April 19th, 2012 | 8 MIN READ

Ecommerce Checkout Optimization [Slideshow]

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

If you missed my session on Checkout Optimization at Affiliate Management Days in San Francisco last month, you can catch the on-demand recording of Maximizing Conversions with Checkout Optimization on the Invesp Consulting Blog. You can also checkout the optimized-for-no-audio slide deck below:

Maximizing conversion with checkout optimization

View more ecommerce presentations from Elastic Path.

Subscribers: Can't see slide show? View this post on the web


Optimization starts with in-head factors, not on-page factors We often start optimization projects that aim to fix on-page UX design and usability issues based on industry best practices, rather than address the non-page factors going on inside the customer's mind during any purchase decision Form your testing hypothesis with user testing first, then heuristics Make sure your test designs address real problems your customers are facing, rather than guesses based on what the current design looks like vs. "best practice" Start with radical redesigns and work from there Jumping right in to details like button colors or even reducing number of steps in checkout before you've challenged your entire process means you will get very small gains and your rounds of testing will extend into the next decade compared to the lifts you can get with radical overhaul when you first start testing. You may not be able to pinpoint which elements were most responsible for the lift but you'll be able to make money faster - and that's why you're optimizing the checkout in the first place. Interpret test results wiselyBefore you conclude that feature X doesn't work, ask yourself if taking a different approach would have produced a different result. The example from the webinar was for the controversial tactic of showing cross-sells in the checkout. Your first test may have converted lower than showing no cross-sells, but adjusting things like merchandising rules, price points, placement and messaging could

Audience Q and A

I didn't get a chance to answer all the audience questions, and as promised, those that were not addressed in the recording are answered here:

Q: Is there a more updated survey (this was 2009) While that doesn't seem that long ago that was 2.5 years ago

Q: The survey was done Q3 2009, surely this data is slightly out of date now? A: Yes, the Forrester report is a couple years old, but I rather than percentages I wanted to highlight that the top 5 reasons customers recall they abandoned a cart were reasons other than site usability issues. We tend to go after the on-page factors first, when contrary to that, customers don’t recall bad experiences on sites as much as they remember prices/costs too high, comparison shopping and “not ready to buy” behaviors more readily. We’re more web savvy and websites have gotten better over the last decade and we’re unlikely to go backward in that regard, so I still believe the data is useful.

Q: What is an ideal conversion rate? A: Lower than whatever it is for you now. ? Some sites/industries typically higher conversion rates than others. Your site traffic also has an impact, you may be making more money at a low conversion rate than another site with less traffic and higher conversion. You can also increase conversion rate by cutting prices, but also cut your profit. The goal is profit, and testing/optimization aims to improve your baseline, and continue improving it.

Q: Any open source shopping cart implementations that you recommend? Using cs-cart and might be seeking alternatives soon...Thanks!

Q: Is there an out of the box cart that does a good job of locking down the checkout process to best funnel customers? A: I’ll address both questions here. I don’t have expertise about the open source carts out there, I would recommend posting the question in the ecommerce forum of WebMasterWorld or in LinkedIn ecommerce groups. I would also recommend working out your requirements first and shopping around for a cart that can do what you want to do today and 5-10 years down the road before you commit. Also consider the developer pool. You want to be able to tap into a lot of developer talent as you grow and if/when your current staffing changes.

Q: Are these numbers/studies only for the US market? A: The cart abandonment averages were conducted across researcher’s client data, which includes international visitors and abandoned carts. The consumer survey about cart abandonment was from a North American Technographic study that I assume involves Canada as well.

Q: Do you know if live help is useful once the user started the checkout process? A: Passive chat – yes. Proactive chat (not customer-initiated) can be helpful or annoying. It’s a good idea to use rules-based proactive chat for certain instances, but not all. E.g. carts that contain items that typically prompt more chats or require help, or based on behavioral triggers like a series of visits and cart abandonment for one user, or pogo-sticking behavior. This also conserves chat resources, which can get expensive.

Q: For those who sell internationally, how do you recommend including the foreign duties and taxes into the total price to the customer, so they don't reject the shipment when they have to pay an additional amount?A: Best way is to show landed cost for your customer (no surprises). You can partner with a service like FiftyOne or use a courier that collects brokerage on your end rather than upon delivery. The sites I’ve come across that work with FiftyOne show a lightbox when you land on the site that explains the value prop of the partnership:

Q: Are these points good for a website selling perishable products (flowers) ?I mean how can we offer return offer? A: Return shipping is only one example of a value proposition. For perishables like flowers or food, you could highlight other customer service differentiators or anything else. Most sites will not be able to afford free return shipping, but should highlight anything that shows why shopping with you is a good idea.

Q: Is it true Zappos has FREE shipping both ways? I was told it is not always the case. A: There may be exceptions, I am not sure. The website claims free shipping both ways, but I know the Canadian site, for example, did not offer that (and Zappos no longer ships to Canada).

Q: Is there a different approach for check out digital products (downloadable) A: Digital products enjoy shorter conversion flows (no shipping address) and no shipping charge, but essentially the process for collecting payment for digital goods is the same, unless you offer a bill-to-phone option or in-app purchase flow.

Q: We have been running several campaigns for an ecommerce portal which is of a women ethnic wear brand and in spite of huge traffic with around 30% bounce rate & 6-7 paes /visit sales conversion ratio is not even 0.2% can anyone help with the same? The site in question is http://www.chhabra555.com A: It would be helpful to know where in the shopping process customers tend to drop off. Could be that customers are not getting questions answered on product pages around sizing or materials, shipping time or customer service. The site does require registration which is likely sending many customers away. It also doesn’t seem to have a cart page to show price/shipping and allow customers to review their order. Changing these issues is very likely to improve results for you. The registration form also asks a lot of personal information and does not feel like a checkout process. The “SUBMIT” and “BACK” buttons could also be styled differently to reduce chance of hitting the wrong one (prioritized). There may be other cultural issues impacting the form usability so I would suggest some user testing with your local market.

Q: Can I have the email id of the presenter once again? A: linda DOT bustos AT elasticpath.com

Q: What are other good examples of creating urgency? A: The best 2 ways are to have an expiration date on the price/offer or express the item may sell out quickly. Other ways I’ve seen are Amazon’s “Order in the next X hours and receive it by [Date]” which may be helpful, especially during holiday or other seasonal peaks.

Q: What is considered the best practice in CVV2 messaging? Always viewable? tool tip? A: I am not sure if one or the other is generally accepted as best practice, so long as you use one of them.

Q: What is the main % of abandoned carts for intangible products that are sell online if you don´t have shipping? A: The only data that compares digital to physical is the Fireclick Index, but it only tracks the Software category (that could be digital OR physical) among the customers of a single vendor. However, abandonment is similar to electronics, sporting goods and catalog, but lower than fashion apparel. Averages fluctuate throughout the year.

Q: What is the impact to have or not having PayPal as part of your payment method? A: Offering an alternative payment like PayPal should increase conversion as not everyone has a credit card (especially in this economy). I don’t have data as to how much it improves conversion.

Q: What would you recommend for displaying shipping costs on the Cart page if we have free email certificates as well as a gift pack option (which has a shipping cost associated). We currently say "total before shipping" with a tool tip icon that displays shipping options / costs. [www.cloud9living.com] A: Your site’s approach looks very clear to me. I would recommend some user testing to validate that this is an easy to understand method, or identify what is confusing about it if it’s problematic.

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