Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Winning the Checkout Race

Winning the Checkout race

In the final and penultimate leg on the relay to conversion, that is after the prospective customer added the product to basket and gets into the checkout process is the most critical step that could very often make or break the game. As with any sport your end game is the clincher and any mistake that you make here could make a huge difference between winning and losing. Hence unlike the opening and middle game the clincher here is not doing something dramatic or sensational but to avoid making mistakes and retain the momentum gathered in the first part of the game and see it to the finish lane.

If we were to draw a parallel to the last lap of the 4 x 400m relay, you need to cover 4 important legs of 100m each - view & manage cart, shipping, payment and order confirmation. The quicker we run through the 4 legs the quicker to finish line and winning the race. Let’s take each step and identify what could potentially go wrong and how we could avoid that and use data/ analytics to facilitate winning.

Source: Forrester May 2010 ‘Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment’. Note respondents were able to give multiple answers

Add to cart:

This is the first step, which differentiates the casual browser from a serious one. From the moment a visitor adds products to the cart it is important for the brand to steward the visitor to the finish line. We could analyze customer behavior and profile by segmenting those who have added items to basket to those who have not, what is their demographic make-up and visit behavior on the website (how many times they visit in a week, which days of the week they visit, through which referrers, browsers, devices, etc.). Further segment the audience who add products into the cart and the time they took for the same. Did they have 1-2 visits, 3-5 visits, 5-10 visits or 10+ visits before they started adding products into the cart and how it differs by the category that they are shopping and the value of the items added to the cart?

With this analysis we could identify which audience segment to go after and how to prod them to add products to the basket.  For future analysis also have a segmentation ready of visitors who add to basket and never purchase vs. customers who purchase what are factors that sets them apart. Identify is a technical limitation that causing the visitors to quit or page rendering/ application functionality in a certain browser, operating system, device type, etc. More analysis on patterns that determine if customers abandon a particular product category or product group more often than others, value of the cart when it is abandoned and delivery options displayed as well to optimize further.

If you are a multichannel retailer you could also validate of all the customers who abandon their cart, how many buy these products in store and within what period of time. Can this be facilitated by use of coupons to those who abandon the cart to purchase them in store with the value of the shipping cost provided as the coupon value.

Shipping Page:

When the visitor moves from Add to cart to the shipping page it is the next big leap of faith, especially if the shipping cost is not provided to them early on in the process. For any ecommerce site the shipping page is the make or break point, if the shipping cost or options provided is not sufficient customers are not motivated to complete the transaction. This is the point when the customer is going to evaluate how much longer they are willing to wait for the product (they have the option of going to the store and purchasing it for immediate gratification) and the price that they are willing to pay for the delivery. Items in the cart based on the value, size and functionality determines the decision. Analysis on the shipping cost elasticity for different categories through testing will help the brand determine the ideal shipping cost. Further testing on shipping cost barriers could be done using geography and other customer segmentation based on loyalty and lifestyle segmentation.

Obviously providing a free delivery/ shipping option is going to increase conversion immediately, however most ecommerce vendors’ profit margin is linked to the shipping cost. The below provided infographic, clearly calls out shipping cost as the lynch-pin to conversion.

Payment Page:

This is one critical step when the frivolous user drops out as they do not want to give out the credit card information as well as an important step to reassure and make the customer give out the payment information.

At this step analysis such as, what is most often used mode of payment, what are reasons for the same, etc., along with dimensions such geography, time of the year and anonymous vs signed in path could add more insight. We could do tests and optimize the page base on, does security sign play a critical role in ensuring that customer leave their credit card information there. What are the different verification mechanism built in this page and how it affects load times on different browsers, browser versions, operating systems, etc.

Order Review and confirmation:

This is the ultimate clincher. This page should carry as little distraction to the customer as possible at the same time provide options to edit items and quantity in the cart (preferably within the same page). The conversion rate at this step should be close to 85% - 95% and those who drop off could be potential audience for remarketing. Use qualitative information to check why they drop off at this last step to give more insight and fix the issues.

Some ecommerce retailers choose to show the price or additional price like tax, shipping cost, etc at this stage, in that case the conversion rate will go down dramatically. It is better to show the cost upfront if the increase in price due to these additional unexpected charges is much higher. If the price increase is only marginal then dip in conversion is likely to be low.

And once the order has been placed it is important to show and reassure the customer that the order has been placed and they can expect to receive it on a certain date. Use this page to also experiment loyalty building by promoting loyalty programs, social media pages and take them back to the home page.

In short, the checkout process is the most critical step in the conversion funnel and each step needs to be scrutinized and the process fine-tuned with a continuous improvement and optimization program.