Something that we’ve been talking a lot about recently are User Journeys. The steps that visitors take through your website, before they hopefully convert into a customer or one of the other KPIs that you’ve identified.
With an ecommerce site the primary goal is to make a sale, to convert a basket into an order. Sounds simple, but if you take a closer look at the journey that a customer has to take to get there, are there any pitfalls along the way that mean you’re losing sales? We’re going to talk through some of the most common barriers that lose you sales.
Barrier: How easy is it to move from one page to the next towards the checkout? From a landing page to a category, to a product and to the basket. That’s a four step process and the visitor hasn’t paid yet!
Solution: Navigation should be clear and simple, it should be progressive (showing the next step), and above all it needs to be self-explanatory. Your visitor should never question where they are, or where they’re going. Better navigation is not about how many steps there are, it’s about how easy it is to move between those steps. It is also about prioritising for 80+%. Don’t give equal weighting in navigation to something you sell hundreds of a month, to something you sell one of a quarter. Similarly, if you make most of your profit across a couple of items, make sure they are prioritised.
Barrier: One of the biggest barriers between a customer and adding a product is the price. Customers are getting smarter, they will shop around, and if they can get your product cheaper, they generally will.
Solution: The only way to stay ahead of the curve is by being smart with your pricing, increasing margins where you can, whilst still being competitive. How often do you run price checks against competitors? Do your prices fluctuate with market changes? Is there a peak and off season for your products? These are all questions you should be asking yourself on a regular basis.
Barrier: Poor image quality, lack of images or unclear/misleading images.
Solution: Images are critical in selling products, especially when customers can’t actually see and touch the product before buying. Imagery is a reflection of the products and the site, if it’s clear, high quality and well presented, your customers will have faith in your care and attention to detail. If on the other hand, they are poorly framed, low quality and few and far between, it indicates to potential customers that you’re not really bothered about your products or their order.
4. Sizing and Product Details
Barrier: Customers are not always experts in what they are trying to buy, they need help and advice. Lack of information and technical knowledge on a site can cause customers to lose faith in your website, and if they don’t trust the site, they are unlikely to continue.
Solution: Make sure that any size information is clear, especially with fashion, and that any key product attributes are easy to find. Avoid hiding these in sliders or accordions. Use descriptions that are unique and relevant, make them readable and not just a list of keywords. Fill out as much information as possible against all products, not just the bare minimum. Use Google Analytics to identify and prioritise attributes that customers search for, and filter by. Any details that you think might need explaining to customers, provide an info button, for example a computer sales website should explain what RAM size compared to HDD size means.
Example: MiH Jeans
Barrier: This one is self-explanatory, make sure your website loads quickly, to prevent customers get bored or frustrated with your site.
Solution: Set yourself a target for how quickly a page should load, and push your developers and hosting company to achieve it. Use Google Analytics for rough ideas of slow pages, and use software like New Relic for server side analysis. A good aim is for your page to load in ~1 second, with pages loading over 4 seconds needing to be investigated. KISSmetric has a really good infographic on site speed and how it affects your site.
Example: Google Page Speed
6. Site Search
Barrier: Poor quality search results, and hard to find search bars are can be a major barrier for some customers. If your search isn’t up to scratch, and they can’t find the product they are looking for straight away, they will most likely leave.
Solution: Check the conversion rate of your site search to see if it could be improved. There are ways to optimise this for customers, by using filters, and using what is called weighted searching, suggested searches and alternative searches.
7. Inventory and Stock
Barrier: Having extra products on the site only means that it is slower to interact with for customers, as they are processing all this information that they can’t do anything with. Products that are out of stock, sold or unavailable for any reason causes customers a delay, and potentially frustration if it is the product that they want.
Solution: Don’t show out of stock items on the site unless they are coming back into stock, in which case let people know when. Get your developer to add a 301 redirect if a product goes out of stock, to a similar category or replacement product.
Barrier: Postage being too high is often a key factor for consumers backing out of a purchase. This is usually during the checkout or basket stage where they find out how much the postage will cost for the first time.
Solution: Try not to surprise your customers, let them know the shipping costs throughout the experience. A large section of customers expect free postage to be an option, even if it has a minimum order value. Some studies show that up to 40% of the customers that abandon their basket, didn’t checkout because there was no free shipping. Provide a few options for delivery, including a next day if possible. Make sure these are clear and easy to choose between. In store pick up could also be an option depending on your business model. Make sure to offer a ‘delivery notes’ section for additional information which makes customers feel more secure about their purchase.
Your customer has fought through all the other barriers, they’ve got products in their basket and they’re ready to checkout. So why do most sites end up with so many abandoned baskets? An initial step to finding out why is to setup funnel tracking in Google Analytics for the checkout process. See which stage customers are dropping out, and where they are going.
We’re grouping all of these under the 1 checkout barrier (so that it makes a nicer blog title), but also because this is probably one of the biggest barriers that could be corrected.
Barrier: Hiding gift cards or voucher forms, or providing insufficient feedback/errors with vouchers.
Solution: Using gift cards or voucher codes should be obvious and easy, give a nice notice message if the code is no longer valid.
Barrier: Forcing someone to register, or go through unnecessary steps to complete the checkout.
Solution: Don’t make a customer register, but make it easy to do so, and offer guest customers a chance to register after the completed order. Customers are generally in a rush, and eager to complete the checkout. However, they also feel more relief and calmer after completing the checkout, and may be more likely to sign up, if they’ve had a good experience so far.
Barrier: Filling in forms, such as address forms can be a long and boring process for customers, and it can cause errors which take admin time to correct later.
Solution: Adding addresses should be a simple process, for UK addresses, add a postcode lookup service to auto fill customers addresses (this can also help with mobile sales). Allow customers to save addresses so they can easily select them.
Barrier: Add 20% to your basket for VAT.
Solution: Unless you are a B2B only site, don’t hide the VAT until the checkout, a jump of 20% is a huge shock for most customers. If possible for B2B sites, show both inclusive and exclusive VAT prices.
Barrier: Unintelligent forms, errors and missing instructions.
Solution: Auto fill where possible and add inline validation so that customers are instantly aware of the problem, rather than placing the order and being alerted. For example, credit and debit card numbers have to be a set length, and a set pattern, validate this for the customer. Preselect a postage option and a payment option, based on the most used, or what the customer last used.
Barrier: Lots of separate forms with no continuity between them, so the customer gets lost in the checkout.
Solution: Having a one page checkout is generally a good way to go, because all of the information and options are in one place for customers to experiment with. De-clutter the layout as much as possible, and have one clear button to complete the order.
How to monitor your success!
Above is a simple list of key barriers that can be found across most sites. Changing these are likely to increase your conversation rate, which means you’re not spending any more money on AdWords campaigns or extra SEO, but you’re still pulling in more orders.
I recommend getting Google Analytics installed, and add the following dashboards, which pull out some key information:
Also look at funnel tracking, which could be invaluable to working out where best to optimise. If you don’t have a marketing or Ecommerce Manager, get your ecommerce provider to look into these for you, and see where they suggest improvements can be made.