As the founder of Modus Praxis LLC, I recently realized I’ve been continuously selling on the internet for the past 23 years. With that experience comes a lot of hard won knowledge.
Why E-Commerce Is So Much Better Now
We won’t bore you with tales of the old internet, but… in the late 90s you had to build your checkout systems from scratch. There weren’t many off-the-shelf solutions – and the ones that were available were often way out of budget for small fledgling enterprises. Plus, back in the day, many people believed that making a credit card purchase online was unthinkably risky – so we had an option for people to create an order and then mail in a postal money order with their order number written into the memo blank. It’s all quaint and adorable now, but it was hard back then. The tools we have now are just fantastic, so there’s no excuse for having a crummy checkout experience.
But, carts and checkouts can still get complicated
Choosing the right tool is important, but if you’ve already bought into something that’s less than optimal, there’s still hope. But before we get there, let’s talk about evaluating choosing the right tool. Above all, keep the process as simple as possible.
- Keep the checkout process SHORT, using “Express” checkout options when possible and appropriate.
- Does the process meet the current standards that customers expect?*
- Does the entire process establish trust?
- Does the customer emerge from the checkout feeling reassured and excited about their purchase?
- Does the customer know exactly what will happen next?
*Recently became aware of a case with a consulting client who has an older checkout system – the customer was genuinely confused about the available payment options since they were presented after requiring an address. Given the way that PayPal Express checkout is presented in many Shopify and WooCommerce based stores, the customer through no fault of their own assumed that PayPal was actually not available even though it was advertised as such throughout the website.Cling to legacy e-commerce systems at your peril. Click To Tweet
It’s important to know what the current expectations are, and to make note of them as you purchase from other online merchants big and small. Cling to legacy e-commerce systems at your peril.
Why The Basics Are Still Important
No matter what, we’re all still people and we have the need for communication, trust, and a general sense of familiarity when making a purchase online…
As you may have already heard from a number of marketing experts, online and offline, people buy from people and companies they like, know, and trust.
Become The Customer
It’s time to put on your role-playing hat… and become the customer! However, if you have a hard time
Mini Cheat Sheet: How to Become The Customer…
- If you have a background in roleplaying games, now’s the time to tap into that. You may even want to create a customer persona that mirrors one of your main target demographics. If not, ask yourself if you can truly look at your own website, cart, and checkout system with “new eyes”. If you find yourself unable to do this, get a friend or family member to “play customer” Be prepared to just sit back and take notes. Don’t help them with the checkout process. See where they get stuck.
- Pretend you’ve never made a purchase from your own site. Act accordingly. Is the site navigation where you expect it to be as compared to popular retailers? Some of you founders out there haven’t been on your own websites very much and that’s a huge mistake! Dig in from time to time and find the frustrations. Ask your employees about any recurring customer frustrations.
- Do you know where to find what you need to complete your purchase? How long does it take? Do this on Mobile and Desktop. Review your Google Analytics to find out how many customers are visiting on each… and structure your development priorities accordingly.
Take Notes Of Your Own Customer Experiences
When you buy online from any retailer, try to develop the habits of observing your experiences during the entire process. At the very least, if any step along the purchase process absolutely delighted you, WRITE IT DOWN so you can try and implement some aspect of it in your sales process.
- Why did you buy this item? Try to observe at least 3 or more reasons.
- Do you feel like you know what will happen next, now that the vendor has your payment info? How do you know?
- What methods of communication is the vendor using? Did you have the choice to select which one? How do you feel about each one?
- Something else?
- What if you suddenly don’t feel like completing the sale? Why? Do you need to consult someone else in your household? What would help you make the case to them? Is that info readily available? Were you offered an alternative to purchasing (add to cart vs learn more) right now? Did you receive any type of cart abandonment or browse abandonment message? How did you feel about it?
- What were your expectations post-sale? Were they met? Were they not met? Answer both and why for yourself in as much detail as possible. What are you doing or not doing in your company’s checkout?
- Did you have a customer service issue? How available was customer service? Did you get an answer in a reasonable amount of time? Did they win your lifetime loyalty? If so, why – and how can you be doing the same at your company?
- Were you offered an upsell or cross-sell? Was it relevant? Did you see too many upsells? How did you feel about it? How would your Mom feel about the upsells or cross-sells? Would she be delighted or less apt to complete the sale because the seller looks spammy now?
Document Your Customer Journey
I wanted to call this “pathway” but in light of one of the biggest follies of my first company, it’s important to use the language that the market is using–even if you think it sounds silly. So, “customer journey” it is. Map what happened during the time you pretended to be a customer on your own site. Then, determine what needs to happen for your customer so that they feel great about their decision to purchase from you. How can you ensure they know what happens next? Remove any and all sources of confusion or friction. Any speck of confusion is going to result in lost sales, abandoned carts, etc. A confused customer will not buy. How can you remove confusion? How can you remove friction? Do it, then do it again.
Winning Examples of Low Friction Purchasing:
- WooCommerce installations (which are not overly complicated by individual companies)
What do these examples have in common?
Short checkout with “express options”. Purchases that can be made with “one click”. The ability to save at least some of the customer info for easy future purchases. Excellent mobile and desktop experiences which do not get in the way of the purchase. Timely follow-up emails – order confirmation, shipping confirmation, “how did we do” review request or customer service outreach, email nurture campaign to sell the customer on their good decision to buy from you in the first place…
What Did You Learn?
In light of these experiences, what changes will you implement at your company? Who do you think is doing a great job with their cart? What will you add or subtract from your ecommerce site? Let us know in the comments below.