Very often I get the question of what to test first on eCommerce stores, from eCommerce store owners and even consultants who are just getting started with A/B testing.
Just to recap, a hypothesis is a proposed statement made on the basis of limited evidence that can be proved or disproved and is used as a starting point for further investigation.
A good hypothesis needs to be based on some form of limited evidence. Testing random elements on the page without any limited evidence that the change will help improve conversions will very likely lead to poor results.
Here are 3 elements which you can use as starting points to explore A/B testing your eCommerce store’s checkout. It’s important to test the changes, rather than treating them as “best practices” and just making the change directly without any testing. I’ve found that very often, these changes will actually decrease conversions, not increase them.
I’ve also highlighted some things you should consider before testing these elements. You should consider how these apply to your particular site before running the test. One of the great challenges of eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimization is that what works on one site might not work on another.
This is especially true for your cart and checkout pages, which are very critical parts of your eCommerce site, as they a very deep in the funnel. Your visitors who reach these parts of your eCommerce store are generally highly motivated.
Why Test Your eCommerce Checkout?
The checkout and cart portions of your eCommerce shop are important areas to work on for eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimization. Only the most motivated visitors reach the checkout and add elements to the shopping cart, and by optimizing this part of the conversion funnel, you have the opportunity to effect this group and turn potential customers who are “sitting on the fence” into buyers.
eCommerce Checkout Test Challenges
There are several important things to note about running an A/B test on the cart and checkout parts of your eCommerce site.
Smaller Sample Size
Since only a relatively small number of people (compared to the total traffic of your website) ever reach the “add to cart” or checkout stages of your eCommerce store, by testing elements on the cart or checkout, you have a smaller sample size for the test.
This means that it will likely take much longer for you to validate results for cart tests.
Technical Challenges with Implementation
For a lot of hosted carts, it’s technically challenging to run an A/B test on the checkout or cart portion, due to the highly dynamic nature of how the cart and checkout is being presented. Changes in the checkout design (for example accordion style vs. one page checkout) usually cannot be tested as well, as it’s configured simply by a toggle on the administrative interface.
Using a more technically flexible platform like LemonStand can help reduce the overhead and frustrations for A/B testing your checkout process.
If you can overcome the technical challenges, testing such a critical part of your conversion funnel will definitely reap you huge rewards in the long run.
What to Test on eCommerce Checkouts
Some elements that you can consider testing on eCommerce checkouts include:
1) Guest Checkout vs. Login Checkouts
Depending on whether you have more returning customers or new visitors to your website, you might want to emphasize one option over another to see if that will increase overall conversions. A more advanced test would be to emphasize different types of checkouts for different kinds of visitors.
In general, I usually start by testing emphasizing the guest checkout. On most platforms, a registered customer can use the guest checkout to make a purchase.
One usability no-no is to force the visitor to register before making a purchase. It simply doesn’t make sense to have to register in order to make a purchase. In the real world, when you go to the supermarket to purchase groceries, they don’t force you to give up all your private details in order to make a purchase. Why should the online world be different?
Checkout and cart pages are a critical part of your online store’s conversion funnel, and are great places to start conversion testing.
[Tweet “Checkout pages are a great place to start conversion testing. (#CRO)”]
2) The Way You Present Coupon Code Fields
Another thing you can test is the way you present your coupon code fields when checking out. Some ideas include whether to display coupon codes on the checkout, or hide/de-emphasize the field, or you could even test having a small link that, when clicked, displays the coupon field.
It’s important to remember that attention spans are pretty short on the internet. One behavior that we’ve seen on many checkouts for our clients is that when people see a “coupon codes” field, they go off in search of the coupon.
Often, the visitor isn’t all that motivated to purchase, and if they go off of your site, they might get distracted and never return. However, with tabbed browsing these days, this might be less of an issue. Many shops also are highly dependent on coupon code promotions so hiding or deemphasizing the coupon code field might actually reduce conversions.
However, if you never give out coupon codes, then it would make sense to not have a coupon code field, as it creates additional friction to the conversion sequence.
Based on these possibilities, I recommend coming up with a hypothesis based around these test ideas to test the way you present your coupon code fields to your site’s visitors.
3) Trust and Security Seals
Trust and security seals are an important part of any eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimization project. The seals decrease anxiety for the visitor by reassuring them that their privacy and security are protected when shopping. In the wake of the Heartbleed vulnerability in the OpenSSL library, security has once again become an important concern for many shoppers, so it is prudent to reassure your visitors that their credit card and private information is secure.
The Baymard Institute conducted a survey and found certain trust and security seals were perceived to be more trusted. In particular, the “Norton Secured” seal seems to produce the most sense of trust among website visitors.
However, it’s very important to test if a particular seal works to increase conversions on your particular website, instead of just assuming that this “best practice” always works.
In my experience running tests for clients, security and trust seals do not always increase conversions. Sometimes, they can even decrease conversions. One possible reason for this decrease is that an improperly placed trust or security seal might remind the visitor that they are giving away their private information to a 3rd party, and increase their anxiety when making their purchase.
The placement of the security and trust seals also matter a great deal. They should generally be placed at very prominent and visible locations instead of hidden in some footer, like in the case of many sites I’ve seen.
[Tweet “Security and trust seals sometimes decrease conversions. A/B test them.”]
Get Started with A/B Testing Your eCommerce Store
I encourage you to start A/B testing your cart and checkout pages on your eCommerce store today to unlock the hidden conversions there. Relatively few people are testing right now, and by doing so you’ll be able to gain that competitive advantage that few have.
We’ve also released a free eBook: A/B Testing For eCommerce. Be sure to download the book to learn more.
Do you have any questions?
I would love to hear any questions you might have about CRO for eCommerce in the comments below. Ask me anything!