With all the advancements in technology we see occurring almost every day, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the people using the technology don’t change quite as quickly. When all is said and done, people do what they always do. They simply try their best to find a way to make the tools provided to them fit what they’re most used to. So, it stands to reason, the more the tools you provide them force them to change, the more dissatisfied they are going to be. And, as always, people tend to have great memories when it comes to bad experiences.
So, let’s take for example eCommerce tools, or tools that allow people to make purchases on your website. As people go surfing the internet in search of shoes or vitamins or whatever it is you happen to sell, they find their way to your site. They look through what you have to offer, click on a particular product for more details, like what they see, and then add to cart. This is all ideal, until the action of adding this item to the cart actually takes them to the shopping cart page (the page that lists the items they have selected for purchase). Now, this is where the trouble can start. How so?
Imagine yourself at your neighborhood supermarket, local Target, or favorite department store of choice. With shopping cart in hand, you go searching for that same pair of shoes or bottle of vitamins. What if you saw what you liked, but then had to travel alllllll the way back to the front of the store, by the doors and the cash registers, before you could actually put it in your cart? If you had ever even considered looking for socks, or another supplement, or whatever else that might have caught your eye, that thought is likely gone.
At this point, the store has told to simply get annoyed, buy what you have, and move on.
Now, back to your website. By taking people straight to the shopping cart, not only are you interfering with your chance to sell them more products, you are interfering with their preferred shopping experience. But, as with all things, there is another side, so let’s play Devil’s advocate. We will look at 3 reasons why your site operates this way, talk through them, and see what makes sense and what should, at the very least, raise a few questions.
#1 “We do this to encourage conversion.”
I will certainly grant you that getting people closer to the point of conversion makes sense, and may actually increase their likelihood to buy. But at what cost? Have you tested whether or not having your eCommerce engine work this way actually improves conversion? Have you measured whether or not that test increased revenue? If you have, wonderful. Congratulations. You’ll get no arguments from me. However, I would suggest you also test it the other way to see if not forcing them into the cart increases average order value, and, therefore, overall revenues. Keep in mind conversion can actually go down (you can always address this later) but overall revenue can still go up. In the end, which one is paying your bills?
#2 “We have a CONTINUE SHOPPING button to account for that.”
Sounds good. Are people using it? If not, why not? If they aren’t using it – and you may have had the best of intentions – then it isn’t there. If that’s the case, see #1. If people are using it, and by people I mean more then a few, then you have people on your site who want to keep shopping….on your site. This is a good thing, so why are you making them work for it?
#3 “We can’t do anything about this. That’s just how the tool we use works.”
Well if that’s how it works today, it is what it is. But, this is 2011, and you have options. First, can you change the way it works? Incidentally, before you go crazy, at least see if your web analytics support investing in such a change. Second, can you get a new tool? Again, before you go crazy… You see where I’m going with this. If you can neither change how your current tool works nor change your current tool, can you at least forewarn your customers? Can you add links, if you don’t have them already, to have them continue shopping? I know, I know, but no solution is perfect.
Well all is said and done, you can’t be all things to everybody. Nevertheless, whenever you are in any business, it’s all about cost versus benefit. How much is this or will this cost me? What is the benefit of doing or not doing this? The answers to these questions should not simply be a subjective list of pros and cons. There are additional things that will not pay any bills. You have access to data, or, at the very least, access to tools that will provide you with access to data. Use them.
At the end of the day, the point of all this is for you to do two things. First, ask yourself, “is what makes things as easy and comfortable as possible for my customers always my default starting point?” (that starting point almost always leads you on a path to good results) Second, have you done a cost versus benefit analysis, using what data you have as your starting point? Not your gut, not what your friend likes, not what you think looks best, but actual data from surveys, web analytics, etc.
Keep analyzing, keep testing, keep thinking how you would want it to work if it was you. Better yet, think of how you do want it to work when you’re on some other website. Remember everybody wants things to be easy. Granted easy is subjective. But, if you can make it easy for most – as opposed to just some – good things will happen.
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