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Clean Path to Purchase

Just how many clicks do you have to take before you can purchase an item

1:47 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Just like in the "Tootsie Roll Pop" commercial; "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop"? After all, it's the good stuff inside the sucker we're after anyway, right? This question and goal is no different than when going to a product purchase oriented website.

How may clicks does it take for someone to be able to purchase the item they're looking at?

Is there a correlation between the number of clicks to get there or not? Will consumers leave the site after clicking and clicking and they still can't get to either pricing or the add-to-cart icon? It's nice to know that I can purchase an item after just one click, especially if I already know that, this is the item I want to purchase. But what's even better is when I see that item and also have the option to either click and add-to-cart or click and find out more information about the product right?

Which brings me to reason that purchase sites should have or must have a clean path to purchase. Simple, easy steps to purchase a product.

What is that magic number for the number of clicks to purchase? If there is one.

2:53 pm on July 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I don't believe there's a single magic number for all sites. It depends on a number of factors:
    eCommerce experience-level of target customer
    Familiarity with the site
    Monetary amount of purchase
    Complexity of checkout instructions.

Personally, I like using a "1-click checkout" for sites that I feel comfortable with, and have dealt with in the past. However, if I'm making a purchase on a site for the first time, I prefer a lengthy, step-by-step approach so that I can verify what I'm committing to.

Also, if I'm purchasing a 99-cent downloadable item, I'm probably more interested in click-minimization, than if I were purchasing a $5k diamond, where I need a little more hand-holding.

Finally, I sometimes want more control over my purchase, to be able to specify an alternate payment method, or a second ShipTo address, for example. So click-minimization is secondary to being able to communicate my purchasing instructions in that case.

5:47 pm on July 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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where I need a little more hand-holding.

Precisely; it depends. A site with a single item or up to say, 10 items, "buy now" should lead to a single page on SSL with the items and checkout all in one.

In general, there are usually a few more things to consider, it's going to depend. The short answer is as few as possible. Here's our scenario.

Add To Cart: One submit, and brings back to the page you were on with "Successfully added" (paraph.) at the top. This is where Javascript is a REAL enhancement, if a required option is not selected, you capture it immediately (but of course, it duplicated on back end.).

Bad: click the item, it brings you to a add to cart verify, then a worthless success page that offers no "return to where I was." Even worse for the shopper (IMO) are any number of upsell pages on the way, goDaddy is an upsell nightmare in this respect.

Checkout: If your shipping and other items are pre-set or otherwise compartmentalized, you can do this in one click. Hit the "cart" or "check out" icon and it should be a single point at which you can check out or update the cart.

Ours is a little different. It uses calculated shipping, and takes an extra stock to help the shopper along in reference to out of stock items, both of which which require a few parameters. So we have it down to 4, represented by a "1-2-3-4" graphic across the top to let the shopper know where they are at any given point and how close they are to done.

1. Select country and enter zip code if country is U.S.

2. Check stock: our server-side programming checks items in the cart, and if they are in stock. If items are out of stock, this page allows them to select

a. Send in-stock items now, the rest when they come in at no additional charge
b. Hold entire order until all items are in
c. Remove out of stock items from my order

3. The next steps makes adjustments (if C is selected above) and uses the country and zip information to connect with USPS/UPS real-time and returns not one, but ALL of the available shipping. They see any number of links:
"Select the shipping method:
- USPS Express Mail - $40.00 - 2 day delivery
- USPS Priority Mail - $12.00 - 3-5 business days
- USPS Parcel Post - $8.00 - 5-14 business days
4. Enter CC info, which silently connects to our processor and the visitor never leaves the site.

9:22 pm on July 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Oops, meant:
and takes an extra STEP to help the shopper along in reference to out of stock items
4:42 pm on July 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Not counting however many clicks it takes to find the item or items, once I've filled my cart/basket/bin/whatever, I don't mind 2 or 3 page checkout systems. As long as at some point I see what is in my basket so I can verify the item(s), and am told UP FRONT what the shipping/handling/tax charges are, anything between 1 and probably up to 5 pages is fine by me. But I'm on a high-speed connection, and if I were on dial-up again, 2 pages would be as much as I would have patience to do.

Also, the "1-2-3-4" type of step graphic that Rocknbil mentioned above is excellent. That way the customer knows ahead of time how long the process will take.