Late last night I was doing my regular educational search when I found myself at the latest article by Luke Wroblewski on the continually evolving e-commerce checkout - which I highly recommend you read. The best part about the post is that it provides strong data to prove that certain standards that online marketing managers adhere to aren't worth drawing a line in the sand for. It also showed how, based on skill set, people tackle getting conversion rates up very differently from one company to the next.

At Unleashed Technologies we deal with this quite a bit so I thought a review of Luke's findings would be valuable. Perhaps the largest point of discussion is that different people feel strongly in one direction or the other as it pertains to multi-page or single page checkout processes. This coupled with other modern advancements on the development front can have a real impact. Let's offer some truths about what can really help conversion rates:

Truths for Higher Conversions

  1. Clarity Is Key to a Successful Checkout Processes. What's obvious to you as the retailer is not so obvious to the consumer and can be exemplified in proprietary checkout processes that ask for "optional" information to help better understand your consumer. An example provided about a travel company showed that the field "company" (although optional) was a point of confusion for individuals that basically resulted in a loss of $12M+ per year. How many optional fields or internal terms do you have in your forms during the checkout process that are designed to make your reporting/information more robust, but could be holding back online conversions?
  2. Real-Time Feedback Provides High Value. I couldn't agree with this more though it is a bit of a bear sometimes to do correctly if you have special rules applying to your checkout processes for required fields. However, the benefits are huge for a consumer that can see in real-time that his data has been validated and accepted field by field as he checkouts. Startling statistics including a 22% increase in success rates, a 31% improvement in customer satisfaction, and a 22% reduction in errors were uncovered in the study by the research team that worked with Luke.
  3. Prominent Security Certificates Increase Consumer Confidence. Seems like common sense, doesn't it? A large number of online retailers still do not like the design impact that a secure badge has when it's above the fold. While Luke does not cover this extensively in his post, it's something that is absolutely valuable in increasing conversion rates. I'd go a step farther to say the extra money spent on a well respected certificate authority will pay dividends and have an impact that you can track. One word of advice: when posting a security certificate, stay focused on the large name brands, such as Verisign and Truste.

Myths for Higher Conversions

  1. Single Page Checkout Is Always Better Than Multi Page. I found this to be the most interesting of all the research done. If you do a fair amount of purchasing on the internet, run online retail properties, or work at a professional services firm for E-commerce/Web then you likely have a very strong opinion about the checkout process. I know I do. What was revealed that was so interesting to me is that data showed that individuals have become accustomed to both processes and in general it doesn't have a huge effect on the conversion rate in one form or another.
  2. Footer-Based Details and Options Drastically Reduce Conversions. Certainly if there is information available in the footer, it can be something that the consumer may want to view and take them away from the purchasing process. However, what isn't certain is that this information poses a drastically negative effect on conversion rates. Don't provide a lot of unnecessary information, but if you have a footer, focus on providing items in the footer that help increase the spend and don't slow down the checkout process. 
  3. Everyone Wants to Have an Account with You. It's almost impossible to go through any e-commerce experience these days without the option of making an account. In fact, many online retailers feel that it's essential to require it so that consumers can have an easier time purchasing items in the future. The truth of the data shows that many people don't want to have an account with your organization and it will result in increased cart abandonment if you force that issue. Ensure that you allow for your consumers to check out as a guest and capture that opportunity to win a longer sustaining relationship down the road. In this day and age those individuals clearly understand the advantages to having an account and you will more than likely just lose a customer if it's required.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to us or share your thoughts on what I've discussed here. What do you think are the biggest myths in e-commerce today?