A Key to Increasing Online Sales

By: Lisa Travis

Does your Website help or hinder your online sales? Effective e-commerce is more than just putting up a shopping cart and hoping for the best. In our usability research, there are two primary reasons users do not complete purchases online:

1) there is a disconnect between what they thought they were paying for the product and what the final total is, which is usually impacted by shipping; and  2) the user gets frustrated because the shopping process is too complex, time-consuming, or confusing. Review the following usability checklist to make sure you are creating an e-commerce experience that is intuitive and results in visitors becoming customers.

  • Is it easy to tell when items are added to the shopping cart? Users like to see a visual cue that their item has been added, but do not necessarily like to end up on a shopping cart page when they haven’t finished their shopping yet.
  • Is your checkout process fast and simple? Do not require more information than necessary to complete the transaction. The more information you require the less conversions.
  • Do you show shipping information elsewhere on your site or at the very beginning of your shopping process? Don’t make users provide all of their information only to find out that they don’t want to pay $60 to ship a book. Don’t laugh-we’ve seen this in user testing. List your shipping rates or provide an option to calculate shipping costs with state and zip code information only.
  • Does your shopping cart show progress through the checkout process? Users like to know where they are on your site and in the process of making their purchase.
  •  Do you ask for information in the most intuitive order? Don’t expect users to supply their credit card information without providing them a final total. Would you provide your credit card number if you didn’t know how much you were going to be charged?
  • Is your shopping cart called a “Shopping Cart”? This is the de facto standard now and what users are looking for. Do you have a link to your shopping cart on the home page (and every other applicable page)? Don’t make users hunt for your shopping cart.
  • Do you use an “Add to Cart” button? This is also a standard, but more importantly it is better than a “Buy Now” as this deters some users who are “shopping” and “browsing” and are not yet ready to commit to the actual buying process.
  • Do you require users to register with your site in order to make a purchase? Based on our user testing experience, this is a primary reason shopping carts are abandoned. Users do not want to go through the hassle of a registration process if they do not shop your site often. While they may not consider themselves a frequent customer the first time, this may keep them from becoming a customer at all.
  • Is it easy to remove items or change the quantities of items in your shopping cart? Do not make users struggle to change their minds as they may abandon the whole process if they can’t figure out how to remove one item. There should be an easily identifiable remove/delete button. Changing quantities can be accomplished by allowing users to simply change the number; however, you should not require users to change the number to “0” in order to delete the item.
  • Do you have links to information that users may want to see before purchasing? Users often think about your return policy, guarantees, shipping, and product details during the process. Make it easy for them to access this information.
  • Does your shopping cart save entered information? If a user decides to check on the return policy or change their order, do they need to re-enter all of their information?
  • Do you provide a summary page before the purchase is completed? Users like to see all the information they entered and confirm everything.
  • If users encounter an error during the shopping process, what feedback do they receive? In some user testing we have conducted, the error notices displayed below the fold and users did not know why they were not progressing to the next page unless they scrolled down to find the error. Make the error message easy to see, read, and understand.
  • The most important thing on the mind of the Web shopper is finding the product they want. Are products easy to find on your site? Does your shopping cart include adequate product descriptions, photos, ratings, etc.? If product information is included as part of your e-commerce engine, be sure that is meets users needs. We have tested several sites where users’ needs were placed after the functionality of the engine. If users are not getting the information they need to make a buying decision because of the limitations of your e-commerce engine, it’s time to look for a new one.
  • Have you tested your e-commerce experience with actual users? You may think that you have an easy to use shopping cart, but is it intuitive to your users? What is your rate of abandoned shopping carts? Test users on your Website and shopping cart. What is easy for them? What is difficult? Is it easy for them to find the product they are looking for? You will be surprised at the feedback from actual site users.

Keep in mind that there are only two ways to build Web sales, bring more visitors to your site or convert more of the visitors that are already on the site. To increase traffic, ensure you have solid search engine and affiliate marketing programs in place. To convert Web visitors into customers, incorporate the usability principles outlined above and you will be well on your way to an intuitive Website that drives revenue for your organization.


Thomas Young is CEO and President of Intuitive Websites, a Colorado Springs based Internet marketing, Website design and usability firm. To learn more about Intuitive Websites contact Tom at 719-481-4040 or tom@IntuitiveWebsites.com.

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