The Conversion Chronicles, resources for improving your online conversion rates

10 Ways to Keep ´Em in the Cart

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After our discussion last time, you´ve decided the only critical leaky holes remaining in your conversion bucket are located in your checkout process. And you want to mine my brain for some ways you can evaluate where the problems are and what to do about them, right?

Good. ´Cause I´m in a mood to be mined. And tactics I have in abundance. So let´s talk turkey ´ er, shopping carts.

One thing to keep in mind as you examine your checkout process: motivated buyers will hack their way through most any abysmal checkout procedure to accomplish their goals. When we have looked at elements such as ´number of
clicks,´ we generally find no correlation between fewer clicks equals less abandonment. If they really want what you´ve got, most folks will persist with amazing tenacity.

Does that mean you shouldn´t worry about how many clicks your checkout process requires? Hardly! As a general principle, fewer clicks are better. But slashing your checkout procedure from six steps to one may not represent the best use of your time and money.

So consider some of these tactics instead. Not all will necessarily pertain to your checkout process, but you´re bound to find several that give your metrics a rosier glow.

It's about new customers. Make the checkout process even easier for new visitors than registered customers. Acquiring new customers is much harder than selling to the loyal ones. Registered customers will find a way to sign in (if they don't have a cookie). Don't position registration and log-in as an obstacle between new visitors and checkout. Lots of folks will bail if they have to register before the checkout process, so let them checkout without registering, then allow them the option to register at the end (after they´ve seen how sweet it is to work with your interface and how trustworthy you feel).

Include a progress indicator on each checkout page. No matter how many steps in your checkout process, let customers know where they are in the process. Realistically number the steps and label the task clearly for each step ´ avoid multiple pages that all fall under the ´shipping´ step. Give shoppers an opportunity to review what they did in previous steps and a way to return to their current step if they go back.

Make editing the shopping cart easy. It should be simple to change quantities or options, or delete an item from the shopping cart. If a product comes in multiple sizes or colors, make it easy to select or change values in the shopping cart.

Provide shipping costs early in the process. If possible, provide an estimated cost while visitors browse. They want to buy but want the answers to all their questions when they want them. Total cost is one of those critical questions. Also, if the shipping information is the same as the billing information, include a checkbox to automatically fill in the same information.

Offer alternate ways to place the order. People's concerns start to flare up during checkout. Let them know you're a real company by giving full contact info during the checkout process. If visitors have a problem during checkout or feel uncomfortable using a credit card online, offer a phone number. Devote a dedicated toll-free line for tracking purposes. Also offer a printable order form so customers can complete orders by fax, if they prefer.

Reassure customers at the right time and place. How often is critical information buried in tiny type at the bottom of the page or deep within a site? In a brick-and-mortar store, it's fairly easy to find product warranty information. Offer customers this same opportunity online, at the point of action (POA). Link to product warranties, shipping costs, return policies, testimonials, even optional extended service plans. Make the best use of your assurances at the right time and place.

Add third-party reinforcement messages. VeriSign, Better Business Bureau, and credit card logos either greatly boost conversions or at least keep them neutral. In other words, they can't hurt. A HACKER SAFE rating certification helps clients across the board, especially those with larger-than-average order sizes. Its maker, ScanAlert, claims the certification can increase average orders 15.7 percent.

Handle coupon codes with care. Don't decrease your conversion rate 90 percent, as our friend Brad did . Think carefully about where you present the option to enter codes and how you label it.

Track your mistakes. Develop a system to keep you notified of errors during the checkout process. One client noticed a portion of his visitors had cookies turned off. He developed a cookie-free checkout option. His conversion rate and sales jumped.

Make it your fault. If information is missing or filled out incorrectly during checkout, give a meaningful error message that's obvious to see. It should clearly tell visitors what needs to be corrected. Don´t phrase it so the visitor feels blamed for a foolish mistake; instead, say your system was unable to understand what was entered.

And that brings us to ten. Now, for a holiday special, one more suggestion: use an exit survey. If a visitor abandons checkout, offer an incentive to complete an exit survey. She may tell you why she didn't complete that order. And then you´re following the trail of even more leaks that are specific to your process.

Shazaam! And the happiest of holidays to all.
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Bryan EisenbergAuthor: Bryan Eisenberg, CPO - Future Now Inc

Bryan Eisenberg is co-founder and chief persuasion officer of Future Now. Bryan also writes the award winning GrokDotCom Newsletter.