When new clients ask us to audit their websites for user experience issues, they’re often really ask us to plug leaks in their sales funnels. Whether you’re a fan of the “funnel” or the “flywheel” sales metaphors, converting users from browsers to buyers tends to become one of a consumer-facing website’s most important functions.
In most cases, converting more sales from your website means tracking and tweaking dozens (or more) of the micro-interactions your customers are having on pages throughout their journey. A UX audit can help identity all the opportunities to optimize your microconversions, especially when they happen across multiple site visits. All those little interactions add up to the macroconversions you’re really trying to improve.
However, over the past few years, I’ve seen a few common opportunities pop out. (And I’m not the only one—our colleagues from Nielsen/Norman Group and Baymard Institute keep track of these trends, too.) Here are three things you can quickly adjust to prevent potential buyers from bailing out right before they click the “submit order” button.
1. Stop shaming your customers.
I can always tell when someone’s been through a particular e-commerce course or accelerator because they lean into a specific kind of microcopy. You’ve probably seen this all over the web, it’s the style of writing that tries to be quirky and delightful when describing the action a marketer doesn’t want a customer to take.
At the beginning of this trend, “manipulinks” relied on some Neuro-Linguistic Programming tricks to shame you out of things like unsubscribing from a newsletter, or from leaving a site. Our friends at NN/g described three phases of “needy patterns” — and as this kind of writing’s been codified into some startup survival guides, they’re even more obvious when you know what you’re looking for:
- Simple oversights — where someone left some shaky microcopy in place and nobody’s caught it yet. (Most often, you see this in error messages that don’t make sense to anyone except a backend developer.)
- Unpleasant attempts at delight — when a site editor tries a “fun” animation or a quirky piece of content that becomes frustrating when repeated. (That modal window that asks people not to leave your site may have bumped your quarterly numbers for a while, but the trick only works if you funnel ever-increasing amounts of traffic to the pattern.)
- Deliberate efforts to make a customer feel guilty — when a marketer overtly threatens mental or physical harm, even in a joking way. I’ve seen a range of these, from “no thanks, I hate saving money,” to “Unsubscribe me, even though that means we have to fire Penny from Marketing.”
Manipulative site elements may goose your numbers for a little while, but they kill your repeat business. It’s no surprise they’re popular among fast-growth marketers who don’t often stick around to clean up the deflated satisfaction ratings or the declining loyalty these patterns leave behind.
If your brand voice is “snarky” or “quirky,” you can still be that without the needy patterns. Derek Sivers wrote the still undefeated thank you message from the early days of CD Baby, underscoring how you can surprise and delight with fun marketing copy throughout a customer journey in a way that inspires repeat business.
Drop the needy patterns from your website. Stop shaming users. Punch up your copy to make it thoughtful, inclusive, and truly delightful.
2. Only ask for personal information when you need it.
Our friends at Baymard even call this a “guest checkout requirement.” They say that more than a third of e-commerce websites fail to offer this as an option!
If you’ve got a new customer’s interest, don’t distract them with extra steps and workflows—bring them right to the payment screen!
Sometimes, we’re so caught up in our company’s process that we fail to realize our customers—especially new ones—don’t understand or care about the same things we do. You might have a stakeholder who cares deeply about capturing four kinds of contact information from a prospect before they place an order. Or, you might have a transaction platform that just won’t function unless you’ve populated all the customer information fields in a database before someone can place an order.
Personally, I’m a fan of constraints, but only when they help your customer get their needs met. Quality, modern e-commerce platforms enable “guest checkout” for a few good reasons:
- You can create a baseline customer profile from the order information and ask your customer to fill in all the extra blanks after you’ve captured payment.
- In some situations, customers may not yet know or trust your brand enough to set up a “full account.” They may feel more comfortable if they can check out without leaving a full customer record behind.
- Some of your customers just can’t remember their account information. Let them check out as a guest, then reconcile the order later, rather than lose the sale.
The lack of a guest checkout on smaller e-commerce sites happens to be why Amazon and Shopify perform so well. If you land on a website you’ve never seen before and see the option to use AmazonPay or ShopPay, you’re more likely to do that if you already know and trust those larger brands. (It’s also a reason to consider integrating those buttons into your own checkout—giving up a processing fee costs you less than losing a sale.)
3. Enclose your checkout page.
Baymard Institute researchers noticed a trend among the best-performing e-commerce checkout pages. They only give customers one possible thing to do next: finish the sale.
Yes, consistency among your site navigation is crucial. You always want your customers to know where they are inside your site. You always want to give them appropriate options to complete their next actions.
However, when it’s time to close that sale, it’s also time to strip away anything that doesn’t move that sale forward. Amazon does a great job of this—when you get to the last step of checkout, all you can do is manipulate options on that page (like shipping speed or payment type) or complete the sale. If you want to adjust your order, you need to use your browser’s back button. That’s it.
I started my digital career in the non-profit and university space, so I know what it’s like to have a stakeholder declare “there must be an active link to our President’s welcome message on every page!” Here’s where you can tell folks that your President probably agrees with you—get rid of your menus, get rid of anything but a stripped-down footer, and purge anything that doesn’t lead to your user clicking that “submit order” button.
Even if you think you’ve got your mega-menus under control, you’d be surprised how many test users accidentally click through to links and lose their place in the checkout flow. And when that happens, it’s more likely they’ll get frustrated and just take their business elsewhere.
How to fix your leaks with audits and roadmapping.
We’ve got two programs to help clients fix customer journey “leaks” like these. Our User Experience Express audit reviews your current website and flags anything that keeps your customers from completing their order. Our Website Roadmapping program can help you organize the software development you’ll need to add “guest checkout” functions and other customer-friendly features.
Contact us today for a complimentary discovery session, so our team can help you find and eliminate even more things that keep your customers from placing orders on your site.