Verified by Visa, and other online verification schemes like MasterCard SecureCode, have been adopted by many online retailers in the UK, but do they cause customers to abandon sales?

Concern about the levels of online fraud has led to the introduction of these security measures, but have they seem to have been introduced without considering the effect on e-tailers, and some have found that conversion rates have been affected.

This subject came up when I talked to Andy Redfern of EthicalSuperstore.com last week. After introducing the Verified by Visa scheme to the site, he experienced an immediate 6% drop in conversion rates. There’s also this example of a retailer that suffered a 60% drop in sales after introducing 3D Secure.

We asked the question about effects on conversion rates via Twitter last week, and had a similar response:

VbV and Securecode decimated our card sales. Banks just hadn’t explained the process to customers.

At the beginning it was terrible, caused a lot of abandoned carts, now its more mainstream merchants see less chargebacks

A quick search on Twitter for terms like ‘Verifed by Visa’ and ‘3D Secure‘ shows how unpopular these schemes with web users:

Just tried to make a purchase online and hit the usual barrier of having to try and negotiate 3D secure. Why oh why do they make it so hard.

3D Secure is about as helpful as a cat flap in an elephant house

Ok, this is a F*****G JOKE! Verified by Visa won’t accept my password… Clicking the submit button doesn’t do anything!!! WTF!? #FAIL

Has anyone ever made a successful transaction with the Verified By Visa system? It makes my blood boil every time…

The problems with the scheme are related to poor customer education and bad usability. When e-tailers are looking to make the purchase process as smooth as possible for customers, verification schemes essentially add another step to the whole checkout and, worse still, one that many customers are simply not expecting.

The first many customers will know about such security schemes are when they think they have already completed a purchase, but instead they see a screen that looks something like this:

Verified by Visa

Customers may be reassured by the Visa logo, but this is still a page that is asking for secure information only a step or two after they have already given these details. If you don’t know what this step is about, then alarm bells may start ringing.

Also, the Verified by Visa screens I have come across seem to be generic in design, and seems bear no relation (no links, logos etc), have  to the site you have just made a purchase on, another thing which may have customers worried.

The password process for Verified by Visa carries with it all of the problems associates with registration processes on e-commerce sites. I have never yet remembered my VBV password, so every single time I have to reset it. As resetting requires entering your date of birth, card security code etc, it can be a frustrating experience. 

So what can retailers do about it?

Now that more and more big name retailers are using these schemes, then customer awareness should improve and the effect on conversion rates will be less severe, but, since banks haven’t done a great job of educating customers about verification schemes, then retailers offering Verified by Visa should at least make sure that customers are aware of what to expect after the checkout process.

The worst thing you can do is just let customers discover VBV, 3D Secure etc after they have made a purchase. This makes it more likely that they will abandon the purchase in frustration.

TheTrainline is one site that asks for Verified by Visa, but though you can search for information in the help section, you will be given no clue by the retailer until you see the screen.

Instead, retailers could advise customers that they will be asked to verify their card after purchase and provide further information for those customers that are unaware of VBV.

Even better, as in this example from eBuyer, the card verification has been integrated into the checkout process, so instead of seeing a screen with just the Verified by Visa form, customers can see the connection with the website and the purchase they have just made:

eBuyer - Verified by Visa

The text on the left also explains VBV for those customers who might be unaware of it, and offers customers the option of contacting the retailer if they have any questions:

Though Amazon still refuses to add Verified by Visa, plenty of other well known retailers now use the scheme, and it seems inevitable that others will follow.

Banks and card providers haven’t really done enough to educate customers about the system, or to make the forms more usable, but retailers can at least minimise some of the damage to conversion rates by doing as much as they can to advise customers about what to expect during the checkout process.