In April 2011, Smashing Magazine published “Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design” in their UX (User Experience) column exploring what they called the “harsh reality” of e-commerce websites.
According to recent e-commerce studies, at least 59.8% of potential customers abandon their shopping cart (MarketingSherpa puts it at 59.8%, SeeWhy at 83% and MarketLive at 62.14%). The main question is why do customers abandon their shopping cart so often? Is there some fundamental mistake that designers of e-commerce websites do very often?
They reported on a usability study they launched in 2010 focused on the checkout user experience. They wanted to document everything that happened throughout the entire experience to determine if there were answers to the questions that plague e-commerce sites. The results left them with 11 fundamental guidelines that everyone using some form of e-commerce, from selling ebooks to full blown online stores, should follow.
Today, they released a follow-up, “The State Of E-Commerce Checkout Design 2012.” Their finding should shake up some e-commerce WordPress Plugin authors.
Here’s a walkthrough of just a handful of the interesting stats we’ve found when benchmarking the top 100 grossing e-commerce websites’ checkout processes:
- The average checkout process consist of 5.08 steps.
- 24% require account registration.
- 81% think their newsletter is a must have (with forced opt-in or without clear opt-out options).
- 41% use address validators.
- 50% asks for the same information twice.
- The average top 100 checkouts violate 33% of the checkout usability guidelines.
I just ordered a dozen items from Amazon, delighted with the one-click feature. Fast and easy. I knew what I wanted and it took me 10 minutes total. Then I needed to purchase one item directly from a website…it took over 30 minutes to finalize the purchase, twenty-five more than I’d allowed in my schedule. I had to call the company to directly order the single product when the website process failed for the nth time. Do you think I’m happy? We all have similar experiences and stories, and there is no need for us to waste such time anymore.
One of Smashing Magazines conclusions was:
What matters the most for checkout experience isn’t the number of steps in a checkout process, but rather what the customer has to do at each step…don’t focus too much on the number of steps in your checkout — instead spend your resources on what the customers have to do at each step, as that is what matters the most for the checkout experience.
If the experience was friendly, open, and easy, I might not have considered those 30 minutes a waste.
Here are some of their findings to consider for your commercial site and shopping cart decisions.
- Forcing or offering a company newsletter is useless. Most users don’t want any newsletters, considered “spam.”
- Opt-out techniques infuriate customers. Make it their decision from the beginning, and make it an obvious decision.
- Customers don’t like registering before purchasing. They just want to buy, they don’t want an account.
- Customers online want to be treated the same as they would at a brick and mortar store. In and out, no questions, no strings.
- Address validators are great, but let the customer be right, not the machine.
- Don’t ask for the same information twice across multiple pages. If we give it once, use it.
The end of the article has an excellent list to consider when designing or selecting ecommerce Plugins for your WordPress site.
How do WordPress Plugins for Ecommerce Fare?
I’m frequently asked which WordPress Plugin I recommend for ecommerce and online shops and orders. I have no favorite and recommend none as I have yet to find one that comes close to meeting the needs of the many, not the needs of the few.
Here is a list of just a few of the popular Ecommerce WordPress Plugins, usually referred to as shopping carts. Some of these are free for the basic version and paid for the full or commercial version. Some integrate directly with PayPal or other credit card services.
- Cart66 Lite – WordPress Ecommerce
- Ecwid Shopping Cart
- Ready! Ecommerce Shopping Cart
- WordPress Simple Ecommerce Shopping Cart
- Simple ParsPal Shopping Cart
- TheCartPress eCommerce Shopping Cart
- MarketPress – WordPress eCommerce
- WordPress Simple Paypal Shopping Cart
- WP Online Store
- WordPress Ultra Simple Paypal Shopping Cart
- YAK for WordPress
- Zingiri Web Shop
There are also a wide variety of WordPress Plugins that integrate into ebay, Amazon, etsy, and other online sales services.
As I’ve said, I don’t recommend any of them. Each one is different. I’ve used some, switched to others, and jump around to match the right shopping cart WordPress Plugin with the right client, focused on meeting their needs.
There is a long history of problematic WordPress Plugins for shopping carts. Too many try to be everything for everyone, but the real world of retail doesn’t work that way. Not all stores are the same. Not all products sold in stores are the same or sold the same. While there are few unique buying and shopping experiences today, the online experience should match the in-person experience, or improve upon it.
Before you make a decision, I recommend you read Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design and The State Of E-Commerce Checkout Design 2012 to familiarize yourself with the needs of the users, the failures of the top shopping cart and ecommerce sites in the world, and define what it is your customers really need in a good checkout experience.