Ideas & musings about consumer behaviour

How to make online purchasing simple and straightforward

By Jette Doherty, Senior Client Advisor, Global Reviews

Say that your website has successfully serviced the needs of a prospective customer and the customer has successfully matched your products to their needs. The customer is now happy to proceed to purchasing online using your website.

It is a matter of fact that if the online channel is selected the majority prefer to finish the interaction in this channel – whether that includes a little online help or a quick phone call to confirm some details.

If you are an organisation allowing your prospective customer to purchase from you online, your goal is to optimise the ‘checkout’ experience in order to maximise conversion. Whether that being in the shape of a shopping cart, an online application form or an online purchase, there are a number of best practice rules that apply to all.

Jette Blog Chart

Getting started 

Promote the online channel and set the expectations

The first thing you want is to make it appealing to purchase online. This doesn’t mean providing flashing offers or discounts, but a simple play on values like convenience, ability to track the purchase or something else that backs your value proposition and your online offerings.

Remember that – while promoting the online channel – you cannot forget that some prospective customers may want to apply/purchase in the more traditional way. This means that you should always make access to other channels visible, hence why a visible phone number at this stage of the journey is always recommended as best practice.  Read more on the importance of phone numbers on websites.

At this point in time you also need to ensure it is an easy process to start the online application with clear calls to action (CTA). CTAs need to be placed logically in the flow so they are not pushing purchase too early in the journey. The two elements below are key in getting the prospective customer started:

  • Manage expectations: You need to communicate basics around the ‘checkout’ process, i.e. what is needed and how long it will take.
  • Communicate security and privacy: The visibility of online verification symbols upfront and throughout the process is vital and so is the communication upfront of both security and privacy principles. This will build the necessary trust for the customer to proceed.

Make the purchase process simple!

If you are asking someone to do something really hard they have to be extremely motivated, so the key here is to make it as simple as possible! Your goal is to capture just enough information to get the prospective customer over the line. Once they have committed (and converted) you can start communicating with the customer and asking them for more details.

If you follow the below guidelines you are nearly there:

  • Minimise the steps: (1-2-3 and you are done!)
    The fewer steps the better. However, if comprehensive details are absolutely necessary, you need to design a flow that is perceived as simple as possible
  • Reinforce privacy content or include a link to the provacy information when you ask for personal details (contextual content reinforces trust)
  • Avoid registration as this stops a significant number of users proceeding
  • Proactively provide help contextually and/or access to help in the forms of FAQs, Online Chat and phone number
  • Pre-empt error and use smart defaults for form design. Error management includes a highlight of the error as well as a suggested solution.

The Shopping Cart

If you offer a Shopping Cart (beyond purchase check out and apply) consider the following best practice functionality:

  • Visibility of a shopping basket with price, product name, quantity, images, availability, delivery costs, access to on and offline help
  • Provide user control over the shopping cart (add, remove, edit,  save and share)
  • Incorporate personalisation:  i.e. ‘you also viewed these products’, ‘would you like to purchase … ‘ and other tailored up-sell and cross sell services. Read more about personalisation in this Global Reviews blog.

Communicate next steps

Once the purchase or the application has been submitted, you need to continue to communicate with the customer.

  • Provide a summary of purchase and what will happen next.  I.e. ‘you will shortly receive an email detailing your purchase’, ‘we expect dispatch of products to take place this and this date’, ‘the handling time of application is expected to last X days’. Or ‘we will communicate with your throughout the process using your preferred channel (email or mobile as ticked). In the meantime you can login to track the status using the reference number and your surname’.
  • Start using cross channel communication: Move from web to mobile to email to continue the engagement.

Let the conversions start!


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