Digital Transformation - Shaping Your Digital Future
We can help you on your journey to successFind out More
Save 50% on Annual
Membership in August
This article explores the variety of checkout options available, as well as common consumer pre-conceptions of registration, best practice tips and recommended approaches in order to optimise your checkout for new customers looking to place their first order.
Before I press ahead into the meat of the post, lets set-out a few reasons why marketers should bother investing time and effort in getting new customer checkout 'right'.
As is well recognised in the retail industry, and as can be seen in the conversion rate statistics below from the Fireclick Index, its generally harder to convert 1st time visitors to become customers compared to returning and existing customers, and so everything should be done by the retailer to make the customer experience as simple as possible.
As I am sure you will have experienced yourselves over the past 10 years of online shopping, retailers have used a variety of page designs and techniques to handle the checkout process.
One area that I have a particular interest in is how retailers handle new customers, or to be more specific, how retailers encourage (or still in a lot of cases discourage) new customers to place their first order.
Before I continue, I must stress that well recognized, trusted brands such as Amazon, ASOS, PC World, Next, Topshop and Argos have much less to worry about than smaller, less recognized brands. The degree to which consumers will themselves overcome concerns and frustrations when going through a checkout process for the first time is a lot higher in my experience than when the retailer isn't well known.
Even the big credible retailers should do everything they can to assure wary, first time shoppers that completing their purchase is safe, secure and easy - remember your competition is still only a few clicks away
Over the past 10 years I have seen and used a variety of techniques in order to make a purchase online. I would say that very few retailers now use solution 1, with most retailers using solutions 2, 3 and 4, with a few using solution 5:
Even if you want to shop with the retailer again, when you come back you have to enter all your personal details again - there is no register or login facility. There don't seem to be many retailers adopting this approach anymore, although Carphone Warehouse could do with making their account login option clearer when you get to the first page of checkout. It doesn't appear that you can login within the main focus area of the page, which could be confusing for returning customers who don't want to type all their details in again.
On the one hand this was good for returning customers as they could simply login to retrieve their personal information, although for first time shoppers, you were forced to register in order to complete your purchase (more on this later)
These 3 options improve upon technique 2 by adding in the ability for new customers to simply make their purchase without having to register, whilst still keeping in the register option and of course the ability to login to retrieve your details.
This newer technique provides the visitor with less choice (2 routes rather than 3 above) and doesn't make a big splash about new customers having to register or not. This works really well as new customers aren't forced to register in order to checkout, although you still provide them with an option later in the checkout process (or on the actual order confirmation page)
This latest solution removes almost all the decisions the visitor has to make, so rather than 2 different areas to look at to decide which route to go down, the visitor simply enters their email address then clicks a radio button to confirm whether or not they already have a password for this e-commerce site (and therefore would like to login)
Try to ensure it is immediately obvious to both new and returning customers what they should do at your checkout gateway page - remove as much ambiguity as possible
There are many reasons why I strongly recommend retailers don't force new customers to register in order to checkout, including:
Don't use the word registration - instead use account creation. Although they mean the same thing, from my experience registration has many more pre-conceptions and therefore immediate barriers and concerns for consumers.
You may yourselves have had some of these pre-conceptions about registration, but below are the 3 biggest pre-conceptions which we have experienced at PRWD during user testing and user research sessions.
The consumer rationale
Just the word registration is associated by many people as a process which is long winded, complex or just plain laborious. Perhaps part of the pre-conception comes from traditional offline situations, such as registering for a home shopping catalogue or registering to receive some free product samples.
Registration, if handled correctly, should be as simple as the new customer having to choose a password in order for them to be able to login on their subsequent visits. Providing you don't put strict formatting restrictions on the password field, this should take your new customer a matter of seconds to provide.
The consumer rationale
Similar to the idea that registration will take ages to complete, consumers I have asked to think-out loud during test sessions, or consumers who have taken part in focus groups and customer research activities, quite simply presume that in order to register they will have to provide lots more information. This includes personal preferences, email marketing choices and other information not specific to them simply 'checking out' to make their purchase.
Consumers already provide a significant amount of personal information when they complete a standard checkout process (personal contact details, address details, delivery preferences, payment information. This is in addition to the products that they have ordered, the categories they have looked at and the products they have added into their basket during their shopping visit.
All this information and analytics insights can be valuable to the retailer, and therefore the idea that the retailer should be asking the consumer for lots more information in order to 'register' is completely wrong.
Don't make a 1st time shopper have to decide on opting in or out of email marketing preferences during checkout. Instead, simply encourage them to create an account by choosing a password, then following the completion of their order, provide them with immediate access into their new 'my account' area, where they can choose potentially more targeted email and marketing preferences - rather than just a simple opt in and out of your generic brand marketing communications.
The consumer rationale
Most consumers will have in their lifetime registered or signed up for something, which in turn has led to them receiving by post or email a stream of spam mail or marketing both from the company they registered with and from third parties then never specifically provided their details with. It is therefore understandably that consumers will expect the same thing to happen if they register with a retailer when they shop their for the first time even if they choose to opt out of receiving marketing communications.
No brands should bombard their customers with marketing 'guff', and no brands should share their customers information with third parties, especially those that may abuse the fact that they now have another consumer with which to target.
Where you do ask a consumer to make a choice about email preferences, make it absolutely clear what the implications are, rather than leaving the consumer wary of what they are committing to. Also ensure it is always easy to opt out of and unsubscribe from marketing communications, both in the footer of emails and within their account area of your e-commerce site.
So getting your new customer checkout right is pretty important! Below are my key recommendations for brands looking to improve their new customer conversion rate:
If we look back at the different solutions that retailers use to deliver the first page of checkout, I have ranked the five main solutions in priority based on my experiences and from what some of the industry leaders are doing.
A common theme you will see for my top 3 recommended approaches is that none of them force the consumer to have to register in order to checkout - but keep in mind that this doesn't stop big brands such as ASOS adopting this approach. Remember brand credibility and awareness give larger retailers a much higher chance of converting 1st time customers even if they force the consumer to register as part of the process.
I'm delighted to see that more and more brands are embracing the concept of testing and optimisation, using both split testing and multi-variate testing. I am a complete advocate of using these types of testing to demonstrate the actual commercial benefits and impact from making changes to the customer experience on e-commerce websites (and lead generation sites of course).
Testing different versions of pages within the checkout process would always be my recommended approach, although from experience with both small and larger retailers, I appreciate that technically it isn't always as achievable to set-up and deliver split tests and multi-variate tests within checkout due to the complexities of backend systems.
Testing isn't a case of doing it all in one go. Test in one area/on one page at a time, and test often, so that you are making regularly improvements to conversion rates from one page to the next - whether this be a landing page or your checkout gateway page.
There are many more best practice recommendations to optimize checkout processes which I look forward to sharing on future posts. The great thing about these is that they apply to both existing and new customers alike, whereas this post has focused specifically on encouraging new visitors to make their first purchase and begin what will hopefully become a long term customer/brand engagement.
Below are a few links which you may find useful in relations to checkout conversion rate optimisation:
I'm really keen to find out how you encourage new customers to complete their checkout process, and whether any of these tips and techniques could be adopted on your e-commerce platform to make the customer experience even smoother and barrier free.
Of course there are many more ways you can encourage new customers to buy from you throughout the whole buying process, including intuitive navigation, good quality images, relevant cross-sells, clear delivery and returns information and many more techniques that retailers can use to deliver a great customer experience.
In addition, the more positive feelings you can create by having a smooth, intuitive shopping experience, the more confidence and patience new consumers will have to complete your checkout process. By therefore ensuring you remove as many barriers and potential issues as possible during checkout, you increase significantly the chances of converting new visitors to customers!
I'd love you to provide some of your insights on the following...
By Paul Rouke
Paul is our Smart Insights expert commentator on usability and conversion optimisation. Paul is Head of Usability and founder of usability consultancy PRWD (PRoductivity Without Difficulty). He is a usability consultant, trainer and speaker who absolutely loves sharing tips, advice and customer insights to SME’s through to blue chip companies on how they can improve their usability and on-site conversion rates. Paul works with a range of recognised brands including Speedo International, Lakeland, JD Williams, Isabella Oliver, The Royal Mail and The Scout Association, as well as a wide range of SME’s who all recognise the competitive edge they can gain by investing in improved on-site usability to improve their conversion rates. Paul is one of Econsultancies well respected training team, and he delivers two courses, Usability and User Experience and E-commerce Usability and Best Practice. Paul also writes articles for Econsultancies award winning blog, sharing tips, advice and recommendations. Paul’s business PRWD also has a usability blog sharing tips and advice and company news. You can follow Paul on Twitter for his latest insights, links and commentary on all things usability and conversion optimisation, or if you prefer you connect by Linked In.
Start the discussion on our community and social networks
Recommended Blog Posts
Essential CRO and SEO advice for small new eCommerce businesses In the past couple of years, we have seen a boom in e-commerce websites that have managed to sell their products without necessarily bringing something new to the table. But eCommerce …..
Live chat is a key tool in your CRO arsenal Generating and capturing leads is one of the best benefits of using live chat on your website. Not only you provide great customer service, responding to customer queries in no …..
Popular Blog Posts
Statistics on consumer mobile usage and adoption to inform your mobile marketing strategy mobile site design and app development “Mobile to overtake fixed Internet access by 2014” was the huge headline summarising the bold prediction from 2008 by Mary Meeker, an …..
Landing page examples and best practice advice Discussion of web design in companies who don’t know the power of landing pages still often focuses on the home page. But savvy companies know that custom landing pages are essential to maximise conversion …..
Use the RACE Planning System to get ahead in your digital marketing The first edition of my book Internet Marketing: Strategy, Planning and Implementation from 2001 included a popular template for creating what we then called an Internet Marketing Plan. Today, …..