E-CommerceEconsultancy has conducted a small study of the factors that influence a customer’s purchase decision on e-commerce sites. The obtained results correspond to other studies as well as my personal experience and can lead to significant improvements of your conversion rate.

1) Delivery Costs

Which kind of delivery is preferred and how much it should cost was different for each person. There was, however, unanimity that the delivery costs should be displayed and transparent from the start of the purchase process. There is nothing more unpleasant for a consumer – and I’m speaking from personal experience – than discovering delivery costs at the end of the checkout. Indeed it makes little sense to put in place a last obstacle (i.e. additional costs) just before successfully closing a transaction. Common sense alone dictates not to do so. The only reason I can think of that would warrant withholding these extra costs is the intention to increase one’s margin a bit, but if higher delivery costs are necessary for that, one should, perhaps, reflect on one’s business model.

Ein Plus konnten auch die Sites verbuchen, die ab einem bestimmten Betrag Lieferung frei Haus anbieten. Alle Teilnehmer merkten an, dass sie dies sicherlich motivieren würde mehr auszugeben.

2) Flyout Navigation Menus

NavandisingA flyout navigation menu received good marks from all participants. By now these types of menus have become almost a standard, although the myth persists that they impede SEO. As a post by SEO Mythbusters demonstrates, this is no longer the case, as long as one doesn’t hide the links and anchor tags inside the Javascript.

Flyout navigation menus offer a great possibility to provide more information to the user on the limited surface that the homepage disposes of without him having to click through pages of sub-menus and lose time. Of course, it is imperative to always maintain a clearly laid out and easily legible design.

The latest trend concerning flyout navigation menus seems to be to use them as an additional advertising space – navandising = merchandising & navigation.

3) Homepage Link

Amazingly only 22% of participants were aware of the fact that the logo also acts as a homepage link. As a result, one should always make sure that the home-link appears as the first item on the navigation menu, so that the customer doesn’t have to resort to his browser’s back button all the time. Personally, I was very much surprised by this finding, as I always employ the logo as a home-link – I guess I’m (still) part of a minority.

4) Breadcrumb Trail

Breadcrumb TrailEspecially on sites with an above average amount of categories and products a breadcrumb trail is seen as advantageous in orienting the client and improving usability. A breadcrumb trail allows a customer to follow back his search and correct it without having to begin from the start.

5) Product Filter Options

Product Filter Option

By now every online shop should offer its clients the possibility to refine their product search through filter options. Additionally, the choice a filter option should lead to automatically reloading the results list based on the updated criteria – without the user having to validate the change with a mouse click and leading to a page reload. The retailer, who doesn’t offer this amenity in 2011, unnecessarily prolongs a client’s stay on the site and, consequently, increases the odds of losing said client’s purchase impulse.

6) Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

Regardless what product is concerned, pictures are essential when selling something on the net. Assuming the risk of sounding cliché, but a picture says more than a 1.000 words. Given that nowadays a digital camera can be bought for less than 100 €, I find it hard to understand, when I see rental offers that at most offer a picture of the façade. Be certain that the pictures have a certain size. A thumbnail will hardly motivate a customer to close the deal. It is also a plus, if you offer product views from different angles.

7) Videos, Videos, Videos

Video Increases Sales

It might currently still be uncommon for online retailers to include a short video on their product detail page, but it unquestioningly is a trend one should adapt rather sooner than later. Particularly, because it allows to further bridge the gap between a real, live shopping experience and a virtual one. Zappos, an online shoe store, lets different employees present a wide selection of shoes offered. According to the company, this tool has allowed them to increase sales by up to 30%.

8) Auto-fill Address Fields

Different browsers already offer the option to save your personal data in order to simplify and speed up completing online forms. Without any doubt filling out the same data over and over again on different websites is tedious. Concurrently, I must confess that I always have security issues with keeping my personal information stored in my browser. An alternative, already well established in the anglo-saxon markets, is software, which auto-fills address fields. You may, for example, input your zip code and first letter of your street upon which you’re offered a drop-down menu of the streets pertaining to the code. All you have to do then is click the right one. Surely, this is not a must, but definitely an extra to ameliorate the usability of your site.

9) Registered Client vs. Visitor

One of the main concerns of the study was to investigate the experience of first-time buyers on a particular site. The results were as follows:

  • clients have an aversion to being forced to register in order to be able to check out
  • the expectation is that a registration requires filling out a slew of information
  • the offer to register in order to get to the checkout faster the next time is not a sufficient motivator; a real incentive is the possibility to track one’s order
  • a welcomed option to create an account is to simply be offered the possibility to choose a password upon Checkout – without this being obligatory to complete the purchasing process
  • password requirements should be simple and NOT, for example, require 15 characters incl. at least one number, one capital letter etc.

10) More Tips

Ajax Script for ErrorsHow annoying is it, when you’ve just completed on online form, clicked the continue button, the page is beginning to load and…all of a sudden you’re taken back to the form because of one (or several) error messages. Even worse, when you have to start filling out from scratch. One solution is not to define the validation criteria to narrowly. An example is to allow telephone numbers with spaces as well as without spaces between the area code and the actual number. Another excellent possibility is to utilize Ajax script, which allows to synchronize information and formats with your data base in real time and can advise the user of any errors the moment he is making them.

A debate that has been raging on for a while is whether a 1 page checkout is better than a multiple page one. According to a simple A/B test carried out by Get Elastic using the online shop of the Olympic Winter Games 2010 in Vancouver, the 1 page checkout led to 21,8% more sales. Interestingly enough the individual sale amounts were also 8,5% higher.

1 Page Checkout

Luke Wroblewski, in collaboration with Etre, developped another test treating the same question with the additional factor of examining whether – and if yes, in what form – an accordion form (pictured above) influences the purchasing decision. An accordion form permits, while always remaining on the same page, to easily and concisely guide a customer through the checkout process step by step. The result was that there were no differences in conversion rates between the different models. The only existing distinction related to an accordion form using continue buttons in each step and also allowing to return to previous steps. This model was on average completed 10 seconds faster than the other versions. 10 seconds on the web can signify an eternity, which, in my opinion, does highlight a winner. That the trend definitely points in that direction may be corroborated by the fact that Apple redesigned its store checkout at the end of last year using precisely a 1 page checkout with accordion form.

This post is also available in: German