February 13, 2012, 6:13 PM

IRWD 2012: Engage, don’t distract, during checkout

Smart retailers pare the fluff, but message well on the path to purchase.

Lead Photo

Laura Santos, marketing manager, Envelopes.com

With Mendelssohn’s Wedding March playing in the background and clad in a wedding gown, Laura Santos strode down the aisle at the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference to speak on streamlining the checkout process of a retail web site. What’s the connection between the bridal theme and a more effective checkout flow?

Don’t distract the customer, the way her garb and entrance distracted the audience at the conference taking place this week in Orlando, explained Santos, marketing manager at Envelopes.com.

She went on to provide several examples of clever ways the web-only retailer of envelopes and paper had incorporated meaningful functionality into its checkout process, without cluttering that flow with unnecessary steps and information.

For example, the e-retailer made it easier for a customer to add multiple products as he shopped, an important feature given that a shopper may be buying a mix of custom-printed and standard paper and envelopes. Making that change to the shopping cart produced a 15.12% sales lift, Santos said.

The e-commerce site also gives customers an opportunity to register after they complete a purchase, giving the retailer a way to capture marketing data without disrupting the purchase process.

Santos says Envelopes.com also changed its policy to accept checks for orders when a customer’s credit card is turned down. “If a credit card order is declined, we take the order, initiate a series of e-mails and schedule phone calls that our order management team handles,” she said. “We save 95% of declined credit card orders this way.”

Santos spoke with Eric Miller, director of product management at online testing technology provider Monetate, during the session entitled “Creating the streamlined shopping cart that gets buyers to the Buy button fast.”

Miller provided several examples of ways retailers provide effective messaging as a customer moves toward checkout. Some of the key points he made included:

  • Know what you’re trying to achieve. He noted that Gilt Groupe, a flash-sale site that offers limited quantities of items, wants to move customers through quickly, aiming for checkout to take less than 30 seconds. But wedding products retailer David’s Bridal, where Miller once worked, is focused on getting customers to register so that the retailer can market to them as their weddings near.
  • Use the shopping cart to encourage the consumer to complete the purchase. He pointed to Tafford, a retailer of nursing uniforms, which includes customer testimonials in the shopping cart. Other retailers show the image of products in the cart throughout the process. “They fell in love with it, so keep showing it,” he said.
  • Show how far the customer has to go to reach a rewarding threshold, with messages like “Add $40 worth of merchandise to get free shipping.” And once they reach the threshold, make sure the shopping cart reminds the customer that she’s going to receive free shipping.
  • Don’t make the customer wonder if she selected the right color or size. Show all the details of the product she selected in the cart.
  • Provide consistent messaging to customers coming from affiliate sites like Ebates. Miller illustrated that with a page from web and catalog retailer Sky Mall, that featured a “Welcome Ebates Shoppers” banner. He said retailers that provide such messaging have seen a 5-20% lift in conversion.

In short, Miller concluded, “Try to find the right message for each customer.”


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