I’m taking a respite from my recent glut of multi-touch posts and jumping back in to the web paradigm with one of my favorite ecommerce topics – the online checkout process.
An online retailer has asked me to solve the mystery of why a high number of shoppers are going AWOL during their checkout process. My concern is that I am expected to concentrate all my efforts on identifying and rectifying problems in the checkout itself. But the full story can only be understood by following the entire user journey from start to finish and reviewing all the site evidence.
A high abandonment rate is an unnecessary evil. For many online retailers the percentage of people that add an item to their basket but drop out before completing the purchase sits somewhere between 50 and 70 percent. In simple terms over half the people who show intent to buy don't submit their order. wow - it's easy to understand why the checkout gets so much bad press if it's responsible for so many potential customers saying adieu.
I find 50-70 percent high and expect to see this below 50 percent so most retailers have some way to go before they can sit easy when recounting their abandonment rate. It’s amazing when you think about the large sums of money online retailers invest in driving visitors to the site but then drive them out with an inexcusable checkout faux pas. Checkout problems are possibly the largest cause of lost revenue for most ecommerce sites.
However...the checkout process is not always guilty, sometimes guilty of little more than being caught napping at the scene of the crime.
An analytics package will track where in the checkout process customers are dropping out. The analytics show where potential buyers exit but they can't tell you WHY with absolute confidence. And this point is key. A guilty verdict must be beyond a reasonable doubt. It is this doubt which should encourage us to explore other lines of investigation.
So before you go and string up the architect of your checkout process you need to take a holistic view of your online proposition. The checkout process is present at the scene of the crime - yes - but is it the main perpetrator? Maybe not...
The crime against conversion can stick out like a sore thumb but often the reason is far less obvious. Customers may exit when their goodwill is exhausted. Customers will persevere but everyone has a limit. For some customers this limit is reached far quicker than others. Many potential buyers walk wounded as they battle on, with their goodwill slowly being drained. In many cases the checkout process lands the fatal blow but to truly address customer abandonment you need to identify and eliminate the early blows.
Sites that can be proud of their abandonment rate continuously improve their websites. These impressive conversion rates don't come overnight, by implementing piecemeal enhancements to the checkout process but a broader strategy and commitment to their customer’s experience. Designing an effective checkout process begins outside of the checkout process.