SEO Online Shopping Experience 2
Ways to enable customers to make the decision to buy and to guide them through the check-out process.
- A persistent shopping cart is important. Users who leave the website without completing their purchase should see their items in the cart when they return. If the user is logged in, the cart should also persist across devices, allowing them to seamlessly continue shopping anywhere and anytime.
- Using the customer’s address or ZIP code, show taxes, shipping options and costs, delivery estimates, and the total cost, thus avoiding last-minute “cart shock.”
- Give users the ability to update their shopping cart without having to go back to the product page.
- If you offer promotional discounts or coupons, give users the option to redeem them without making others feel like they are missing out on savings. Let users know how they can get these discounts (“Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get a discount on your next purchase!”).
- Offer contextual support to answer questions that shoppers may have regarding when their items will arrive, your return policy, and how to contact live help through a phone number, call-back or chat. Display this information in a sidebar, on the shopping-cart page or in a small pop-up window, so that users do not lose the context of where they are.
Office Depot’s shopping cart features: (1) a persistent shopping cart, which shows the total cost and expands on hover to show its items; (2) the estimated total; (3) options to update the cart; (4) discounts, if applicable; (5) help options.
Keep Registration Short And Optional
Make the registration process optional and short; forcing registration is one of the main reasons why users don’t complete purchases. If you still need convincing, “The $300 Million Button” should drive the point home.
- When the check-out process starts, allow registered customers to log in, and provide easy ways for them to recover forgotten account information.
- Allow new customers to check out without registering. At the end of the check-out process, give them the option to register and save their information for future use. By this time, they will be motivated to simply create a password in order to avoid typing all of that information the next time.
Sears has simple check-out options, allowing new users to register after checking out.
- Simplify and minimize the information required during the check-out and registration processes, by logically grouping the most important information first, and putting optional information towards the end. Some retailers, like Adorama, have got their check-out process down to one page.
Streamline the check-out process with relevant recommendations, a progress indicator, an order summary and confirmation.
- Relevant recommendations can be a valuable reminder to customers as they check out. Like product suggestions, recommendations at check-out should be relevant and useful to the customer, instead of a way to try to sell anything and everything. Buying the same noise-cancelling headphones from Buy.com and Amazon resulted in very different recommendations, as shown below.
Very different recommendations from Buy.com (above) and Amazon (below).
- “Enclose” the check-out process by removing the header, navigation and footer. This will minimize distractions and guide the customer through the last few steps to complete their purchase.
- Use a progress indicator to show customers where they are in the process. “Three steps completed. Just one more to go!”
- Give users a choice of payment methods. If users prefer not to give their credit-card information, allow them to pay by PayPal, Google Checkout or another trusted local payment option. Make sure the third party displays the total amount to be charged before asking for any payment information.
- When displaying the summary page of their order, allow customers to verify (and change, if necessary) the details before confirming the order. This is also a good place to restate the estimated delivery dates so that they can change the shipping method if desired.
- The final call to action that directs users to complete their purchase (“Place order”) should be prominent. Don’t lose customers at this stage by presenting other options to them.
The check-out process on Adorama has been streamlined to a single page: (1) progress indicator; (2) multiple payment options; (3) contextual policies; (4) option to make changes; (5) prominent final call to action.
- Once the order has been placed, display a confirmation page, with the order number, saving and printing functionality, and a summary of the customer’s next steps or options. The order confirmation page for Shutterfly, a photo publishing website, not only tells users what their next steps are, but also displays timelines for the fulfillment of their order and contextual links to the next steps.
Shutterfly’s order confirmation page informs users what to expect next, using contextual links.
- If your website allows new customers to check out without registering (as suggested above), then that would be a good time to ask them whether they would like to select a password to create an account and save their information for next time. Highlight some of the benefits of creating an account, so that registering at this stage becomes a no-brainer.
Congratulations on making it through the 50 techniques in this two-part series. But this is just the beginning. If you kept your users in mind as you read through this article, you may have already identified areas in your online shopping experience that could be improved. Some of these, like presenting contextual links, are quick fixes, while others, like improving findability, will take weeks or months to implement.
When making changes, measure the impact of the changes using analytics, multivariate or A/B testing, and usability testing (see the further reading below). Improving the online shopping experience not only will make it easier for users and satisfy them more, but will increase your bottom line!
© Lyndon Cerejo for Smashing Magazine, 2011.