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Online Shopping Checkout Experience Is Still Fraught With Problems
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msg:3752703
 2:51 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Online Shopping Checkout Experience Is Still Fraught [forbes.com]With Problems

According to a survey by market research firm Harris Interactive, nine out of every ten adults has had a problem when attempting to complete an online transaction--from failed login attempts to missing confirmations and errors in processing credit cards at checkout. And as many as 41% of the people who encounter problems in buying something online simply forgo buying anything at all.That could translate into $57 billion in missed sales, suggests the Harris analysis.
Online sales are still only a small portion of U.S. retail sales. In its 2008 e-commerce forecast published in January, Forrester Research estimated that online sales will total $204 billion this year and could amount to 11% of retail sales by 2012. Some sectors are strongly influenced by online selling. For instance, Forrester predicts that as much as 43% of event ticket sales--and 30% of baby products--will be bought online in 2012. Even by then, though, online is expected to contribute only modestly to revenues in other sectors, namely, food, beverages and groceries (2%), pet supplies (9%) and auto parts (4%).

 

jecasc




msg:3752718
 3:09 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thats a big problem for us, too. We do everything we can to make the order process as easy as possible and then when the customer leaves our website to pay - the payment providers screw the sale for us with their sloppy payment pages.

For example at least 30 percent of all our customers who choose Paypal as their payment option fail to complete the payment process. Thats why we started collect the personal information of our customers first before we transfer them to Paypal. That gives us the opportunity to send them an email, offering alternative payment options when they do not complete the payment process. So we can at least save some of the sales.

pageoneresults




msg:3752724
 3:19 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've actually taken a different approach to this. We are simplifying everything we can. Strategies such as removing as many steps as possible from checkout. Removing anything on those pages that is not directly related to the visitor purchasing and checking out. We're also moving more towards one button checkout routines where applicable. Click a button, CC field opens right below. No page to page transition, make it as seamless as possible.

I'm also recommending the use of on site search to a much higher level now. The Google Chrome release opened my eyes to just how important an OmniBox can be. Groom your visitors into using on site search and make the results what they are looking for. If you utilize the db properly and have a well thought out taxonomy, you can really excel in ecommerce by making things as simple as you can. Big pages, lots of white space, no interruptions, no ads, no interstitials.

The main problem I see with most ecommerce sites is trying to kill too many birds with one stone. Pages are FAT, they are rife with distractions for the consumer and I too have backed out of quite a few shopping experiences because of this. I've already made the decision to purchase, don't push your luck once I get to that area to checkout. Make it simple and convenient, capture all errors being generated and be reactive to those.

OT, after the Target fiasco not long ago, I've started to surf ecommerce sites with images off to see just how well the shopping experience is. Many FAIL! If any of the consumer groups ever visit your site and turn their images off, expect a possible lawsuit in the future. If you are large enough and can help a particular group in their cause, you are a Target < heh, pun intended.

rocknbil




msg:3752782
 4:06 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

I wonder how many of those nine are abandoning due to user issues. I log everything, I mean everything, independent of server logs. It's amazing what we find. Most of it is because people simply refuse to read (I was going to order, is this item in stock? when the page clearly shows how many are in stock.)

In other cases, people call the store and complain the site is broken. When I look at the log, I see several DECLINED messages in succession, and I know when they get these at the top in big red text is the message "credit card declined...."

The best guess I can make reflects the user's ego, it can't possibly be my mistake, your site is broken. I don't think there's ever going to be a fix for these types of issues.

LifeinAsia




msg:3752793
 4:23 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree with rocknbil. On our site, when there is a problem at checkout (like improper e-mail address)- the exact error message is shown to the user (and I get an e-mail). So many times I have seen several e-mail messages with the same error message from the same shopping cart ID in rapid succession, then get an e-mail from the person saying our site is broken!

But when I go to other sites, it's definite their site that's broken! ;)

sun818




msg:3752807
 4:46 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

> your site is broken

If your site is not getting the sale, then it is "broken".

If a product is out of stock, why is a buyer even able to add to the cart? What can you do to prevent this?

If there is a credit card decline message, have you considered that perhaps you need to make the error more obvious? I find these new pop-up boxes (that also shades the current page) very effective. If the transaction is declined, do you suggest the buyer try a different credit card?

jecasc




msg:3752899
 6:19 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

In other cases, people call the store and complain the site is broken. When I look at the log, I see several DECLINED messages in succession, and I know when they get these at the top in big red text is the message "credit card declined...."

If customers do not see the text, they are probably not expecting the error message at the place where it is.

Does it say why the credit card was declined and do you offer a solution for the problem? If the customer thinks he has a perfectly valid credit card, but it is declined anyway, what else should he think but that you're website is broken?

piatkow




msg:3752918
 6:39 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have come across some pretty dumb site design over the years which has given me problems with completing transactions. The thing that really makes me mad is being forced to reenter every field at the checkout because one mandatory field was left blank.

Having said that a lot of very intellegent people seem to turn into total illiterates when confronted by information on a computer screeen. I once designed a page for a printed magazine to let advertisers upload copy, user comments are equally divided between those praising its simplicity and those who were unable to use it.

digitalghost




msg:3752923
 6:56 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

There's a pretty good list of reasons people abandon a shopping cart in the Supporter's forum.

[webmasterworld.com...]

It only takes one error for me to abandon the checkout process. One.

>> being forced to reenter every field at the checkout because one mandatory field was left blank

That was pretty high on my list.

Conard




msg:3752935
 7:17 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ten years ago we had a very tiny amount of problems with people trying to check out.
Over the last few years those problems have risen and I have made many changes to help lost customers out.
The one change that stopped the nonsense by over 90% was, making sure a card would pass if it was a Visa and a MC was chosen as the type of payment and visa versa.

I think that in the "old days" the only people that had computers were the more intelligent among us and it ran $1,500 to $2,000 for an entry level machine. Now days you can drag a new machine home from WalMart for a couple of hundred.

Maybe it's those cheap machines :) or maybe it's something else :(

netmeg




msg:3752936
 7:21 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

When I see users abandoning my clients' shopping carts, I *always* assume it's a problem with the site. I don't care how uninformed, clueless or obtuse the user is - if he doesn't get how my site works, then it's up to me to find a solution - or lose his money.

I just met this morning with a client who has 30,000 products and a brand new site design with a mega menu (not done by me); the first thing I told him was that I wanted to see a great big fat search box, front and center on the page, with a nice big font size set in the field. I'm with P1R - the Chrome omnibox, the big search box now on Live's page - that's what it's all about. The client was skeptical - till I asked him how he went about finding a specific product on Amazon, and suddenly the light bulb went on over his head.

rocknbil




msg:3752950
 7:55 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

If a product is out of stock, why is a buyer even able to add to the cart?

These are in-stock items.
Green large widget 3 in stock
Red medium widget 5 in stock

If customers do not see the text, they are probably not expecting the error message at the place where it is.

at the top in big red text is the message "credit card declined...."

?

Does it say why the credit card was declined...

Absolutely not, and this is an action recommended against by every CC processor I've worked with for security reasons.

. . . and do you offer a solution for the problem?

Yes, that's the rest of "...." in my example.

I find these new pop-up boxes (that also shades the current page) very effective.

These (aren't they referred to as the lightbox effect?) are reliant on Javascript, which invites all sorts of accessibility issues. In non critical areas, yes, but never on my checkout page, that seems a little risky. I find them annoying, and if I'm annoyed, it's probable it will annoy our customers too.

When I see users abandoning my clients' shopping carts, I *always* assume it's a problem with the site.

Absolutely, and we are constantly having lay-persons dig away at the site and welcome their comments. Please don't get the idea I think I've "got it all figgered out" - but sometimes all indications point to user impatience.

lorax




msg:3752977
 8:29 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hoo boy. This topic is right inline with one of my pet peeves. Read it with a bit of skepticism.

"errors in processing credit cards at checkout"

Yeah but... I can think of at least half dozen reasons their cards might fail. None of them are the merchant's fault.

If you haven't read Nielsen Norman Group's book on eCommerce, E-commerce User Experience
207 Guidelines for E-commerce Sites
, you should. Between it and Steve Krug Don't Make Me Think book there's a wealth of information about user experience.

Re: the article. They do have a point that several here have commented on. Consumer expectations. 10 years ago it was "ok" if the transaction hiccuped. Not so anymore. Most of us have an expectation that an online purchase will be conducted seamlessly and without error. The truth is, there are far too many substandard eCommerce ventures out there. Heck, I'm still finding websites accepting credit cards without and SSL!

HugeNerd




msg:3753079
 10:08 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ok. I agree with the "assume it's your fault and look for a way to fix it" mentality in the checkout process. I have a simple solution for virtually any problem which might occur, one which no one has yet mentioned: TELEPHONES!

We have worked for years to simplify and streamline our check-out process. No matter how many changes you make; regardless of how many suggestions you consider and implement, someone is bound to be confused. Usually, not always, but usually, such a person is capable of making phone calls. Call in...problem solved!

*Ahem* To alter some famous words of Bob Marley: You can please some of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

For those who get confused or are unable to complete their order, for any reason, I have a GREAT BIG PHONE NUMBER listed at the top of EVERY SINGLE PAGE (including your order confirmation page and then again in the order acknowledgement email!). I hope you do not view me as arrogant in light of this statement, but if one cannot figure out how to complete an order, refuses to call the phone number, or does not see it, I probably do not want you as a customer...that individual will most likely be a bad customer (one who costs more in time and effort than we stand to make from the transaction).

That's not to say that my conversion rate could not be improved with changes to the check-out process. The years of sweat, late hours, poor diet, ______________ (fill-in your own adjective) have endeared every speck of the website to my heart, so my view is unapologetically biased :o)

Edit:

How many people would abandon the check-out process if they could complete the order using telepathy? I.E. Absolutely ZERO barriers/complications to order completion except ones created by the operator? What do you think a natural abandonment rate is?

[edited by: HugeNerd at 10:12 pm (utc) on Sep. 26, 2008]

rampzoid




msg:3753099
 10:51 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

i don't have mandatory customer login/registration on my site i believe that alone puts a lot of 1st time buyers' off.
i have 2 options the above & anonymous.

iridiax




msg:3753112
 11:47 pm on Sep 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

To much clutter (special offers, related products, ads, etc.) on the checkout pages are my pet peeve. I've actually changed my mind on impulse buys when I couldn't quickly locate whatever button I needed to click to continue with my purchase.

vincevincevince




msg:3753124
 12:34 am on Sep 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

Are you not missing the much bigger story here:
nine out of every ten adults has had a problem when attempting to complete an online transaction

i.e. at least 90% of adults have at least attempted to buy something online.

(Sounds realistic? And if it's not... can we trust this study at all?)

tangor




msg:3753128
 12:43 am on Sep 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

I tend to rely on my brick and mortar experience as regards CCs. Quite frequently folks would come to the check out (register) and after a swipe their card is declined. Sometimes the customer is at fault in that regard, but YES, of course, do all we can to make that on-line experience as simple as possible. K.I.S.S.

CainIV




msg:3753195
 3:46 am on Sep 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

Implementing analytics in the checkout process to test for drop out and cart abandonment is crucial in this day and age.

Stripping the cart of any unnecessary items, streamlining payment processing, and preferably processing orders directly on your own website only are key in this day and age.

bouncybunny




msg:3753207
 4:15 am on Sep 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

One big problem, IMO, is the different priorities between the site owner and the potential buyers. We talked a while ago about users having to register to purchase products [webmasterworld.com]. It may be great for the site owner, but the customer doesn't give a stuff.

But a lot also comes down to allowing web 'developers' to manage the building of shopping carts, rather than web 'designers' and usability experts. One of the biggest problems in web site design is the assumption that a certain way of doing things is 'easy', 'obvious'... etc. Look at the way that many 'off the shelf' shopping cart systems work - each new one seems to work pretty much like the last one with a new logo on it and have been doing so since the advent of ecommerce.

Bricks and mortar shops have been spending millions on off-line sales techniques for years - making the shopping experience as transparent as possible. Yet online shopping can still be a chore for many people. How many ecommerce sites actually look into usability studies as part of the design process?

GaryK




msg:3753248
 6:19 am on Sep 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

This isn't my area of expertise. I'm looking at it from the customer's point of view.

I used to order online from one of the larger pizza vendors in the US.

Each time I'd order they made the checkout process ever more cumbersome.

Eventually I gave up when after confirming the order and payment info I was presented with two more long pages of things they wanted to try and get me to buy before I could find a button to make the purchase final.

My conclusion was if you want somebody to be a customer sell them what want ASAP after getting their payment info without trying to get them to buy more stuff and risk having them say screw-it and order from another online pizza vendor.

PCInk




msg:3753520
 9:32 pm on Sep 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

If a product is out of stock, why is a buyer even able to add to the cart?

This creates a problem for the user and would add to the 90%.

It depends on what you sell. If you sell candles, then only allow people to buy what you have, but what if you sell spares?

My motorbike breaks down and I need a new widget. I decide to buy it online because it is cheaper. The online store doesn't have the part in now, but I am prepared to wait since I can use the car in the meantime. Oh, but it won't let me add the item because it is out of stock. You have just lost a sale and I am not going to buy an alternative item from you, because I don't need them, I need the part that broke.

at least 90% of adults have at least attempted to buy something online. (Sounds realistic?...

I would assume it would be a study of those who have bought online. 90% of online shoppers have experienced problems. Either that or the study was an online survey, thus biasing the results towards those who have internet access or use the internet regularly.

aspdaddy




msg:3753813
 5:35 pm on Sep 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Strategies such as removing as many steps as possible from checkout.

This has to be the way, reduce the number of clicks to complete a task, its so simple. I have also thought for a long time the concept of a shopping cart is wrong for the UK , especially sites where its primarily a single purchase. You enter, find, buy, theres no add to cart.

I'v told clients this, but they think they need to conform to web standards and automatically need a clunky cart, login,checkout process. A recent project I did where you purchase site membership insisted that its first addedd to the cart. Bottom line is clients stil dont understand the link between usability, task optimisation and sales conversion.

TowerOfPower




msg:3753824
 5:47 pm on Sep 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Be careful about streamlining the checkout process too much...

I've seem data where a merchant went from a 3-5 page checkout to a 1,2,3 page checkout and the 1 page checkout vs. the 2-3 actually did worse.

There are a number of factors at play here, but sometimes it's best to get a customer's info on the first page so by the second page, after the customer has taken the trouble of inputting all that data and doing all that work, they are now less likely to abandon the process on the purchase-now page.

This probably greatly depends on your business type, checkout layout, and the info gathered.

Testing is key.

I'm sure a simple checkout process ruler at the top could flip the results.

[edited by: TowerOfPower at 5:48 pm (utc) on Sep. 28, 2008]

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