In the last installment of the “Complete Customer Journey” we talked about the Site Visit. We discussed where your site traffic will be coming from, how to get visitors to stay on your site, and tactics to avoid high bounce rates. Before the Site Visit we also went over Brand Awareness.
Today we will look at at step number three, how to convert visitors into buyers (purchase). In this stage we will go over strategies to get your customers to move through your site to the checkout page, how to increase conversion rates at your checkout, and how to aid your customer with post purchase analysis.
The Goals of This Stage
The goal here is to increase conversion rates, we want to convert visitors into buyers. We will look at how to get site visitors to add items to their online cart, and then move them to the checkout process. The majority of the post will focus on the checkout. This is where we actually convert a visitor into a buyer. Once a purchase has been made we want their post purchase analysis to be a positive one. So let’s get into how to boost conversion rates, and get more sales.
Move Shoppers from Browsing to the Checkout Page
Most ecommerce merchants will quickly notice that getting a customer to add an item to their shopping cart is much different than getting them to actually buy. Abandoned carts are a common problem for all online merchants. In fact a report by internetretailer.com states that 59% of the time a customer puts an item in their cart they fail to actually buy it.
While it is unreasonable to think you can eliminate this problem completely there are strategies to mitigate it. We will start with strategies that encourage shoppers to get to the checkout page.
Here is an example from asos.com that illustrates many of the key strategies.
1. Keep Your Shopping Cart Visible
Shoppers want to be able to keep tabs on what they have chosen and how much it will cost. Keeping the cart visible ensures that a customer always knows how many items they have, the cost of said items, and allows them to quickly see the exact items they have.
In our example from asos you can see that the cart or “bag” is displayed in the upper right. This is visible on every page until checkout. When a shopper hovers their mouse over the cart the dropdown appears. The drop down gives a description and a visual representation of each item in the bag.
2. Have Clear Call to Actions (Checkout Button)
Do not make your customer search to checkout! You must provide a checkout button wherever a customer may be looking to buy. There are two key spots to have a checkout button.
The first is within the shopping cart. This is where your customer will go when they are ready to checkout. Having a call to action in the cart is common place and would be considered a best practice for all online merchants. The asos example above takes it one step further.
Every time you add an item to your cart the drop down is displayed, and shows the item being added to the cart. The drop down includes a “pay now” button at the bottom of it. A call to action like this is perfect. It subtly asks your shopper if they are ready to checkout. After a couple of seconds the drop down disappears to let them continue shopping if that is not the case.
3. Readily Available Shipping and Return Information
Another way to encourage your shoppers to move to the checkout process is to inform them of shipping and return policies. These should be easily found on your site to ease the decision to do business with you. In our example above, the shipping information can be found right underneath the pay now button.
Shoppers are looking for information on how much shipping will cost them. Tell them if you are offering free shipping, or at what dollar amount you offer free shipping. Shoppers don’t like finding surprises at checkout, such as shipping that will cost them more than the item. A survey by Webcredible states that 41% of shoppers abandon their cart when presented with a cost they had not accounted for.
It is also important to inform your shoppers of estimated delivery dates for their purchase. The same study states that 11% of shoppers abandon a cart when the estimate is not present.
Always Monitor and Always Improve
Following best practices is not enough to get the best conversion rates possible. You must test what works for your site. Seemingly small changes can generate huge results. The key is to always be A/B testing. We use Optimizely to do our A/B testing but there are many similar tools available to help you test.
As an example, the site mall.cz (Large Czech ecom retailer) saw a 9% sales increase just by increasing the size of the product images. These are the kind of results you won’t see unless you continually test.
You will also want to check your site’s analytics to see how your site is performing. Look at the page flow for your site. Are shoppers moving through your site as you intended? Is there a page that your customers are continually exiting on?
These are the types of questions you can easily answer if you are continually looking into your site’s analytics. Remember, the key to converting visitors to buyers is to always be improving and always be learning.
Convert Visitors Into Buyers on the Checkout Page
The checkout page, the gateway to ecommerce glory but also the most frustrating page for most merchants.The checkout is frustrating because a lot of would be shoppers exit on this page. However, there are some strategies to reduce the number of exits on the checkout page
1. Allow Guest Checkout
Registered customers may seem more beneficial because they provide a ton of additional value for your site, such as remarketing opportunities. However, if you are losing customers because you force them to register that is not helping your cause. You should allow your shoppers to checkout as a guest if they wish, but incentivise them to register. This incentive could be a discount, free shipping, or loyalty points. The Tri Shop, a client of Smile.io was actually able to increase account creation by 35% using loyalty points and the checkout page below.
Smashing Magazine conducted a study looking into what happens when customers are forced to register to checkout. The results were very convincing. They found that 30% of these customers abandoned their cart. Of these customers who abandoned their cart 40% of them stated it was because they expected to be spammed with marketing material.
2. Create a Sense of Urgency
Creating a sense of urgency encourages your shoppers to proceed before something expires. When a shopper sees that they are on a time limit they will not sit there and wait. Urgency induces action, and can help eliminate abandonments on your site.
Qubit posted a case study analyzing the effect of urgency on conversion rates. The study looks at Attraction Ticket Direct who added an additional offer if customers bought before a certain date. The site offered a free ticket if you purchased before a certain date (as seen in the image). The result, they saw an increase of 27% in ticket sales.
3. Accept Multiple Payment Options
The benefits of this strategy are pretty straight forward. The more methods of payment you accept the more opportunities you have to sell. This is especially true for online merchants who may be selling to customers in different countries. Some countries are not as willing to pay online with a credit card as others. According to a Forrester Research Study credit cards are not the preferred online payment in China, France, and Germany.
Try to accept major credit cards, as well as at least one form of non-credit card payment. As you can see there are cultures that prefer to order without a credit card. If you don’t have an alternative, you lose that sale opportunity.
4. Create Zero Friction Forms
Complicated forms are a huge turnoff for your customers. The key to converting visitors into buyers is having a streamlined checkout process. This cannot be achieved with complicated forms. There are two ways to reduce complication and increase customer satisfaction with your checkout forms.
The first is to have a checkout progress bar. Shoppers want to know how many steps are involved before they commit to filling out the forms. Show your shoppers what step they are on and how many still remain. If we go back to our asos example we can see a progress bar across the top of their checkout page.
The second way to improve customer experience at checkout and avoid abandonment is to have inline validation. This gives shoppers instant feedback as to whether they have filled a section of the form in correctly. No one likes to enter in information only to find out you entered something wrong and have to start again.
alistapart.com found that inline validation forms increased customer satisfaction rates by 31% and decreased the errors made by 22%. Once again a change that seems small but can have dramatic results.
Aid Your Customers’ Post Purchase Analysis
Now that you have made your site into a conversion machine you still have to address the needs of your customers after the purchase. Ideally you want the customer to come back and become a frequent repeat purchaser (more on repeat purchases in our next post). Before a customer repeats they will conduct a post purchase analysis.
This is the behavior after the purchase where a customer evaluates the purchase. It is important that you give them something to feel good about. This could be as simple as a thank you note shipped with the product that explains why the product is unique. Such as “Thank you for your purchase, we hope you enjoy your widget. It is handcrafted in New York City”. A great example of this is a clothing company called Everlane. They ship all there products with a very elegant looking thank you note, that explains that they obsess over detail.
It is also important to follow up and see if the experience was a pleasant one. Once again this can be as simple as a follow up email asking how to improve the shipping or buying process. If the customer had a negative experience it is much more valuable to get them to tell you than to start sharing it amongst their networks. The Everlane example is also applicable here, because they ask the customer to share thoughts and pictures.
Facilitating a purchase is great, but there are still two big pieces of the journey to cover. The next steps are repeat purchases and brand advocacy. These next two steps are the areas that can provide the greatest amount of benefit to you. Generating a one time purchase is expensive, but generating a repeat purchaser creates scalability and a stronger ROI. You now know how to convert visitors into buyers, and stay tuned for how to get your shoppers to become repeat purchasers.