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The checkout process

Small changes can make a big difference in conversion

     
5:13 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Since we have gone to flat rate shipping, we decided to reduce the checkout process from 4 to 3 steps.

Our old checkout process had 4 steps (collect address info, choose shipping method, order-summary, and finally payment-info). This method resulted in about a 60% abandonment rate from checkout start to finish, which I understand is the industry average.

Our new checkout process has 3 steps and we combined the shipping and address collecting into one screen. The result, we had a 90% abandonment. Needless to say, we are switching back.

My theory is:

Once a customer enters there shipping and mailing address and phone numbers, they have done some effort, and will be less likely to bail if the shipping is a few more bucks than they expected.

If the shipping amount and method is the first thing they see, they have not done much work, and they are more likely to bail.

Maybe a customer is less likely to bail, if the checkout process is divided up into easily digestable chunks, rather than have a customer fill out a longer and more complex form.

So Im living proof, that fewer steps in the checkout process, is not always better.

One other item of interest: I often see many checkout processes (sometimes from large companies) where the customer is asked to review the order, after they have entered the credit card information.

My theory on this is, "you got the customer credit card number, close the sale, don't allow them to bail!".

Maybe for some complex products, asking for a confirmation of order, after you got the credit card, may make sense, but for most stores, this seems kind of foolish.

5:33 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"Once a customer enters there shipping and mailing address and phone numbers, they have done some effort, and will be less likely to bail if the shipping is a few more bucks than they expected."

Not always, I would not provide you with any information until I knew what exactly the total cost of my purchase will be and I don't think that I am the only one to react in that way ;o)

6:55 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Their is a difference between knowing what the order cost is in our head, and what it is in black & white on the webpage.

We have flat rate shipping, so the customer knows what the order cost is going to be. But if you add it up for them before asking for other information, it does have a negative impact.

7:16 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Ive a dire website converting at around 1 in 7000 uniques, however since going flat rate shipping for all products and clearly saying so, the result has been a conversion rate of 1 in 2000!

Awful but way better.

I found the biggest error of all was to ask the customer for a shipping method, not everyones as savvy as you or me.

4:34 am on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The checkout process is such an easy thing to get right and I'm constantly amazed by how many sites screw it up totally.

2 steps is the most you should ever need.

1) Contact details and shipping/billing addresses
2) Order review, followed by credit card detail entry and confirmation button.
3) (not actually part of process), but the last step is always the confirmation screen with order number etc.

Heck, Amazon even manage to pull it off on one screen.

5:11 am on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I found the biggest error of all was to ask the customer for a shipping method, not everyones as savvy as you or me.

We don't give the customer a choice. We tell 'em we ship UPS. PERIOD. (or very rarely U.S. Post Office, to Hawaii, Guam etc)

If they want it faster, we ask them to phone us. We CAN do 2nd day or Next Day Air, but they almost never want those when they learn the price. In any event we'd have to let them know whether the product is in stock.

We use flat rate shipping.

12:44 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The whole idea of a comfort shopping is to reduce as much as possible the amount of information ti be filled by the customer.

The quickly you provide the check out button the better but this doesn't mean having all the info on a single page.

1:40 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I am thinking of hiding the alternate/shipping address form (which is underneath the customer address form) using dhtml and dropping it down only if customers need it. The only real effect of this would have a less daunting looking form. Worth it? Has anyone tried anything similar?
2:01 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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When you guys talk about checkout abandonment, what step are you counting as the start of the checkout?

When the visitor adds something to the cart? Or when they have pressed the button on the cart indicating that they want to begin the checkout process?

2:40 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I define the checkout process, as the point where the customer click the checkout button, and ends when we have captured the credit card information.

Adding things to the cart is not part of the checkout process.

8:57 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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lgn, you referred to 60% abandonment being the norm. However you then said that you are talking CHECKOUT abandonment.

60% (actually 70% is the most current number) abandonment is for any shopping cart. 7 out of 10 people that START a cart will abandon before paying.

Based on that, you may want to scrutinize things, as it is likely your shopping cart abandonment is higher than the norm.

6:49 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well after a week of testing, I have come to the following conclusions.

1) Do not combine shipping options on the same page that you are collecting name and address informaition, or else you will lower conversion. I call this the information overload factor.

2) Give a customer an actual delivery date, don't generalize by saing 3 to 8 days. Customer's want a specific delivery date.

I have reduced my conversion dropoff from 90% to 65% on the address collection and shipping portion of the checkout.

My big leakage is now on the payment page. I used to have virtually no abandonment on the payment page in the past when I had a Thwate Certificate. Now I have a GeoTrust Certificate and I am getting 40% abandonment on the payment page.

I find this strange, as I have been told that customers don't really care/understand the difference between Verisign/Thwate/Geotrust etc and the diff between a low assurance/high assurance certificate.

Hopefully the certificate issue is a statistical anomalty, and more date collection will lower the abandoment rate on the payment page.

7:02 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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What is your sample size?
7:19 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well after a week of testing, I have come to the following conclusions

Seems like a mighty short period to draw any conclusions.

Thwate vs Geotrust? I'd be shocked if there was even a 1% difference. What are you selling? Heck we've had security certificate problems with our cart in the past and even warning messages didn't seem to stop customers. :)

7:32 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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2) Give a customer an actual delivery date, don't generalize by saing 3 to 8 days. Customer's want a specific delivery date.

Customers want a lot of things. LOL Sometimes selling is about what the seller requires...

How you going to pull off that one. Own your own non-union heavily redundant delivery fleet and live in an area without major storms and have an uninterruptible product source (etc, etc)

8:15 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Sample size approx 1000. Its not the length of the sample, it the sample size that counts.

On Delivery time, we always add a couple of days, just to be safe (Just like that FedEx commerical Today is Tuesday, not Monday). Besides, customers never complain about getting parcels early. Dell is famous for this.

8:38 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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My big leakage is now on the payment page. I used to have virtually no abandonment on the payment page in the past when I had a Thwate Certificate. Now I have a GeoTrust Certificate and I am getting 40% abandonment on the payment page.

The certificate vendor isn't likely an issue. We use GeoTrust as the underlying provider and have virtually no dropoff on the payment page. Pretty much the only customers we lose at this point are those with rejected credit cards.

Only thing that springs to mind is the possibility of a misconfiguration somewhere causing some browsers to pop a warning dialog.

Or, perhaps, something else changed that is causing the difference. If you've been making a lot of changes to the flow of the checkout procedure, anything done upstream can have an effect on later pages.

8:53 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Sample size approx 1000

That's an impressive amount for a week. Statistically meaningful I'd think.

I have a very strong, long-held policy at our company: Never promise anything 100%. I encourage employees to use wiggle words, such as "should" or "almost certainly."

on the other hand, I've caught employees giving delivery dates that are far too conservative. That can kill a sale. One of our competitors says "delivery can take up to four weeks"! We sell the same item and know it can be delivered in 3-6 days 99% of the time.

3:09 am on Jan 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Found the problem on the Payment page. We take credit card, phone orders and Money Order. I actually had our mailing instructions on the Money Order on the Payment page, with a Canadian Address.

Since we are a Canadian company, we use geo-political spoofing (Where we pretend we are American), to avoid being discriminated against.

We actually ship from the USA so customs issue is not a problem, but why raise any concerns or red flags, with a Canadian address anywhere on the payment page.

We moved the Canadian address instruction on the Money Order to inside the email.

This should improve conversion on the payment page.

4:09 am on Jan 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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LGN...
I think your conversion rate is due to the time of the year....many people shopping, looking , but not yet ready to buy....