After all, a happy customer is a paying customer! Here are a few more simple tips for optimising the eCommerce customer journey.

Tackle shopping cart abandonment

No I’m not talking about the old rickety thing with 3 wheels in the bushes outside Sainsbury’s. I am of course talking about those pesky customers who tease us by filling up an online basket only to leave the site half-way through the checkout process.

We’ve all had them. It’s a huge problem for eCommerce sites. For many, seeing two thirds of all their shopping carts being abandoned is just business as usual. Why? Well the 5 main culprits are things we’ve come across in previous blogs:

- Pricing (many people fill their shopping cart and then comparison shop)
- Hidden shipping costs
- Complexity of checkout
- Trust at checkout
- Concerns over the returns policy

We’ve done all we can to get over those obstacles and get the customer to the checkout process, but what can we do to overcome them right through this last (and notoriously tricky) hurdle? For starters, Magento eCommerce—the platform we build on for our clients—has some fantastic integrated cart abandonment solutions. We can help you get those set up right off the bat – just ask us.

Here are 3 big things to consider no matter what platform you use:

Be Perpetual. Be Persistent
It’s not a sale until you receive payment. People change their minds, have doubts and forget where they are up to with things. Babies cry. Kettles boil. Nature calls.

People routinely bounce around from site to site, comparison shop and get distracted by the things going on around them. It’s a BIG mistake to think that a sale is made as soon as a user clicks the ‘Add to Basket’ button. Users know there is no commitment in that click. In fact, it would be more accurate to call the buttons ‘Add to Shortlist for Consideration’ (although that’s not such a catchy call-to-action).

There are two ways of approaching this obstacle. The first is something called a Perpetual Shopping Cart and is basically just a design best practice: Making sure the shopping cart and it’s contents are always visible. By keeping a product image and name, a price and a sub-total on-screen, the user is constantly reminded of what they are considering, why, and exactly what the cost is if bought from you.

The second approach is to use something called a Persistent Shopping Cart. When people comparison shop you can’t trust them to keep your tab or window open in their browser. We’ve all closed a pile of web sites in a hurry and gone one click too far… closing a web site we wanted to leave open. The problem is, filling up a shopping cart the second time around is simply a less fun, enjoyable and positive experience for the user.

Persistent Shopping Carts use ‘persistent cookies’ (the digital type, not the sugary type you keep finding on your plate while dieting) to retrieve shopping cart contents every time your site is visited from a given IP address. So if a user comes back to you after abandoning a cart a day or two ago, a week ago, a month ago… they can easily pick up where they left off.

Another option is allowing users to ‘save’ shopping carts by emailing an auto-generated, unique link to themselves (or of course by registering for an account and saving a ‘wish-list’) although this process requires extra action to be taken by the user. Persistent cookies are much less likely to let people slip through the net.

Open a Dialogue

This is so painfully obvious but so few people do it.

1. Collect email addresses as early as possible.
2. Send an email ASAP to anyone who abandons their shopping cart. They might not wait long to buy from another site so make sure this is airtight.
3. Send a follow up email a few days later in case they made no purchase elsewhere that first time.
4. Once a purchase is made, send them a coupon or thank-you email to make it worth their while and increase the likelihood of them returning.

Forms & Data Capture

This is another obvious one.

Put simply… People don’t want to give you every extraneous piece of personal information you can think to ask for. People know what you need in order to get an order out the door and will be ok with providing those necessary details. But if you ask for something and there is no clear indication as to why you are asking, they will instantly begin to think you might spam them or sell that data to someone else.

Furthermore, entering data into forms takes time. Remember from the last instalment in this series that time and money are both currencies taken into account when appraising overall value (i.e. what must be exchanged)? Well it’s never truer than at checkout. People will even pay more for products on sites like Amazon just because they know their card and delivery details are already saved on there, saving them a paltry 2 or 3 minutes.

Compare it to the real world. Shopping itself is the fun part, but very few people genuinely enjoy handing over all their money to the till staff or being pestered into signing up for store cards. The same applies online: Checkout should be as ‘quick and painless’ as possible.

Finally, don’t assume that people understand payment gateways as well as you do. When faced with a payment form, not everyone will know what a CVV code is or the difference between their card number and their account number. Explain it for them so there is no doubt or hesitation. Even better, use information provided to extrapolate further information; for example auto-filling the card type from other account details.

- Can people save details?
- Option for ‘Shipping Address and Billing Address are the same’?
- Are you asking for any unnecessary details?
- Are you explaining why you are asking for individual details?
- Is there a prominent link to your Privacy Policy?
- Are you making short yet bold promises about data protection?
- Is payment made easy for the layperson?

Account Registration

This might surprise you… Don’t force people to register accounts on your eCommerce site.

Yep. You heard me right. While it seems like a fantastic idea – asking for a couple more minutes on this first visit so all subsequent visits are easier – you can’t afford to forget where you are up to in the relationship with that user…

Until a transaction has been made and the customer hasn’t been scammed; until the products have arrived on time and in one piece; until the professional correspondence begins, adding trust and opening a dialogue… How can a user decide whether or not they want to opt-in to a more permanent relationship with you?

Instead, give users the option. By all means promote sign-up but don’t be pushy about it. Also, make it easy to register when people do choose to by automatically populating whatever fields you have data for.

Progress Indicators

What’s the number one thing that puts people at ease? What eliminates any suspicion that you are being underhanded? The answer is transparency.

Just like with shipping fees, you should be up front about the process a customer is about to undertake. Wherever possible have a numbered list of steps and some kind of progress indicators so people know how far they are through and also how much is left.

Just as with any area of business, you need to set the customers’ expectations properly and not disappoint.

If you’re ever unsure whether to pull out a process and assign it a ‘step’ all of its own, err on the side of caution… add the extra step and people will be pleasantly surprised if it’s a quick one. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around!

Payment Options

Give people more than one way of making payment. You’d have unhappy customers if you only accepted one payment type, say cash, in a real-world shop nowadays, let alone on an eCommerce site.

For starters, some people are still very nervous about entering payment details online. They have read about scams and/or don’t understand the technology enough to be put at ease. While this is not a huge percentage of your overall market, they still represent enough of a segment that it could make a significant difference to your overall conversion rate. Given how easy the fix is, it’s a no-brainer.

User Testing & Mobile

This probably doesn’t need saying but I’ll say it anyway so it isn’t forgotten: Track your success! Monitor conversion over long periods of time and try to look for anomalies. The more historic data you have to look back at, the more confidently you can critique your website and elements within it.

Split test different product presentations with different groups of products. Split test different emails for abandoned shopping carts. Tweak forms and then monitor how people interact with them differently. Track click-throughs, bounce-rates, scrolls and any other interactions possible on the site; not just sales.

And finally, make sure you compare interactions on mobile devices vs interactions on desktop machines. Mobile web traffic represents a staggeringly large proportion of eCommerce sales globally. Estimates and research studies offer varying percentages, some claiming as high as 75% of all eCommerce sales are coming from mobile devices.

2013 has been hailed by many as the year mobile will become mandatory for success: Not just for big brands but for all sizes of business. Look into responsive web design and adaptive layouts and test test test!

In the final instalment of this series, I’ll be listing a few different eCommerce Conversion Rates that you can track as you optimise your site.

Get in touch if you would like to talk about eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimisation for your website.