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Number Of Steps In Checkout Process
Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:09 AM
I see more and more websites getting checkout forms into three or four pages with having one 'checkout subject' (ie payment info, personal info, ...) at a time. People do not have to scroll down anymore (which is the case with the single page), but have to click more and more to additional pages.
At MarketingExperiments I found a case study showing that the conversion rate increased big time when the process was brought back to three steps instead of nine. However, I do feel that this case study is not representative for the case of three/four pages or only one.
Has anyone tested the difference between three/four pages or one? And are there any research papers known about this?
Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:16 AM
EG imagine you hit page one and are taken to more questions, then you complete that and get YET MORE questions! HOW MUCH MORE? is the thought that is now in your head OK there might only be another page, OR there might be 10 more pages including colour of eyes, fav car, fav singer, all time most lush food (Sarcasm).
But I am sure you get my drift. If there ARE 9 pages, then they will be 2 or three field pages, and having all 9 indicated above, together with the stage the user is at will make it a better experience and would have a far lower drop off rate.
I would prefer one single page personally though as it makes commitment better and the user can see what is likely to be asked of them. The downside is if there is a lot of form filling to be done, when splitting it up makes the task appear easier.
Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:51 AM
You think your buying and item for X and you then fill in your details, click next, then give your card details, click next, then asked to confirm you want the item, click next , then on the BUY NOW page, it shows additional amount for Tax/VAT or Shipping and VAT on the shipping and a handling charge...etc..
A purchase page IMO should be 2 clicks, 1 page where you fill in everything and it alreadys has a total payment figure, you click next and then you should get a summary page with a confirm button, that's it, when i hit confirm , I should get a thanks / invoice summary page.
No making you go through loads of pages to make you forget how much an item was at the beginning and thinking you'll just say "I can't be bothered to click back, back and possibly have to fill the form in all over again, I'll just click buy now" - me , I close the browser and never go there again!
my 2 cent
Posted 09 August 2007 - 08:30 AM
The real answer is you need to Test it for your own site and your own specific situation.
I'll give you a good real world example from just yesterday.
I went to a site I found via Google in search of some software. The company offered several different software packages that did different things with the specific types of files (Flash) I was working with. I found a section of their site where I could bundle together a few of their software products that I wanted, and the bundle actually saved me 25 bucks. So I would be paying $160 instead of $185. Great!
I start through their purchasing process (which sent me to an off-site merchant provider I might add) and started entering my info. It wasn't the greatest thing because once it ask me for name, address, email address etc and when I submitted it added a new field asking me to verify my email address. The same thing happened again on a later page when they asked for billing info. I had to re-enter all of my name and address details, then my credit card stuff. When I submitted that page it threw me back to the same page with an additional field requiring the CVV security code. Why they had it set up this way is beyond me when they could have asked for what they needed right away. But, on well, I bravely marched on because I really wanted the software.
Then, after I had entered all of this information, some of it multiple times, I get to the end of the process and they had Required fields asking me how I found their site and for what purpose I was buying their software. Not just a question or two. But the same 2 or 3 questions for each piece of software I'd chosen for my bundle.
Now I'm a forgiving person because I understand how difficult this stuff can be. But that one was the straw that broke the camels back. I wouldn't have minded if they'd asked and let me choose to skip providing them with this type of demographic information or better yet if they'd asked me for this type of demographic information after the sale was processed, but them Requiring to make a simple purchase it turned me off in a big way, especially after the other stuff. It didn't meet my personal Customer Expectations, forgiving as they normally are.
So I abandoned everything right there. They lost a $165 sale because their purchasing process was too cumbersome. Who knows, I might have abaondoned at the last step, since I can't think of anything else they might want to ask me. But regardless, I abandoned their cart, then shook my head in amazement and went directly to one of their competitors who was offering similar software. The competitors software didn't appear to do quite as much and cost a bit more, but I bought from them.
This company will never know why I left and why they lost the sale. If they don't look into it and test their purchasing process they'll never figure out why they're losing sales because they're not meeting at least one potential customer's expecations.
Posted 01 April 2008 - 12:40 PM
If you use Google Analytics you also have access to Google Website Optimizer where you can do split-path testing of your checkout. A good idea is to peek under the hood of your analytics to determine if there are any kinks in your conversion funnel.
You can read more here:
Using Funnel Reports to Increase Conversion
<a href="http://www.getelastic.com/split-path-testing/" target="_blank">
Split Testing Tip with Google Website Optimizer</a>
Here's the webinar replay for split testing with Google Website Optimizer if anyone's interested:
Posted 01 April 2008 - 08:00 PM
The primary factor is (assuming that ease-of-use, time-2-completion and other functionality issues are smooth either way) meeting customer expectations. These expectations can be created by promises made by you, assumptions made by them, or a variety of other ways.
One of the advantages of multi-page process is being able to track where customers leave the buying process and potentially identifying areas for improvement. Another is the ability to collect some customer information (they may 'register' but not complete the purchase) that can be leveraged for other purposes (perhaps abandoned cart recovery) or simplifying the process at a later date.
I would like to see shopping cart products have an in-built testing mechanism for checkout processes.
Posted 02 April 2008 - 01:03 AM
In some cases I will drop an email and let a company know that they lost a sale due to this reason or that.
Working in this field, we know what Randy said is correct, most of the time you will never know what happened.
That's why I will occasionally drop someone an email. I might do it when I come across a page that is not working, or an image that is missing (like Scottie's avatar - she's losing so much weight in her contest that even her image has disappeared from the site).
Whenever someone points something out that is not working properly, it is much appreciated. I am happy to do the same for others.
I expect everything to be functioning properly and showing up as intended and want to know if it is not, and I expect others feel the same way.
There's a big difference though between something not showing up and something being poorly planned. Too many people get the wrong idea when we say your site needs content, and they go overboard. The checkout process is not the place for that content.
Be up front with your prices, ask for personal information after they have committed to the sale, not before, and make sure any pages you require personal information on are secure!
Once a customer is making a purchase, you have the sale, make sure the process is as simple and pain free as possible.
Posted 02 April 2008 - 10:27 AM
I'd caution not to get too single-minded on those info collection checkout pages. I've had some pretty good success when weaving in very short benefit statements or some imagery that confirms that their info will be safe. However I'd also caution against going overboard with this. Do keep it straight forward, and if you have a mulitple step checkout give them some sort of indication of what step they're on (Step 1 of 3) or even a visual queue of a progress bar.
Keep anything else short and sweet. But it doesn't hurt to add some reinforcement when they have to whip out their credit card. Whether that's a reiteration of benefits, a quick sentence about your guarantee, a We respect your privacy or whatever is needed. This is especially important when you do conversion testing on your sales funnel/checkout process. As usual, the trick is hitting on just the right mix to overcome potential objections.
Funny/odd story for you.
On this one new site I opened a few months ago the shopping cart (as most do) create an actual Customer Account that they can log back into later to review orders, check shipping status, etc. When I was setting up that site I wanted to test this standard sort of checkout process against a COWOA, or CheckOut WithOut Account process. Since I was using Zen cart it was easy to set up, they have a module that's been contributed to do it. And it's something I can toggle back and forth for conversion testing.
The results are that some people just don't want the account. Given a choice about 35% will purchase without an account, even though they're warned that they're missing out on some free stuff those with accounts get. Not just the availability of checking order status, but something more tangible that account holders get to use for free, whereas those without accounts would have to purchase separately.
Don't ask me what this is supposed to tell us. Because the information collected is exactly the same. I still need all of the info to process sales. The only single field that's missing from a COWOA order is a Password field, since I use the email address as the account login.
I haven't a clue what the data is trying to tell me. I did however find it interesting that such a large percentage chose to forego an account, even though it was completely free and gave them a couple of very real benefits.
Posted 03 April 2008 - 01:57 AM
This is a big issue and most likely a large part of the reason 35% of visitors in Randy's example...
We have a hard time trusting strangers to keep our personal information private. We have all had personal information sold to a marketing company at one time or another. It can be a real pain in the butt for quite some time and next to impossible to get yourself removed from all the lists you end up on.
Something indicating your pages are secure can be a big help. It is hard to believe but plenty of web site owners/developers still ask for personal information on pages that are not secure.
Your return policy needs to be clearly stated as well. These issues should be addressed on their own pages so people can see them whether they make a purchase or not, and can be reiterated in the checkout process when a purchase goes through.
Posted 03 April 2008 - 10:58 AM
I think Catz is exactly right. We, myself included, are rightly suspicious of the motivations behind account creation, been burned too many times by unsolicited and undesired 'activity' from forced account creation in the past. Personally, I don't see the need to even ask the question. Create the account, give them the info needed to track their purchase, claim their benefit, opt-in for future communications from you to modify their account settings, or whatever ... on the confirmation page. If they don't opt in, track their purchase or take advantage of your special benefits, they're happy and never really face the question and related concerns of whether an 'account' was created. If they take advantage, they're happy, and appreciate the creation of the account.
My current cart has absolutely no capabilities in this area and I've lost out on the opportunity to 'serve' my customers with the benefits of an account for 4 years .. I'm looking forward to a more sophisticated system.
Interestingly, many of the newer carts (and I presume new mods for existing carts) default to an expandable one page checkout (ajax) ... i.e. Steps 1, 2, 3 etc are all on one page, and expand or collapse as you proceed through the fields. Most still use too many steps, and I'm not yet sure whether they are a comfortable interface for less web literate customers (a fair percentage of my customer base), or how backwards browser compatible they are, but they're pretty nifty in theory. I'm opting for a 2 page checkout similar to 1dmf's description, with a '3rd' clearly defined step being the confirmation page where I hope to offer expanded customer benefits. All reliant on advancing my php skills, but I'm getting there.
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