Most companies that can sell their products or services online are probably already doing so. Not long ago setting up ecommerce was expensive and complicated, but now thanks to software platforms like Shopify, brands can be up and running quickly and inexpensively. However, while these providers have made ecommerce very accessible, especially for smaller companies, there are still many nuances that separate top operators from the rest. Of course, many products and services rely on legacy distribution systems of one sort or another, and many others don’t lend themselves to the relative simplicity of ecommerce. Nevertheless in the first quarter of 2016 ecommerce grew 15.2% to 7.8% of all sales. Clearly consumers continue to get more comfortable with the convenience of ecommerce every year, and with more and more buying migrating online, this trend is not going to stop anytime soon.
The key to successful ecommerce is ease of use, speed, and how delightful you can make the experience.
Most people don’t think of buying things online as delightful, but the way an experience is designed, what options you present, when, and how the brand identity comes through, all can skew results one way or another. The good news is that there are now a wealth of options, information and guidance available on this fairly mature aspect of business and marketing, which can make entering the ecommerce world relatively fast and painless.
One would think that by the time people opt to checkout that the sale has been made and the rest is just mechanics. Why then do more than 60% of people filling out conversion forms abandon them? This is actually true of most kinds of forms and points to a variety of issues and challenges that mostly revolve around design, privacy, price and security. The good news is that you can measure each step in the form completion process fairly easily, so that you can know where abandonment happens and start to address issues and opportunities with those insights.
Remember that someone filling out a shopping cart form or another type of conversion form may not be completely sold yet.
That’s why it’s important that you make sure you include some of the 3rd party validation elements we reviewed above, which are designed to give the buyer confidence in their decision at this critical juncture in the process. Also be sure to directly address the issues of privacy, price and security. Privacy is often a concern related to the potential, unwanted attentions of sales people or unsolicited sales messages that might come from sharing personally identifiable information. Consumers may need to be reassured that outreach to them will not be intrusive or that they will have some control. Reassuring them with privacy policies and clear statements of what they can expect will allay possible fears. Likewise, in our world of hackers, people need to be reassured very clearly and credibly about the security of their personal information. In some circles this is considered a top consumer issue, in the light of the numerous data breaches experienced by major retailers. Finally, do not leave pricing until the last moment in the process because the surprise it can represent may derail everything. As I mentioned before, introduce pricing early, especially shipping costs, and if necessary combine it with price assurances, such as best price guarantees. This can allay the fears of the jittery buyer, who is intent on finding the absolute best deal, and hesitates to complete the transaction until they have confidence that they have made the best choice.
Form design is, in itself, a science and an art. Just look at any form produced by the IRS and you can see how the design of a form can cause a consumer to run for the hills. First, make sure that you are only asking for information that you absolutely need, and the less you ask for, the better. All too often brands ask for all the information they could possibly want, seemingly oblivious of the fact the consumers don’t have to give it to them if they don’t want to. Consumers understand that a company needs, for example, an email address, to send them the whitepaper they would like to read. But they may ask themselves, “Why do they also need a telephone number, mailing address, title, company and shoe size?” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that by giving a brand all this other information you are setting yourself up for a sales effort. So rather than endure that, you decide the whitepaper isn’t worth the trouble and abandon the form. The result, the brand has nothing to show for the interaction, which it paid to get you to, whereas they could have had the beginning of a relationship.
Another way to think about form design is incrementally. Say you only get the email address and first name of your prospect during your first interaction. Now you are able to communicate with the prospect, and in subsequent communications you can ask for additional pieces of information. Each small request may in itself seem innocuous, but over time you can build a deeper, richer profile, without alarming the prospect. Form design is also about the experience itself. How easy is it to complete? How much does it self-complete? For example, if you enter your zip code, it can automatically populate the city, state and shipping cost.
The emotional experience of the form tells the prospect what it is going to be like to be a customer. If the form is overwhelming, complex, one-sided and confusing then perhaps this might not be a company to work with. The bottom line is to use content and design to allay fears, make the experience of the form fast and simple, and remove trust or convenience barriers as much as possible.