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It’s been over two years since I published an article on the Econsultancy blog entitled: Are retailers following best practice to improve conversion rates?

In that article I was specifically looking at the checkout processes of a variety of retailers, and in particular whether or not they have enclosed (or in other words removed site wide elements and distractions to focus the user) the process. 

In this article I have revisited the retailers who featured in this article to see which of the retailers who didn’t enclose their checkouts then are now using this approach .

Enclosing the checkout is an approach I almost always recommend my retail clients adopt as a primary way of improving their checkout funnel conversion rate.

Retailers that enclosed the checkout process in 2009

Of the eight different retailers I reviewed in early 2009, three of them did enclose their checkout process:

  • Play.com
  • John Lewis
  • Game

A quick look at each of these retailers now and there is no surprise that they all still use an enclosed checkout process.

In addition, it’s almost impossible to spot any differences in their checkout process designs from two years ago, although the eagle eyed will see that John Lewis have made a subtle but important revision to the start of their checkout.

Retailers that didn’t enclose the checkout process in 2009

Of the eight different retailers I reviewed in early 2009, five of them didn’t provide visitors with an enclosed checkout process.

Instead, their checkout pages were presented along with the site wide header and navigation as well as other site wide elements such as the footer. The five retailers were:

  • Net-a-porter
  • Toysrus
  • PC World
  • Firebox
  • Thorntons

As I would have expected two years on, some of these retailers have now moved to an enclosed checkout process which I’ve detailed below.

Retailers who now enclose their checkout process

Of the five retailers who didn’t enclose their checkout process in early 2009, three of them have now moved to this approach.

PC World

PC World checkout

Key features of the PC World enclosed checkout process include:

  • Removal of primary navigation.
  • Removal of search facility.
  • Progress indicator..
  • Customer information/confidence panel – security, telephone number and payment types accepted.

Some potential improvements to consider:

  • Make the progress bar look more like a progress bar. Make it larger, the use of progress arrows, clearer signposting of where you are, where you’ve been and what steps are left. 
  • Open links in lightbox windows to keep visitors in the checkout process.

Firebox

Firebox checkout

Key features of the Firebox enclosed checkout process include:

  • Removal of primary navigation and search facility.
  • A very clear progress indicator.
  • Free delivery messaging.
  • Access to customer services telephone number.

Some potential improvements to consider:

  • Open links in lightbox windows to keep visitors in the checkout process.
  • Simplify the footer to remove links which aren’t specific to the checkout process.
  • Emphasise the security messages that are in place.

Thorntons

Thorntons Checkout

Key features of the Thorntons enclosed checkout process include:

  • Removal of primary navigation and search facility.
  • Access to customer service telephone number.
  • Prominent information on types of cards accepted.

Some potential improvements they could consider include:

  • Make the progress indicator much more prominent.
  • Improve the general look and feel of the page designs.
  • Use descriptive progress buttons.
  • Make required fields clear.
  • Open links in lightbox windows to keep visitors in the checkout process.
  • Simplify the footer to remove links which aren’t specific to the checkout process.
  • Emphasise the security messages that are in place.

Testing and optimisation: the Holy Grail

As I explained in my previous article, testing and optimising both approaches to the checkout process and how individual elements impact conversion is fundamental for retailers considering changing the way they deliver their checkout process.

There isn’t a one size fits all approach, but my recommended best practice for both retailers and businesses that provide online application processes is to move towards enclosing it.

As this article has highlighted, of this variety of reputable, respected retailers that are featured, more retailers are now adopting an ‘enclosed checkout’ approach.

As one indication of the increase in brands and retailers who are implementing on-going testing and optimisation strategies, the recent Multivariate Testing Buyers Guide from Econsultancy provides some valuable insights into this industry, which continues to go from strength to strength.

Summary

In addition to the retailers featured from 2009, a retailer I have been working with over the last 12 months is Lakeland, which launched its new e-commerce platform in April 2011.

Not only has there been 'Ten best practices from the new Lakeland website’ highlighted, but Lakeland have well and truly embraced the enclosed checkout approach.

Insights from the user testing we did for Lakeland provide further evidence that adopting an enclosed checkout process improves the customer experience, especially when retailers have provided a transparent shopping basket, like I have highlighted with the superb ASOS shopping basket.

Paul Rouke

Published 7 June, 2011 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

37 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

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Rob Jackson

Hi Paul

Good article as always - one quick question; in your experience with websites who do basket optimisation how many test variations as part of the process vs outright changes?

Cheers

Rob

over 5 years ago

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