How to build a successful online shop: Purchase and payment
When shopping online, users can decide not to buy at any step in the purchasing process. Even if the only thing left for them to do is to click the “Confirm payment” button, they can still leave your e-shop. It’s crucially important to lead your user as quickly as possible through the actual purchase and payment process, so there is minimal time and reason for them to change their mind.
Purchasing your product should be natural and easy. Simplify product selection to prevent decision difficulties. In the Shopping cart, the user should be able to see and quickly understand what they have selected – the product, the number, the price. Finishing the purchase must be your main goal at this stage, so show your customer this call-to-action more clearly than anything else. When asking about customer details, be as brief as possible. For example, you obviously need your customer’s e-mail address, but do you really need their date of birth? When it comes to personal details, users become more careful and if they are not willing to share personal information, that can make them leave your e-shop. Make the essential fields mandatory to fill in and add optional fields for other information which may be useful for you but not obligatory for the purchase. Subscribing to your newsletter, telling where they heard about your product – it’s good to know, but your user shouldn’t be forced to divulge it in order to complete their order. Make all of the fields clear enough for users to understand quickly what information they are expected to provide. Still, if you think some field remains confusing, provide hints for it.
Forms in your e-shop should be time-saving and easy to fill in, so users write as little as possible. Use drop-down menus and autosuggestions when possible – e.g. for city or credit card type. Some fields may be mandatory in one case and optional in another. If your user wants an invoice, they’ll need to fill in some details, otherwise don’t even show those fields. Think about the design of the forms. A lot of e-shops have started using number-of-steps forms lately. What are these forms? You split the required fields into a couple of steps, and the user sees the next fields (steps) only when they’ve filled in the previous one. The point is that customers don’t get a fright at first – think about it, if you have to fill in 15 fields, it can look like too much to bother with. But if you see only 5 fields, then another 5 and then the last 5, it appears easier. And you don’t know how many fields there are, so you proceed to follow the steps. When you come to the last step, it’s harder to drop off the e-shop, because you want to complete the form. Psychologically, having 1-2-3 steps makes you finish things.
Thank you pages are really important and can bring you a lot of positive results when used wisely. They definitely must provide information to confirm successful purchases and transactions. Users need to know that everything’s okay. You can provide information about what will happen next – when and how the customer will receive your product, how they will get their invoice. Or provide some discount, or contact information. If you sell products in different countries or globally, accept different currencies and include a currency converter. This will make the purchase process easier for your customers and speed up their decision making.
Provide information about payment options before the user has completed your order form. It’s disappointing to waste time ordering something when you can’t use any of the payment options that are provided. Consider offering different payment options, including offline ones. Not everyone has a credit card and not everyone likes to make online payments. But what are the options that you can have in your e-shop?
- Offline payments – by delivery or by paying in at a bank branch. Offer cash payment on delivery (if you have deliveries), and if not – issue invoices which can be paid in a bank branch. It’s not really online shopping, but some users have issues with e-commerce. Online ordering combined with offline payment works well for those users, so give them the desired payment option and don’t lose them as customers.
- Credit card payments – this is maybe the most commonly used method, because it’s simple and fast. For users, the process is clear. For you, accepting credit cards in your e-shop means you need an internet merchant account. This is used to receive funds via the internet for sales of products or services. To be able to accept instant payments from the credit cards of your e-shop buyers you’ll use a payment gateway – a service which connects your online store with your merchant account. For details check with your bank.
- PayPal & Google Checkout – PayPal is the obvious leader in the other digital payment methods nowadays. It’s a safe way to pay and to get paid online. Users don’t have to share any financial information with third parties, only with PayPal. This way they can securely pay in any way they prefer – credit card, bank account, buyer credit or account balances. Google Checkout is not so popular, but it’s also very secure and fast. You need a Google Account to use Google Checkout. Both services support solutions for invoicing, which will be helpful if you plan to have other domains and e-shops.
Help & Support
Save your time and your customers’ time – provide in your e-shop the answers to as many frequently-asked-questions as you can. If you have a link to FAQs in all pages throughout your web store, you can minimize the risk that customers leave your website because they don’t know what to do. This also reduces support inquiries. Consider including a link to FAQs in your main navigation menu. Update your FAQs frequently. When multiple customers contact you with the same problem and you don’t have it answered in your FAQ database, it’s time to include it. It’s also a good idea to have online chat, e-mail and a phone number as support options. Online chat and a phone number are the fastest way to solve customers’ problems, but you can’t always be personally available online or on the phone – if your e-shop is small or you don’t have other people working 24/7 for you. E-mail is the option when you’re not available.
And don’t forget the security of your online store. Even if your shop is perfect in every other way, compromised security can kill your online business. Invest in management software packages, which allow you to ensure the security of your information and your customers’ details and to monitor activity in your e-shop. When you’ve taken all the steps mentioned in this series of articles, and you have a secure online store, it’s time to go out there and let people know about you. Read about e-shop’s popularisation in E-shopaholics wanted (part 4).