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By B.L. Ochman

If you sell anything on the Internet, you need to read Baymard Institute’s “State of E-Commerce Checkout Design 2012” to learn why the average cart abandonment rate is a whopping 65.95%.

The study documents and benchmarks the checkout processes of the top 100 e-commerce websites (ranked by ease of user experience) based on the findings from the original research study.

The results show a large number of rather easily correctible issues in the top 100 e-commerce sites. The author theorizes that usability – still! – is not the highest priority of the executives of the companies, or the IT people, who prefer to do more interesting work than the tedious coding usability best practices require!

The report includes a checkout database with 508 checkout steps reviewed, 975 screenshots, and 3,000+ examples of adherences and violations of the checkout usability guidelines.

Among the study’s stop findings when benchmarking the top 100 grossing e-commerce websites’ checkout processes are:

1. The average checkout process consists of 5.08 steps (but this isn’t necessarily a huge problem!) The shortest checkout process is one step (including cart) and the longest being a massive nine steps.

What matters the most for checkout experience isn’t the number of steps in a checkout process, the report maintains, but rather what the customer has to do at each step.

These sites had eight or more steps in the checkout process: Sephora (8), Amazon (8), Peapod (8), Sony (8), Safeway (9), ShopNBC (9) and W.W. Grainger (9).

Personally, I’m certain there is a special place in hell for the creators of one of the most obnoxious errors in online checkouts – the disappearance of data you’ve typed if one field is considered “wrong” by the software. Maddening!

2. 24% require account registration. This annoys the crap out of most people, including me. As one respondent put it “I don’t have to sign-up for for anything when I buy something in a brick & mortar store, so why should I do it online?”

People don’t want even more passwords to remember, and they don’t want their information stored indefinitely.

3. 81% of e-commerce sites make their newsletter a must have (opt-out or worse). Yet, more than ½ the respondents referred to these newsletters as spam. Even worse, 32% – including Amazon – automatically sign buyers up for a newsletter, without asking. And finding the opt-out is anything but easy.

4. 41% use address validators. 50% ask for the same information twice, instead of pre-filling the already typed-in information for the customer. This is rarely at the same page (although that does happen) but is most often happening across multiple pages. only 10% of the websites helped their customers to fill-out even less form fields by pre-filling the state and/or city fields based on the zip code that the customer provides.

5. The average top 100 checkouts violate 33% of the checkout usability guidelines.

Fifteen years into the Internet Age, when the majority of people are over their fear of putting their personal information online, there is simply no way to justify this lack of usability in top sites – or, for that matter, any sites.

How’s your site’s e-commerce working?

Photo: h2training.com