Speeding up the customer journey means easing the flow through each stage. The longer shoppers take to decide on you and your product the greater chance that they’ll go elsewhere or give up altogether. Slow sites and lengthy checkout forms are a common source of frustration for shoppers. Your job is to relieve friction through the path creating happier customers and more conversions for you.
There are 4 typical stages in the customer journey; discovery, research, choose and purchase.
You may find your customers go through additional phases. I’ve added Loyalty as a final phase in the customer journey as I think speed is also a factor in customer retention.
Here are 10 ways to speed up the customer journey from off-site to on-site and beyond a single transaction.
Optimise the right marketing channels
Speed up your site
Make your internal site search awesome
Google’s marketing insights resource, Think Insights, says that the length of the customer journey varies depending on the type of purchase. They measure the length of the customer journey by number of days from initial interest to purchase and by the number of times the consumer interacts with various marketing channels before buying.
This doesn’t mean that you should make your customer journey longer though! Worldwide, the greatest chunk of purchases are made in a single step (or interaction) in less than a day. In the UK retail sector, 37% of purchases are made within 1 interaction.
Channels with the lowest average number of interactions are paid traffic, referrals, organic search and direct visits. Visibility is the first step in drawing a shopper into the customer journey.
Research and Choose
Speed plays a factor in your search engine results page (SERP) position. Crawl time i.e. the time necessary to get the sole HTML file of the web page, directly correlates to SERP position. The longer it takes for Google to crawl your site the lower it will be ranked.
A faster site should be quicker and easier to download, both for search engine robots and for users via their browsers – lowering your bounce rate too.
Page load time is different to crawl time. This is the time it takes a web browser to render the page and display the content. While it’s not a big factor for SERPs, as sometimes reported, it does affect the user experience. Web users hate to wait. The longer a page takes to load the more likely visitors are to close the page and go to the next search result.
“75% of users will typically bounce as page load times pass the three second mark.” – Matt Schmitz, Web Performance Engineer at Dotcom-Monitor.
To speed up your site, you need to know where the problem is coming from. Crazy Egg author, Sharon Hurley Hall’s favourite testing tool for checking page speed is GTMetrix. This tool both gives you a site grade based on its speed and personalised recommendations for making it faster.
Slow loading can be caused by issues with your server e.g. an aging server, or with the front-end build of your website e.g. big image files or unused code.
If users can search within your site they’ll find what they want more quickly, simple. And when they find it, they’re more likely to buy it. Visitors that use internal search typically convert 5-6 times better than those that don’t.
To encourage more visitors to search and to ensure they find what they’re looking for you should:
- Make your search box more prominent.
- Be aware of the language your customers use and allow the search engine to interpret typos.
- Provide sufficient information about the products in the search results for searchers to make a decision.
- Allow customers to filter results.
- Put an add to cart straight button next to each result.
Further reading: 25 Effective Design Patterns For Ecommerce Site Search Results
Alleviate questions and worries
Minimise the amount of effort users have to expend learning about your product. For the majority of the time our brains prefer to make decisions quickly and with minimal effort. Therefore, the function and benefits of your product or service need to be immediately obvious.
Put the benefits front and centre and then provide info on the product’s qualities in bite-sized chunks that answer your customer’s most pertinent questions. There should be no doubt that this is the product for them.
It’s natural for customers seek reassurance about a product before they buy. Reviews, testimonials and social shares on the product page keeps customers on-site rather than searching for information off-site. Displaying how many people have bought the product is also reassuring as we tend to trust group decisions more than our own.
For products and services with typically longer customer journeys e.g. insurance or software packages, create plenty of your own content to help the decision along. This could include videos, blog posts, whitepapers and help centre resources.
Don’t forget to include brief information on and links to delivery costs, returns information, contact information and quality guarantees. Searching your help pages to find out your standard returns policy is added time and effort that many customers won’t or can’t take.
Further reading: How To Write Product Descriptions That Convert
Reduce the number of steps it takes to get to the checkout
Internal site search is one of the ways to help customers find and buy items faster. The rest of your website should facilitate this too. Make it easy to navigate the site, put the most popular products in the ‘shop front’ and reduce the number of tasks you require of shoppers. Amazon’s one-click purchase button is a good example of a retailer facilitating the quickest possible journey to purchase.
Econsultancy reviewed Boots’ customer journey. On Boots’ landing page there is no add-to-cart button next to the products. Instead, customers have to click through to a proceeding page. This should be quicker, with fewer pages in between.
Improve your forms and checkouts. Forms are not fun to fill out. Make your’s as easy and speedy as possible.
Optimise the login process and postpone new signups
Allow customers to speed straight into the checkout process. A login page just before the checkout is called a ‘login wall’. VWO reported that 23% of shoppers abandon their shopping carts if they’re asked to create an account.
I always recommend postponing asking customers to create an account until after they’ve completed the checkout. That way you can simply say “Would you like to create an account with the details you’ve provided”, which seems like much less hard work.
You could also test social logins, if your business is suited to it. Asos switched from guest checkouts to social logins earlier this year.
Remember to highlight the benefits of creating an account e.g. quicker checkout in future and more personalised recommendations.
Isolate the checkout from the rest of the site by removing the site navigation. John Lewis remove the top navigation and the footer once you enter the checkout, just displaying a single link to get back to the site and a lot of help information. This keeps the focus on the task in hand.
No other products or calls-to-action are vying for attention. Distractions in the final stage could be fatal to the conversion.
Don’t use CAPTCHA
CAPTCHAs, the blurry text within a box that online shoppers are often forced to complete, are yet another blocker in the checkout.
Webnographer recently conducted a usability study into CAPTCHAS. The study showed:
- Only 62% of participants completed the CAPTCHA on the first attempt.
- 23% struggled. They had to attempt more than once to pass the CAPTCHA.
- 15% failed to pass the CAPTCHA completely.
All of this takes time. Speed up the customer journey by ditching CAPTCHAs and finding an alternative method of combatting spam.
CAPTCHA are awful for anyone using assistive technology. In a small study with blind participants it took an average of 65 seconds to complete the audio CAPTCHAs and only 45% of participants got it right the first time.
Further reading: Beyond CAPTCHA: a guide to alternatives
Speed is clearly important to website visitors. If your site is quicker to navigate than your competitors’, it will be more desirable to use.
Seek to cement loyalty by maintaining a speedy service in your aftercare.
Provide reassurance with speedy confirmation
Instant confirmation of orders helps create a feeling of surety and security.
User experience designers, Chris Liu (@machinehuman) and Jon Shariat (@DesignUXUI), discussed form completion in a podcast about Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics. Studies show that if there is no ‘complete’ or ‘confirmed’ message after submitting a form that many users will feel unsure if it worked properly and begin to mistrust the site.
Combat this by relaying the order details back to the customer immediately. This is an opportunity for them to check everything is correct, make sure it’s as easy as possible to change incorrect details. If they can add additional items to their order that’s even better.
Follow this up quickly with an order confirmation email and, later, a dispatch email.
Further reading: Optimise Thank You Pages For User Experience