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FutureNow Article
Friday, May. 18, 2007

A Simple Recipe to Improve Conversion

By Melissa Burdon
May 18th, 2007

cooking_class.jpgHave you looked at the drop-off rates from your lead-generation forms or shopping cart recently? Do you ever wonder why visitors who enter your conversion process, who seem ready to convert, end up dropping off?

Way too often, we come across websites with an extensive and very difficult checkout. As a customer, how many times have you had to jump through extra hoops just to give your credit card info and receive confirmation that your order has been processed? Too many to count, right?

The more barriers that your visitor faces throughout his checkout process, the more likely you’re going to lose the opportunity to make a sale or generate a lead.

I ran into checkout stumbling blocks this morning while I was signing up for a cooking class online at SurLaTable.com. Sure, it’s a nice-looking site, but I had to jump through hoops–seven steps in all–and it felt like work, just figuring out how to finalize the sale. If I weren’t so web savvy, I’m sure I’d have given up.

Here are some tips for an easy checkout, regardless of what you’ve got cooking online:

1) Just a Dash of Information: Only ask for information you absolutely require in order to process and order to gain a lead. The more you ask a visitor to fill out, the more frustrating the experience. Remember, you can always ask for more information after they have become a sale and/or lead… but do yourselves a favor and get that credit card info first!

2) A Nice Required Field Reduction: Compile as many fields into a single page as possible above the fold without overwhelming the visitor. When I was signing up for the cooking class, I ran into several different pages that only presented one single field for me to fill out, requiring me to click on a button each time to move forward throughout checkout. Every time you make the visitor click to move forward, you’re presenting an opportunity to lose them.

3) Share Your Recipe with Others: Give your visitors a status indicator to tell him where he located within his checkout process so that he has some idea of how long this process is going to take and how many steps are involved.

4) Chill Before Serving: Don’t make me sign-up with a username and password before I convert; this simply presents another opportunity to drop off. Once you have my credit card info, or whenever I’ve officially become a customer or lead, you can give me a confirmation page or an email with a form that lets me enter a username or password–but not sooner. The “get the cash” first rule still applies, even if it’s my own.

People come to your site hoping to find whatever it is they’re looking for. So, be sure to use fresh ingredients and remember: everything tastes better in moderation.

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Comments (15)

  1. [...] Source:Conversion Rate Marketing Blog – GrokDotCom by Future Now, Inc [...]

  2. [...] Source:Conversion Rate Marketing Blog – GrokDotCom by Future Now, Inc [...]

  3. True. Checking out procedure is important. But there are loads of other factors which can influence your conversion negatively. Landingpages, brandname, (unclear) delivery charges.

    Measure and follow the steps of the visitor and you know where the pain is.

    Cheap pain solver, google has launched their new analytics programm. Check video on http://services.google.com/analytics/tour/index_nl-NL.html

  4. Interesting perspectives but don’t agree with the conclusions. My company (Amadesa) does online testing of registration processes and checkout flows and have found very differing results in testing and optimizing our clients’ forms.

    1) It’s rarely been our experience that CC information should be collected first.

    2) Placing most fields on one page sometimes works but needs to be tested. Often users react better to a more segmented and fluid approach the the form fill-out processs. Above the fold is always a good rule though, limit users’ work!

    3) Agreed, status indicators are a must.

    4) Sign-ups is another area that has to be tested. We’ve seen users react better to pre-CC sign up and post-CC sign up. It’s entirely subject to the form and should be tested.

    Everybody has their own ‘best practices’ but these are opinions and shouldn’t be rolled out so liberally without adequate testing. Remember your checkout and sign up is your business. You pay to get traffic to your site, now you need to understand and maximize your ROI through testing, understanding and optimizing your registration and checkout flows.

  5. Amadesa must be good at what they do. I’m just not sure you read the post. Our recommendations are based on client experience they are not simply our opinions. We’ve focused exclusively on conversion for over eight years. Few people could even spell it then; now everyone is an expert.

  6. Great article & great metaphor Melissa. I like the ‘get the cash first’ rule – sums the whole thing up nicely. I might have to borrow that one.

    It is amazing just how many online retailers mess this up – we have a huge sellers of CDs here in Australia that made me go through 9 steps just to buy a single CD! If it hadn’t been a gift (& signed CD only available there) I would have left and never come back!
    And thanks for using ‘web savvy’ in your post ;)

    (btw Jeffery – I’m not an expert (yet) but thanks for writing ‘Wating for your Cat to Bark’ it’s definitely going to get me there a lot sooner than I would otherwise!)

    Cheers, Mikey

  7. [...] 4 ways to improve online conversion – have you looked at the drop-off rates from your lead-generation forms or shopping cart recently? Do you ever wonder why visitors who enter your conversion process, who seem ready to convert, end up dropping off? From Future Now [...]

  8. Thanks for your response, Mr. Eisenberg (loved ‘Call to Action’ a must read for anyone whose livelihood relies on a website).

    I may have misunderstood #4 slightly but I will stick to my guns regarding credit/card payment being messaged to the user as the first step. We’ve seen nothing but the opposite across countless ecomm and lead generation clients. The same point goes for shoving as many fields above the fold as possible. Again, the user may have little comfort with your form or checkout process. It seems that our results based on clients may differ, which beckons the point of more testing vs. Best Practices. Different users on different sites = different motivation. I don’t know that I’ve seen any holy grail in the testing we’ve done but the 80-20 rule is certainly employable for what most term Best Practices, but again it’s a dangerous line to cross for most without fully testing.

    Remember your checkout and sign up is your business (and often the ignored part of it!). You pay to get traffic to your site, now you need to understand and maximize your ROI through testing, understanding and optimizing your registration and checkout flows.

    Testing is essential and needs to be run concurrently to make conclusive decisions that will help your business long-term. If you can’t test on your own, employ the experts to do so.

    Fyi, this form is less than desirable (for future comment sections). In missing the required text (better call out), I received an error message and then lost my entire post. That’s a lot of friction for a non-highly motivated user to overcome.

  9. Melissa,

    i liked your article here, very good, short, sweet and pack with valuable nuggets.

  10. Totally agree with the “Chill Before Serving” item. I hate when I have to create an account before making a purchase. Just a pet peeve of mine… guess I’m not alone.

  11. I’ve found that split testing and tools like CrazyEgg are very useful in deciding how to optimize… you need to test and verify otherwise it’s just guesswork.

  12. Very creative post! Haha nice way to bring in cooking to the mix. I am now hungry for food and conversions!

  13. So true. You can’t overwhelm the visitor.

  14. Just a dash of information, you don’t want to give them too much!

  15. Remember that every click away is about a potential fifty percent drop off rate. 2 clicks away and you stand to lose up to 75 percent of your visitors. Not suggesting to cramp everything in 1 page but be careful about splitting into too many steps for a single page.

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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