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Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009 at 8:03 am

The Highs and Lows of a Holiday Gift Card Conversion

By Brendan Regan
December 23rd, 2009
Figure 1

Figure 1

The Holiday (online) gift shopping saga continues!  First, I was buying water bottles, and now I’m shopping for a gift card to send to some relatives.

Instead of taking you through the somewhat exhausting 11-step purchase process I went through for the sake of “convenience,” this post will just call out a few of the interesting high points and low points (with suggested optimizations) on the emotional roller coaster that is online shopping.  While the theme is a holiday gift card buying experience, you’ll see that the challenges are applicable to many shopping carts year-round.

First, arriving at the site’s homepage, I wasn’t very impressed with the placement of their gift card banner (see Figure 1).  On December 15th, you’d think they could give the gift card option a much more prominent presence on the homepage. File this one under “lost opportunities.”  The fix: Put it above the fold in the active window.

Clicking the gift card banner brought me to a much better page.  The top of the results was stacked with colorful Holiday-themed gift cards, and I was reminded about the selling proposition of “never expires” and “always the perfect gift.”  The scent is getting better, and I click the gift card with the most appealing design.

Figure 2

Figure 2

On the details page for my potential gift card, it’s a mixed bag (see Figure 2).  On the plus side, the copy is decent.  On the minus side, the 3 competing calls to action are somewhat odd in color, and it’s not clear which is the “primary” call to action.  Also, after I added the card to my shopping cart, the “added to cart” message was WAY too subtle. That message needs to be super obvious, and drive people to either checkout or keep shopping.

On the “view your cart” checkout page, it was all bad news (see Figure 3): a free shipping promotional message displayed in red text makes me think there has been some sort of errorThe fix: NEVER use red text in the shopping cart if it’s not an error message, even if red is part of your brand’s color palette.

Figure 3

Figure 3

After clicking to move forward in the process, I get the standard login screen, which is kind of a pain, but overall I’m giving it the thumbs up because they placed “guest” checkout first on the left, then login second on the right (see Figure 4).  Readers, have you tested the order of these elements on your login pages?  Have you tested removing these pages altogether, and allowing a “passive” login and passive registration during or after checkout? Something to think about for 2010, yes?

After continuing as a guest, the billing and shipping information page was simple, clean, and usable.  Good job, website!

Figure 4

Figure 4

The next page covered shipping method, gift messaging, and gift packaging, and it was another page that had some good and some bad.  The good was that you could preview the gift packaging in a popup window (see Figure 5).  The bad was that the gift message was restricted to 200 characters, but it didn’t tell me how many characters I’d typed so far. This gave me the lovely error message you can see in Figure 6.  Note that the error message is the same color as the promotional free shipping offer!  This type of error condition is avoidable, and if you can avoid an error condition in checkout…DO IT! The fix: add an inline validation script that tells you how many characters you’ve typed in real time.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 6

The next step was payment, and it was a relatively painless screen, but it could’ve been optimized with a 3rd party security badge.

The final step (phew) was the review and confirm screen, and this screen had a huge usability issue.  I call out usability issues especially when the software makes the user responsible for something that it (the code) could take care of behind the scenes.  Again, if you can avoid an error condition in checkout by writing better code, DO IT. See figure 7 where the website tells me to only click the “submit” button once.  If I accidentally click twice, I just bought two items instead of one!  Guess what, BB&B?  It’s 2009, and you can disable the submit button after 1 click while delivering a “processing” message and thanking me for my patience.  DO IT. (Note: If you happen to have an account at Bank of America, you can watch the behavior of their final sign-in button.)

Figure 7

Figure 7

OK, sorry for the rant.  I’ll end on a high note by congratulating the merchant.  The confirmation page asked me if I’d now like to create an account post-purchase, and I really like that approach.  I’d like to see more of that post-purchase sign-up happening in 2010.

The lesson to take from all this is that the highlights increased my motivation to buy, and the stumbling blocks decreased my motivation to buy.  Checking out online is a cumulative process; if I accumulate enough error messages and bad experiences, I’ll leave.  While the concept of persuasion is extremely powerful in optimizing your online marketing ads, the checkout is all about usability, clarity, and a smooth customer experience. It’s hard work, no doubt, but my latest experience shows that the vast majority of sites still need to be focusing some resources in checkout.

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Comments (13)

  1. Nice post.
    I plan to offer gift cards, it is on my top 20 things to do list. I am not sure if I do it myself or use a 3rd party, just yet. I looking for a good 3rd party, but will likely do it myself.

    Merry Christmas!!!

  2. We spend a lot of time reminding ourselves (and teaching our children) to say “Thank you!”. More often than not, this comes out of a need to be polite and respectful as the basis for human interactions. This is fantastic and we should keep it up, but if you are like me, you have probabl

  3. This is the first time i read posts here on this website. It does not disappointed me. I really learned some new tricks here, I’d use “error” red carefully later.

  4. what a very loooong step…

  5. 发生大幅

  6. Very nice website I will study it. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for the sharing.
    very helpfull.

  8. I like the way you analyzed the site to give us better idea on higher conversion. Thanks :)

  9. Haha, very helpful , mes lady. I will compare your advices. Good job.

  10. [...] full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc Enjoyed this article?WebsiteWordpress [...]

  11. Gotta love the Holiday gift card push. Always my favorite time of the year to be in retail sales, people had to buy!

  12. I’m always thankful for the gift card every Christmas and other holidays. Saying thank you is easy if you really mean it. I guess it’s also a way to have good sale for the year.

  13. porno videolar kalitesiyle sizlerde thank you .good sale for the year.

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