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10 Ways to Reduce Friction in Your Purchase Process

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

The harder you make people work to order your products, the less people will buy. This basic knowledge has been proven both on and offline. Unfortunately, we’re all not blessed with same level of brand loyalty and scary desire for our customers to line up for our latest ithingy like Apple is, so we need to take a serious look at how much friction we’re causing our customers—and find ways to eliminate it.

There are lots of different ways to go about fixing friction. Here are some easy wins to get you started.

1. Capturing information that’s only necessary for the sale

You might want to know everything you can about your customer so you can help service their needs. But the checkout is not the place to ask for that information. Until the money has cleared, don’t ask them for anything more than you need to make the sale. After the sale has been made, quiz them all you like. The same goes for setting up accounts and passwords: think very carefully before you ask someone to create an account and password—even if your intentions are good.

2. Including direct order links from your emails or blog posts

This might not work for all products, but it’s worth a try. When you’re promoting a product or offer in a communication (such as an email or blog post), don’t send readers to a sales page—send them directly to your checkout page, with the product already in the cart. You don’t need to re-sell to them in a sales page if you’ve done a good job in your communication piece.

3. Recalling the information you know about the customer

If you’re running your own checkout process and you’re (securely) storing customer information, when it comes time for a customer to purchase their second product, fill out as many details as you can for them. You need to allow for them to update the information if required, but many will just sail straight through.

4. Minimizing cross-sell and up-sell messages

In the past, I’ve been guilty of creating friction by attempting to increase my average order value with up-sells or cross-sells. There’s a very fine line to tread when it comes to balancing these two needs. Personally, I limit myself to one up-sell message of one product in an entire checkout process. Any more, and you might risk reaching the friction tipping point.

5. Avoiding bouncing customers to unknown third parties

For some, this might be something you can’t avoid, as you don’t have an internal checkout process. But if possible, keeping the checkout process consistent in terms domain, aesthetics, and style will reduce the shock associated with bouncing to a third party. If you do need to ship your customer somewhere else, make sure the customer knows what’s about to happen. My only exception to this rule is PayPal. It’s such a recognizable brand, the effect can actually be positive rather than negative.

6. Making your process usable, accessible, and cross-browser compatible

For me, this one’s a bit of a given: the lower the number of people who can access your checkout process, the fewer sales you’ll make. It’s a pretty easy calculation, yet so many people fail to make their checkout processes consistent for everyone. Google Analytics, when configured properly, will make it easy to identify whether people with specific browsers are converting a lower rate than everyone else. This will help you quickly identify any problem areas.

7. Using smart and intuitive data validation

Even after you’ve reduced the number of fields you’re asking your customers to complete, people will still make mistakes. If you’re not giving people a clear message about what they’ve done wrong—and what they need to do to resolve it—the sale is going to very quickly be thrown in the too-hard basket. Make sure your error handling is smart and intuitive.

8. Doing what the big guys do

The reality is that the big guys, with the big budgets, are going to be better informed in terms of what constitutes the ideal checkout process. If you want to see a seamless checkout processes in action, be sure to buy something from the likes of Amazon so you know where the benchmark is.

9. Tracking checkout drop-offs

This is all about being as informed as you can about what’s actually happening though your checkout process. My favorite piece of free web software, Google Analytics, is the best place to start. You can thoroughly integrate your ecommerce pages with Analytics—some of the insights you’ll gain might even scare you a little. How you do that is another post in itself, so if you want me to step you through the process, be sure to let me know.

10. Asking people why they’re leaving

Another obvious but seldom-used method to gain insight into why people don’t order your products is to ask them. On-exit pop-ups and light boxes are a great method to quickly ask your customers why they’re leaving. This detailed information will show you very quickly where your friction points are.

When you think about it, if someone abandons your checkout process without completing it, you’ve only got yourself to blame. You’ve done all the hard work to convince the customer that they want to buy your product, then managed to talk them out of it with a poor checkout experience. Reducing the friction in your checkout process is one of the easiest ways to maximize your revenue.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing more of his tips undercover here at ProBlogger over the coming weeks.

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  1. I think web marketing ninja has written about all the marketing mantras in this.They all are must to do things,but i want to add following two lines in it:-
    1. if you are redirecting your customer to some third party like paypal even then convey this to your customer that they are going to be redirected.
    2.You have to consider cross product promotion to some level because this allows your user to browse more product.You can give customer an option to go to payment page or to explore more product.

    thanks ninja.

  2. Some great suggestions and a few I have not thought about (perhaps asking why they left).

    For bigger products, offering affordable solutions like payments over time can help those who can probably afford something but think they can’t.

  3. Paypal has come a long way. They use to freeze peoples accounts but now I hear things are better. Is this true.


  4. Great list there. The over-riding message has to be “keep it simple”.

    Nice, clear button to press (coupled with a call to action) – minimum data collected pre-sale in order to complete the transaction.

    I would reinforce however the need to provide post-sale service – how about a follow up email a few days after delivery to check all is ok……

    I would rather they tell me if there is a problem than all their friends (or indeed the internet!).

  5. Re: Point #9…I am interested in learning more about how Google Analytics works and how to better track users. It seems very powerful and yet I use it so minimally it seems.

  6. Users simply don’t have the patience for any funny business. Keep it lean and give your customer what they want, when they want it.

    Great post, Ninja.

  7. Number 10 is underestimated by many, nevertheless, it is probably the only way to find out what it works and what it does not on your website. People like to give feedback because they want to feel part of the brand, so lets give them this chance. Spot on post!

  8. Great list here.

    I have seen conversions skyrocket for my clients by implementing #1 and removing unnecessary information.

    #4 is especially important for someone that is building a long term sustainable business (which I hope most of you are). It is short sighted to try to extract all the money you can upfront with tons of upsells and cross-sells. Give more upfront and you will reap the benefits on the backend.

    #6 – I lost over $19,000 on a product sale in one day because my designer did not check all the browsers. Very important.

    #9 – Don’t fly blind. You can’t accurately make decisions about your website unless you know what is happening. You are wasting time, money, and effort if you are working on getting traffic without tracking your results.

    #10 – I’ve done this before as well. I was able to save over 500 orders just by asking why they left and starting a discussion. Use survey software like surveymonkey or a livechat program.

    Admittedly I should implement #3 more into many of my checkout processes. Thanks again for the list!

  9. I agree with only asking for info you need- i have clicked off sites myself because I thought they were asking for bit too much info- it puts one on the defensive.

    I like James idea and will often let a client “pay over time”.

    They actually pay a portion of the overall cost each time we have a coaching session.

  10. Ya direct link things will not work sometime, because in some products customers need more info and they feel odd when they are directed directly towards order or payment page.

    so we need to be careful in this.

  11. Sound advise and a couple of gems in there. Would definitely be interested in hearing more about point 9 in terms of tracking. Thanks for the article.

  12. The more the details one can comprise within a statement, the more helpful it becomes. I think you managed to stuff in all the important specifications, thus your piece of writing transmits not only simple information, but also great learning material. Good job, and don’t forget to keep up this consistency for your future writings as well!

  13. Web Marketing Ninja says: 10/06/2010 at 11:30 am

    Some fantastic comments all, thanks. I’ll put some ‘make the most of analytics’ posts together. It’s a topic I love talking about.

    the second comment, James, raised a really valuable point

    “For bigger products, offering affordable solutions like payments over time can help those who can probably afford something but think they can’t.”

    I’m actually putting together a post called ‘The Art of The Price’ which its going to cover how to determine the ideal price for stuff, as well as how to collect the money – which I’ll talk about things like payment plans and ‘nothing up front’.

    Doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small product — it’s really important.

  14. Excellent article, This not only helps us keep the user in mind, but also helps us improve content, site structure and increase revenue.

  15. great list here,thanks , it help me to keep the user in mind,also we can improve our work

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