This weekend I was paying for the 10 gallons I had just put into my old 1997 Honda Civic, when I decided that I’d purchase a nice cold soda for the road. I pointed out the pump where my fueled-up car was located and then slid the cold beverage to the convenience store clerk. He informed me that my total came to $25.89 and then he stopped.
Looking me dead in the eyes, he asked me what my name was. “Austin,” I replied a little hesitantly. “Austin, are you sure you want to spend $25.89 for 10 gallons of gas and a cold soda?” he asked. I nodded and attempted to hand him my Visa credit card.
He denied my overture and informed me that he could only help me if I were a member of his store. So not wanting to cause a scene with the five people who were now behind me, I conceded.
Can I just buy a soda?
He asked for my name again, and then moved on to more personal information. He informed me that my phone number, home address, and email address were all required for membership, but then gave me the option of telling him my age, date of birth, marital status, and household income level.
I, of course, declined. After all the information had been gathered, the clerk then passed me about 60 pages of the legal terms which I needed to sign to become a member.
Finally he took my card. However, in the middle of processing it, another clerk approached me saying that he noticed I was purchasing a can of soda. The coworker then made some suggestions concerning what I might like to buy along with my soda based upon previous customer patterns.
Once I had assured his coworker that I just wanted a soda, the clerk then again reminded me that my total came to $25.89 and again stopped, looked me dead in the eyes and asked, “Austin, are you sure you want to spend $25.89 for 10 gallons of gas and a cold soda?”
This might be how customers see our shopping carts
Ok, so this story is a bit of a stretch for a convenience store, but is an accurate reenactment of the experience at many ecommerce sites. This is exactly what we see across the Web with shopping cart experiences everywhere. In fact, we recently ran a test with one of our Research Partners and here is what the original checkout process looked like:
1) Product page (click to purchase)
2) Cart page (confirm you are ready to order)
3) User account page (if you are new you must choose to create a new account)
4) Create a user account page #1 (enter name, email and account password)
5) Create a user account page #2 (enter shipping information)
6) Create a user account page #3 (enter payment information)
7) Order confirmation page (confirm order and account information again)
8) Receipt page
To go from the product page to the receipt page took eight different steps. A customer has to register before being able to place the order, as well as confirm that order twice. After reorganizing and removing unnecessary steps, we were able to optimize this process to a single basic step. The increase in order completions was over 68%.
Is your shopping cart trying to do too much?
What this experiment illustrates is something we see over and over in the shopping cart process. Most shopping carts that companies use are bulky and have more features than needed (i.e. cart registration, order confirmations, cross-promotional offerings, etc.). Sometimes this means a shopping cart looks less like a basic transaction facilitator, and more like a boot camp obstacle training course with high walls and flaming hoops.
For instance, how many times have you had to join a web site before actually buying a product? How many “if you like this product, you might like this product” offers have you endured while checking out? Have you ever counted how many times you actually have to confirm your order before it goes through?
None of these features are bad per se, and some might even be helpful in the overall customer-client relationship. The only problem is when they get in the way of the natural thought sequence of a customer looking to purchase something at a specific moment in time.
Please, just let me out of here!
If I come to a web site, place an order in my cart, and hit “check out,” then please just let me check out. We must make sure our cart processes is sticking to the main objective – namely, closing the sale.
All these customer retention features and cross-promotional options can be strategically accomplished after the initial sale has already been completed. For instance, you can ask for the customer to create an account for future purchases or send them to a thank-you page that has cross-promotional offers.
Overall, this experiment leaves us with one key question: How many people might we be losing in the process by interrupting their order process? For this company, simplifying the checkout process meant 68% more orders. What is your potential?
Want to learn more?
For more information on how to optimize your shopping cart process, listen to our good friend Joel Book, the Director of eMarketing Education at ExactTarget and Charles Nicholls, the Founder of SeeWhy, in the free webinar entitled The 7 Secrets To Recovering Abandoned Shopping Carts.