Approximately 76 million people have purchased from Amazon.com.
Chances are, many of you click this “Add to Shopping Cart” button several times throughout the year.
So, why does it always stump audiences of online marketers when I ask them where in the checkout process Amazon has us select a quantity for the item(s) we’re adding-to-cart?
Before you scroll down for the answer, let me give you some popular Add-to-Cart methods to choose from:
#1 — A form field that defaults to “1″ or “0″
#2 — A blank form field to enter the quantity desired
#3 — A drop-down menu (usually from 1 to 9) to select quantity
#4 — A plain Add-to-Cart button that adds a single item to the cart (where you can adjust later)
Did you guess which one yet? Feel good about your choice? Hold that thought.
I’ll let you know the answer in a moment, and don’t feel bad if you guessed incorrectly. It’s only been a few months since Amazon last changed its checkout process. But that’s not why you haven’t noticed what’s changed. The reason you’re unsure of how Amazon has you Add-to-Cart is because that’s exactly what they’re counting on.
Amazon doesn’t want customers to notice when they’re making changes like these.
Why? Because, for better or for worse, something as simple as an “Add to Cart” button can have a huge impact on the business. Amazon knows this, and they’ve built a culture of website optimization. It’s this foundation that’s made them one of the top-converting websites, month after month.
For Amazon, success comes from a continuous cycle of optimization (measure, refine, test), similar to the work we do with clients on one of our OnTarget subscriptions for eCommerce. Compare this rigorous approach to the fact that over 75% of online retailers don’t do any optimization testing, and you’ll begin to see why Amazon remains the envy of e-commerce marketers.
I’ve been snagging images of Amazon’s Ready-to-Buy area (on their product pages) for many years. Let’s look at the evolution of this critical first stage of the checkout process to see what you can learn from it.
PLEASE NOTE: Just because Amazon does it, doesn’t mean you should. They make decisions based on their business needs, not yours.
Here’s an early version of Amazon’s ready-to-buy area:
Their Add-to-Cart button was one of the first to use an irregular shape; a circle with a cart icon on the left, blued to a rectangular button with the “Add to Shopping Cart” message. Notice how many point-of-action assurances there are (“you can always remove it later” on the button, and the lock icon with “Shopping with us is safe. Guaranteed.” right below).
These were the early days of e-commerce, when customers feared that the Earth might implode if they hit the wrong button. Back then, few people felt comfortable putting their credits cards online and Amazon, for the most part, sold books.
The objective: Make people comfortable clicking on the Add-to-Cart button.
Notice how the wording at the top goes from “Buy from Amazon.com” to the more productive “Ready to Buy?”…
While the Add-to-Cart button stayed the same, with this incarnation, Amazon launched its “1-Click” feature and added it to the “Ready to Buy” area. This design expanded the renamed “Ready to Buy” area to 262 pixels tall.
The objective: Make sure everyone sees the bordered, stand-alone “Ready to Buy” area with the Add-to-Cart and 1-click buttons.
Note how the secondary action (“Add to Wish List”) is roughly the same color as the Add-to-Cart button. That will change.
I managed to snag this one while Amazon was running a split test…
Amazon decided to test removing “you can always remove it later” from on the Add-to-Cart button. They replaced it with a similar message (“you can always cancel later”), just below the “Ready to Buy?” header. What’s important here is that the buttons were now condensed, so this cluster of calls to action took up less space.
I think the little notches by the word “or” is a nice touch, don’t you?
The funny thing that happened when Amazon made these changes was that many of our clients at the time decided they should also remove point-of-action assurance from their Add-to-Cart buttons. We told them it would hurt their conversion if they changed it — and, sure enough, against our advice, the clients changed it and conversion dropped. Yet Amazon kept the new buttons. So the question remains…
Why would they switch to buttons that don’t convert as well?
Because conversion isn’t the only metric that matters. If you look closely, you’ll notice they made the “Ready to Buy” area take up about half the space of the previous version. Why? Because they quietly launched a marketplace to resell used goods, deciding it would boost profits if they didn’t have to stock and ship everything themselves — a fundamental shift in their business model.
The objective: Increase profits by showing used books higher up on the page.
(Don’t copy what other people do if you aren’t fully aware of the business issues involved.)
Here we can see that Amazon has gone through a major redesign, and their iconic Add-to-Cart button gets a face-lift:
Notice that it’s the same shape, same colors, but now has a 3D effect. The “Ready to Buy” verbiage is no longer there, and the secondary “Buy with 1-Click” button now requires users to log in if they’re to see it. Also, the used book marketplace gets much more screen real estate. They’re also heavily promoting the A9 Search Engine.
Did you see that they changed the color of the “Add to Wish List” buttons so that only the Add-to-Cart button is the main focus of the page? They’ve even added another secondary action (“Add to Wedding Registry”).
They’re no longer promoting the A9 search engine, the marketplace isn’t taking up as much room, and they’ve added a few more secondary actions (“Add to Shopping List,” “Add to Baby Registry,” and “Tell a Friend”).
As you can see, they’ve added a pull-down menu to adjust quantity, so you don’t have to wait until checkout to change it. So, if you guessed option #3 at the beginning, congratulations, you’re my kind of e-commerce geek.
The objective: Increase Average Order Value by keeping customers engaged in the buying process. This should also lower shopping cart abandonment by reducing the number of steps in the checkout process.
Changing your call to action buttons doesn’t guarantee the highest return on investment from website, but it is an easy and popular test.
Amazon has spent many years testing this area, but they’ve tested countless other variables as well. They’ve tested the size and viewing functionality of product images, putting images on the left vs. the right side, the location of product reviews — you name it, they’ve tested it. Still, they continue to optimize this area (formerly known as “Ready to Buy”), making adjustments based on business cycle and market circumstance.
Think your website is beyond repair? Tell it to Jeff Bezos. Once upon a time, his website looked like this:
Soon enough, after significant trial, error, and observation, he turned it into this:
Are you this dedicated to website optimization? Would you like to be, but not sure how to do it, or afraid you’ll lose momentum? Contact us and ask how OnTarget can help.