How to Fix the Three Biggest Mistakes e-Commerce Sites Make

Obstructing checkout encourages customers to rethink their decision to buy, which works against making the sale

Malcolm Stewart
Malcolm Stewart

When potential customers visit an e-commerce site, merchants should minimize any friction they encounter between arrival and checkout. A recent YouEye research study that surveyed 3,000 visitors to more than a dozen different e-commerce environments found that many online retailers are unwittingly placing obstacles between the customer and the sale. Here’s how to fix the three biggest mistakes e-commerce sites make:

1. Don’t Obstruct the Checkout Process

One of the most common mistakes sites make is to make customers take a step back after they signaled intent to purchase by requiring them to create an account or find a discount code. These distractions confuse first-time buyers. The survey revealed that 25 percent of buyers strongly prefer the option to check out as a guest when making their first purchase.

Discount code fields can distract customers during checkout since they exclude customers who don’t have a coupon. The YouEye study found that 57 percent of participants were less likely to buy when they saw the discount code field and 73 percent left the site to find a code; only half returned. Of those who made a purchase without a discount code, 27 percent said they were less likely to buy from the site in the future.

Obstructing checkout encourages potential customers to rethink their decision to buy and that works against making the sale. Instead, e-commerce sites should use timing and simple navigation to maintain customer focus. Encourage customers to create an account before they leave the site, not before they make a purchase, and provide discount codes at the start of the process, along with perks like free shipping, which increased survey participant interest by 94 percent. Checkout is also a good time to remind buyers that purchases are secure.

2. Get Rid of Invasive Pop-Ups

For potential customers who just arrived at your site, being hit with pop-up ads immediately is like being accosted by an overly aggressive salesperson—it’s a turnoff that sends some customers running for the exit. Survey participants indicated that they find these ads irritating, even if the offer is attractive.

Some e-commerce merchants persist in using pop-ups because they can drive conversion in specific situations. But they’re a bad idea overall because they detract from the site’s net promoter score (NPS). In fact, 70 percent of shoppers in the YouEye survey reported they were less likely to shop at sites with annoying ads and subtracted a point from the NPS, suggesting that today’s sale may come at the cost of tomorrow’s opportunity.

Pop-ups should either be avoided or used infrequently. They should always include content that is well-timed and delivers clear value. If you decide to use pop-ups, use them to offer a convenient shortcut to customers, such as the ability to use social media sign-ins, and make sure the pop-up size never exceeds 400 by 400 pixels. Be sure to use responsive design and ads that are triggered by customer actions to maximize personalization; survey respondents reported a 65 percent positive reaction to behavior-linked ads.

3. Enable and Encourage Customer Reviews

The YouEye survey found that 62 percent of customers who are unsure about making a purchase can be persuaded by customer reviews. Sites that do not encourage customers to leave feedback are missing a big opportunity since a well-placed review can reduce cart abandonment and drive conversions.

The YouEye survey also found that a strong four-star review was even more powerful in driving consumer confidence than a weak five-star review. As a retailer, you’re right to be concerned about receiving a less-than-perfect review. But bear in mind that a site that features nothing but five-star reviews tends to make consumers skeptical.

The best strategy is to actively solicit and display customer reviews, which made survey participants twice as likely to buy. Help customers provide a solid review by incorporating questions about how often they use the product and if they’d buy it again. Displaying a variety of reviews, and allowing customers to rank them according to usefulness and embed multimedia elements also drives higher conversions. And when you receive negative feedback, address it sympathetically and offer to make it right to boost customer confidence.

Fixing these three big e-commerce mistakes result in a more customer-centered site. Keep in mind that online shoppers are looking for a convenient experience that doesn’t require them to jump through hoops. They’re seeking answers and assurance as they make a purchase decision. Anything that blocks their progress can depress sales.

The research from the YouEye study is clear: e-Commerce sites that optimize checkout, treat customers with consideration, and enable communication and feedback are more likely to make the sale. By following these three tips, you can make sure your site treats customers with respect and earns their trust.