One of my favorite parts of my job is asking people “why?”.
When it comes to conversion rate optimization for e-commerce we use a lot of heuristics (aka rules of thumb). Things like:
- Use short forms
- Don't make people login to checkout
- Have the add to card button above the fold
There are thousands of pretty widely held heuristics. And CROs swear by these as a good starting points. And while many of these are important they're not the holy grail. These rules can be broken and you can still make sales as long as you have the right product.
Sharing a Joke
Earlier this week I sent an image I found on Pinterest to my friend who loves Moscato.
And a few hours later she asks me which color should buy. And a few texts later she purchased the shirt.
Not How E-Commerce is Supposed to Work
This is not at all how experts say e-commerce works! There's supposed to be consideration, price comparisons, reading reviews, and then getting stuck somewhere in the checkout.
Let's go through the problems any CRO would point out.
1) No Website
The first issue is that she wanted a particular joke. But didn't know where to find it. And she has particular needs. She doesn't like typical crew neck shirts. She wanted a tank top. So she did a search.
She finally ended up on lookHuman which was the 5th result on Google. She had to scroll past or explore 2 Etsy links & 2 Amazon links to find the right site.
Not to mention all of the sponsored results. There were similar products all over the place and she navigated to the 5th site.
Everything was done on mobile. Which I find fascinating. I find it incredibly frustrating to type on the mobile keyboard and god forbid entering checkout information.
But for my friend speed was exactly why she decided to use her mobile device instead of a computer.
I had my phone with me. I hardly ever use a computer anymore. So I would have had to start and login to my computer which would have taken several minutes including walking downstairs. I did have several tablets handy, but they are devices I share with my husband and kids and don't have autofills options like my email for PayPal saved in. So it would have been slightly slower and more steps.
She used mobile knowing that there are some fields her phone will auto-fill instead of going downstairs to use the computer.
And she used PayPal. I've used the PayPal app on my phone and that makes checking out with PayPal much more convenient. So I assumed she also used the app.
But she didn't she manually typed in her PayPal account & password. I don't even know my PayPal password! 🤯
I've done a lot of transactions through PayPal and like their buyer protection and customer service. And not having to enter in my shipping or billing address is convenient. Not as big as a difference nowadays with autofills and such, but those don't always fill in correctly and using PayPal I don't feel like I have to double check everything several times to make sure it's right. It's what I'm used to using so I'm more familiar and comfortable with it which helps me make a faster transaction.
It is nice to hear from users that they do like the buyer protection on PayPal. It reduces risk and it's much easier to use than canceling a charge on your credit card.
4) Too Much Chrome on Mobile Device
On the mobile site there's a lot of “chrome” or useless interface. The URL, the social icons on the bottom (which I partially cut off), and the annoying chat button that covers up the product description.
And there's things you can even see without scrolling down.
- Add to card button
- Color options
- Size options
- Style options
These are important considerations on a product page and I'd make sure to put them above the fold. The color especially since as you choose a new color the product page changes you can see what you're going to purchase.
The worst aspect is that you don't know you're missing information. There's no indication that there's more information and you should scroll. On mobile you'd have to scroll down to see the different color options, select one, and then scroll back up.
That's a lot of work to do on a mobile device. And my friend did all of this, followed by taking a screenshot of each color, and sending me three screenshots. That's a lot of work on a mobile device. I constantly have to google “how do I take a screenshot on my mobile device”.
The biggest lesson is that you don't need a perfect site. If someone wants to buy something they'll figure out how to do it. They don't even have to be that motivated. If someone tells someone a joke they might want to buy a t-shirt with that joke on it.
In this specific case:
- Brand didn't matter
- SEO didn't matter (other than getting on page 1)
- Advertising didn't matter
- A mobile optimized site didn't matter
- Cluttered product page didn't matter
- Only having one product photo (per color) didn't matter
- Reviews didn't matter
- Free shipping didn't matter
- Typing a password to checkout via PayPal didn't matter
To be clear: I believe all of these things do matter to an extent. But more important than all of these is:
Having the product the user wants
If so, the rest will help you get a step up on your competition but they aren't necessary. Store owners need to focus on quality products first. Then work on branding, SEO, mobile optimization, and everything else.