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  1. #1
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    One-Page Checkout and shopping cart abandonment
    I spent some time last night screening some new merchants, and I found two ShareASale merchants (Capitol Supply and Custom Auto Accessories) that I thought were "asking for my credit card number too soon" during the checkout process (and I wrote to tell them so).

    Both merchants promptly and politely replied that they had an "integrated" or "one-page" checkout process; when the customer enters address information, the order summary is automatically updated to insert tax and shipping charges.

    While I like the concept of an "integrated" or "one-page" checkout, I'm concerned that some (or many) consumers will abandon the sites because it "feels" like the merchant is asking for the credit card too soon. This is especially true if the automatic changes to the "order summary" at the top of the page are not visible when the customer is prompted to enter their credit-card information near the bottom of the page. (This is a much bigger problem for Custom Auto Accessories because their checkout page is longer; on the Capitol Supply site, the checkout page is more compressed but the adjusted total still might not be visible when prompted for credit card information.)

    Here's what I wrote back to both merchants:

    I understand your desire for an 'integrated one-page checkout,' but most consumers expect to be able to submit all information and then view an order summary with all variables inserted (subtotal, shipping fees, tax), before being asked for a credit card number. It appears that your system does dynamically update with shipping & tax info based on the address entered, which is "great, but unexpected." Personally, I never, ever enter a credit card when requested on the "first page" of a checkout system, because I never enter my credit card until I am absolutely sure that I know what amount I will be charged, what items I will receive, what shipping method will be used, and when the item is promised to be shipped.

    My concern is "abandonment" by your potential customers. I suspect this will be a higher-than-normal rate, and your "integrated one-page shopping cart" will completely prevent any analysis by your staff to determine the specific 'obstacles' or 'triggers' causing abandonment.

    Although there was a recent discussion here about shopping-cart issues, I don't see this particular issue discussed in that thread.

    I am a strong advocate of "streamlining" the checkout process, but there is a conflicting issue of consumers' expectations and perceptions.

    Perhaps the most obvious solution would be to repeat the order-summary (subtotal, shipping & tax) info adjacent to the "place order" button?

    I'd appreciate feedback from some other affiliates and merchants on this topic.
    Last edited by markwelch; September 18th, 2008 at 11:14 AM.

  2. #2
    Affiliate Manager Howard Gottlieb's Avatar
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    From my perspective most merchants need help in their shopping carts.

    We have prequalified most traffic we send via our affiliate sites and we want visitors to enter a page well into the check out process.

    Sometimes I feel like many merchants have our visitors jump through too many hoops once they arrive at the merchant site.
    I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die
    to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there
    isn't and die to find out there is.

  3. #3
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    What?

    Asking for a card too soon? Shit, who in the world wants a laborious and multi-screen checkout? Look at amazon's 1 click checkout ... cos like volusion are providing a valuable service, I'm not there to look at the cart and be confused ... the sooner the faster I get out of there the better!

    I've seen conversions skyrocket on streamlined carts forget about the numbers on abandonment - night and day. Stats show the realities of consumer perceptions and perceptions.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  4. #4
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    Please read again: I am not saying that the merchant is actually asking for the credit card number too soon -- I am saying that it "feels like" the number is being requested too soon. (I should have put "feels like" in bold in the original post, but now it's too late for me to edit.) When I first wrote to the merchants, I "thought" that they'd asked for the credit card number too soon, because I was moving very rapidly to quickly evaluate a very long list of merchants. But when I made this post, I realized that my "snap judgment" had been incorrect, and I sought to share this so that merchants might consider possible changes to improve customer perception and thus conversion rates.

    It's a consumer perception issue, which can be improved within the "one-page checkout" design.

    As I wrote in a follow-up email to one merchant:
    > You do present the [order total] information before the credit card is required -- but for many consumers, this is not visible when they are prompted for the credit card number, and they might not realize they could see the total if they scrolled up. * * * <

    > I have been intimately involved in the excruciating process of designing, implementating, and optimizating checkout sequences (and fraud detection and deterrent strategies); it's not about "fairness" (or even reasonableness) but instead it's all about "consumer expectation and experience." * * * <

    >[Your] site is much better than many others. I am NOT suggesting that you abandon the "one-page" concept, but that you re-examine the page with this consumer expectation in mind. One solution would be to replicate the order-summary (subtotal, tax, shipping, total) adjacent to the credit-card prompt. <
    Certainly, a one-page checkout will almost always bring a higher order-completion rate than a multi-page checkout process. However, stats can't easily isolate specific obstacles or bottlenecks that might lead to abandonment on a page.

    As I wrote to the same merchant regarding another issue (a prompt requiring a "bank telephone number" when submitting credit-card information):
    > I just think that a substantial number of consumers would abandon the checkout when presented with this prompt. (What percentage? 3%? 11%? Perhaps you eliminate 1 valid order for every invalid order deterred, or perhaps the ratio is 10:1 or 1:10? I can only guess, and you can't measure this since you have a one-page checkout.) <
    Last edited by markwelch; September 18th, 2008 at 11:57 AM.

  5. #5
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haiko de Poel, Jr.
    Stats show the realities of consumer perceptions.
    Mark, this is the answer I'd give you as well.

    And I'd add that you can rest easy knowing that your merchant's goals and yours are aligned - if their changes don't help conversions, they'll do something else that will.

    My guess is that streamlined checkout will aid conversions - but you must maintain high clarity throughout, in all aspects of the process, whether condensed into 1-page or into steps.

    Clarity's more important than length.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    That's what she said.

  6. #6
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Donuts]... but you must maintain high clarity throughout, in all aspects of the process, whether condensed into 1-page or into steps.

    Clarity's more important than length.[QUOTE]

    I completely agree
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    If you have enough confidence in the merchant to have already decided to lay down the plastic, why would the checkout process be such a deterrent? I'd say, worry if you notice that the page is insecure, but otherwise, don't worry about it...



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  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager jonlevine's Avatar
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    I'm going to chime in here as my company is one of the ones that Mark contacted. Him and I have had some excellent communications this morning regarding the issues and I certainly appreciate his, and everyone's, feedback.

    When I came on-board at Capitol Supply, one of my responsibilities was to aid in the design of our consumer website (www.capitolsupply.com). One of the areas that I focused on was, in fact, our checkout. I had always felt that most merchants, large and small, put an inordinate amount of obstacles in the way of a smooth transaction. I believe that the less clicks you make someone endure, the better. It was for this reason that we decided to put the entire checkout process into a three-page process. In comparison, after I started having the discussion with Mark, I decided to place an order on Amazon's site, just to re-familiarize myself with their process. Their checkout process takes a total of seven (7) pages, each with one specific process per page.

    So that everyone is familiar with our process, once you are ready to buy, you are first taken to our 'cart review' page where you see what is in your cart. Proceeding takes you to the 'information input' page where you can either login or input your billing information (you only have to input your shipping if it is different from billing and the fields don't show unless you uncheck a box) and your payment info. This page includes a section that shows the current items in your cart, your shipping amount, and your total. Continuing from that page, you arrive at our 'review' page where you see the information that was entered, your current items, and your purchase total. You then click the 'submit order' button to finalize the sale.

    Some of Mark's concerns (and I'm sure, others) was that the totals are not completely evident when inputing your CC info. While that is true (the cart is at the top and the CC info box is at the bottom), I think it's less significant of an issue than with other merchants. I say this because of our free and flat-rate shipping. If an order is over $50, there is no shipping cost. If it is under $50, shipping is a flat $4.99. Because this is tallied before you even get to this page, the total that appears at the top does not change, regardless of the address you enter below. In the scenario where a merchant adjusts the total based on the ship-to location, I can see Mark's point of 'changing totals'.

    The other issue is our request for the credit card's issuing bank's phone number (the 800 number on the back of every credit card). We use this number in our fraud prevention methods to confirm different parts of the customers info (shipping addresses, address changes, suspicious activity, etc). As I expressed to Mark, it's sort of a 'pick your poison'. There's some customers that may be turned off by this request, but others appreciate the extra steps we take to protect their information. It definitely has also stopped us from sending out fraudulent orders. We feel that we're proceeding on the side of caution.

    As always, I find this feedback to be invaluable and welcome as much of it as I can get. If anyone here would like to 'test out' our systems and tell me what you think, please feel free to contact me directly with any comments or concerns.

    Thanks!

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager bs0101's Avatar
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    great discussion. mark, i think you are assessing this site's process from a much too personal perspective:
    Personally, I never, ever enter a credit card when requested on the "first page" of a checkout system, because I never enter my credit card until I am absolutely sure that I know what amount I will be charged, what items I will receive, what shipping method will be used, and when the item is promised to be shipped.
    examining consumer experience and the flow towards actions and sales is very important, unfortunately your eye is much to discerning in this space. no one on this board interprets a site in a similar manner to the average consumer. your personal concern is that you are charged the correct amount and that the transaction is legitimate, john q consumer is probably enthralled by the delight of purchasing a new toy at this point in the acquisition process.

    just food for thought, hope it works out for both parties involved regardless.

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