Google Conversion Room Blog Tips on tracking and improving conversions online

Is your website easy to buy from? Tips you can test to improve your site's checkout process

Monday 9 November 2009 | 09:37


We recently released the Make Your Website Work e-book to show common pitfalls of website design and show steps that can be taken to improve your website conversions. Today we'd like to delve further into the checkout process on websites, and give some suggestions on areas to test and ways to improve your conversion path.

Many e-commerce websites suffer from low conversion rates. We have compiled a list of e-commerce checkout tips that you may like to test on your own site.

Think about testing the following...

Product Images and Location

  1. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive an online purchase is, the more detailed your product shots and information should be.
  2. Place product images above the page fold (don't require users to scroll your pages).
  3. Be creative. Make effective use of existing technologies (ajax, flash, video etc..)

Example above demonstrates that when a user mouses over part of the product image they can see the texture of the jacket in close detail.
This is known as a "javascript image zoom" effect.

Buy Buttons

Also known as 'add to cart' buttons, these are possibly the most important call to action on your website.

  1. Colour / Contrast - Eye catching use a different colour to the rest of your page.
  2. Text - Make it large and easy to read (no fancy typography).
  3. Icons - Icons aid usability (+ Add to Cart)
  4. Position - Users expect to find your 'add to cart' button on the right hand side of your product image.
  5. Make them BIGGER* - Large buttons grab attention, but also accommodate more users.
  6. Long product descriptions? Try using 2 add to cart buttons (1 above the fold, 1 below)

*Large buttons accommodate users who may have poor motor movement. See Fitts Law.

Checkout Without Registration

  1. Don't require customers to register before checkout.
  2. Forms should only ask for essential information.
  3. Tell customers why you need information. Especially personal details.

Form above clearly displays that you can login if you are a member already or checkout without registering.

Yes we ask for your email address, but here's why.

Progress Indicators

One of the most overlooked elements on many E-commerce websites is a progress indicator. This is the online equivalent of the shopping centre "You are here!". It also instantly answers:

  1. Where am I?
  2. How many more steps till I finish?
  3. What can I expect next?
  4. Do I get a chance to review my order?

You can easily see where you are in relation to completion of the task.

Forms Should Be Easy

So many forms on E-commerce websites are difficult to use and don't provide meaningful feedback to users. Believe it or not you can make forms a fun, rewarding customer experience.

The outcome can be amazing as your customers know exactly what information they need to provide to complete the purchase.

Here are some other form tips you could test

  1. Provide clear labelling free from industry jargon / terms
  2. Use a checkbox / radio button to reveal optional additional info you may require.
    1. Eg: Different billing address / shipping address.
  3. Avoid popup errors. Instead use inline errors that highlight the problem area.
  4. Don't reset form data if an error occurs or the customer doesn't fill out the form the way you expect them to. Customers don't like repeating themselves. Allow them to correct their error but preserve already entered details.

Answer Customer Questions

There are often many unanswered questions a customer has before they complete a transaction. How well does your website answer the following?

  1. Can I return this item within x amount of days?
  2. Can I review my order before I confirm the purchase?
  3. Can I easily contact support or customer service if something goes wrong?
  4. If I hit the next button, will I be billed?
  5. If I hit the next button, will I be able to make a revision still?
  6. What is the total price with shipping to my address?
  7. How many days before I get my item delivered?
  8. Is this site secure, can I trust you with my credit card details?
  9. What payment types other than credit card do you accept?
  10. If I'm only making a booking, how much is due now and how much is due later?
  11. What is your privacy policy?

Useful tip: If you don't want to include all the text necessary to answer questions like those above, link to relevant sections of your site that explain the details or show(+) / hide(-) the content with javascript or similar technology.

This example shows a javascript 'accordian' interface where clicking on the question, hides / shows the relevant answer. Great for use in compact spaces so it won't clutter your interface and it's user intuitive.

Permission Marketing

Many E-commerce websites ask for customers to opt-in to special promotional emails before checkout, but have you ever tested removing this step from your conversion process?

You can always politely ask them to sign up to your newsletter:

  1. After checkout (on your receipt page)
  2. Via email order confirmation (mail out)
  3. After the item has been posted to the customer

Another popular question on E-commerce checkout pages is 'Where did you hear about us?'

If you are not already, you should start using Google Analytics to help you identify the best conversion sources on your website, thus eliminating the need to ask the customer how they found you. Not to mention that some users don't know the difference between a 'search engine' and a 'browser'. So you may find the data you collect from asking this question is not that useful anyway.

You can always test to see if removing this question improves your conversion rate using Google Website Optimiser

Trust Indicators

Trust indicators are badges, qualifications, affiliations or security assurances that can help customers feel at ease on your website. Some common trust indicators are:

  1. Secure payment gateway badges
  2. Brand names you sell
  3. Places you have been seen or mentioned in the media (eg: As Seen on TV)
  4. Money back guarantee
  5. Industry standards / rating / qualification
  6. Demonstrating your site is secure (highlight the secure symbol)

Where you place your trust indicators will depend on the context of your trust indicator itself.

For example
: credit card payments, any secure payment gateway certificate or seal should be placed in close context to your credit card details form.

The padlock in the bottom of a users browser is a trust indicator, but you may sometimes want to point it out as this graphic does.

Certain payment gateway providers will give you trust indicators to work with. Google checkout provides several.

Test and Confirm

Still not sure if the tips above will help improve your checkout conversion rates?

Remember you should always test and confirm changes to your site with Google Website Optimiser. Website Optimiser is absolutely free to use, to learn more check out our previous Conversion Room post about testing with Google Website Optimiser.


John said...

Great round up of tips here.

By implementing any one of these tips, you would see a some increase in conversions.

Wine Consumer said...

A great must-read for every ecommerce shop owner on the internet trying to increase conversion factor and reduce shopping cart abandonment ratios.

A web developer said...

That's a great post. I like how the credit card details are handled with the addition of the background image.

Though I'm skeptical if it works well for conversions, as so many other (large) online businesses just use simple plain form fields (and all they do is test for conversions all day long). The buyer might not be used to seeing that and anything which surprises him/her is another hesitation aiding in abandoning the checkout process.

I'd also like to see hard A/B testing results on whether to ask for registration info at the beginning or right before the final checkout process. Anyone have a good link to that?

Dan Hodgins said...

Added this to our list of valuable conversion resources.

Will look forward to trying some of these experiments/tricks on our site!

Thanks for a helpful, insightful, and valuable collection of conversion tips.

Rob Cooper said...

One the subject of offering a 'guest' checkout I've tackled this problem slightly differently.

Whether creating an account or not, my clients customers progress through the checkout in the same way.

Returning customers have the option to retrieve previous details on the first step.

On the final page customers are offered the option to provide an email address and password to save their details for next time. Most do.

This method saw around a 30% increase in conversion rates.

Keith Schilling said...

magento does all of the above - ease of use equals more sales!

application development said...

Great blog, Interesting reading material. Thanks!

Joss Wickson said...

We have been through and begun implemeting many of these suggestions on the website, with really positive results.

One suggestion I could make, which we are looking at implementing, is an info panel below the checkout steps indicator. This would act as both a call to action (what should I do) as well as user feedback (why do I need to). It will also get rid of lengthy explanations and page devices, which I'm not convinced help retain customers.

Great post.

MaxigripStore said...

Great article! I will definitely be looking into implementing some of them at .

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