When looking to improve performance of an e-commerce site, one of the best places to start looking is at the bottom of your checkout funnel. If a shopper has gone to all the trouble to discover products, put them in their shopping cart, and begin the checkout process, you know they have buying intent. So you need to find any elements of the customer experience that might be tripping them up at the end of that process.
One of the most common mistakes I see in e-commerce checkout flows is a Promotion Code Field that is too prominent. The Promo Code field is an important utility, and you want to make sure it’s easy for users to find and use, but you also want to be sure it’s not inadvertently interrupting the checkout flow for a large group of shoppers.
The mistake I see most often is displaying an empty Promo Code box for the user to fill out. The challenge is we’ve all been conditioned since birth that when we see a form, we should fill it out. So even though most users start your checkout process with no intention of using a promo code, when they get to that field, leaving it empty simply feels wrong.
Sears is an example of a typical shopping cart review page with a prominent Promo Code field.
You can almost hear the user thinking, “oh my gosh, I should have found a promo code before I started shopping. I’m not going to get the same deal that everyone else on this site is getting.” And far too often, the next thing they do is leave your site, head to a search engine, and start looking for a promotion code.
Once they leave your site, there is a good chance they aren’t coming back. You need to know how often this might be happening on your site.
The first place to look is your own click-path analytics. How often is that shopping cart review the exit page for your site? Another approach is to use Google Keyword Tool (now part of the Google Adwords Toolset) to get an idea of how many searches it sees. In the case of Sears, users are searching for “Sears Promo Code” 110,000 times a month. Assuming an average order value of $150, that is $16.5M of revenue a month Sears is putting at risk!
Once customers leave your site for their favorite search engine, nothing good can happen. Most often they’ll find an affiliate site that aggregates promotion codes, such as couponcabin or retailmenot. The best case scenario from that point? Your customer would find a valid promo code and come back to your site with a new affiliate link, resulting in a much lower gross margin sale for you. Even worse, they may find a promo code from one of your competitors, or simply not be able to find their way back to your site.
The solution is to make “Promotion Code” a link instead of a blank field. When the customer clicks that link, you’ d use an expanded section of the page to reveal a promo code field, or pop-up a modal to let the user enter their code. Target and Zappos both use this approach.
Another alternative is to help them find a promo code on your site. You can have a banner with a shipping promotion in it, or offer a link taking shoppers to a page on your site that lists valid promotions. OfficeMax uses a good example of this tactic.
The bottom line is to make sure shoppers with a promo code are able to use it, while making sure you aren’t sending shoppers with a high purchase intent off your site.