Lessons Learned: Online Store Design Makes a Huge Difference to Order Completion and Conversion Rate.
Back in 2008 I was managing a hosting company in Russia. Our operations were fully automated by Parallels Business Automation Standard (PBAS), we were offering a full range of state-of-the-art hosting plans, and all of our hosting plans were competitively priced. Our sales were decent, but not spectacular, and they definitely weren’t growing as quickly as we wanted.
So we launched a research project to better understand our customer’s shopping experience and to pinpoint any problems. It shocked us to learn that for certain products up to 70% of our customers were not finishing their purchase. Clearly, something was happening during the purchasing process that created a barrier to completing transactions.
At the time we were using the standard store integration in PBAS, which was not necessarily designed to “sell,” but rather to show PHP code and PBAS API usage. User interface decisions made by programmers with knowledge of the internal code structure were perplexing to customers trying to use the store in a real-world environment.
To go deeper with our research we added a Kayako online chat button into every page of our online store.
Here are the main discoveries we made, and the changes we implemented to address these issues:
1. Customers don’t like to make difficult choices, and were simply “opting out” and leaving our store. We believed our typical customers were more or less “system administrators with degrees in Computer Science.” We wanted to impress them with flexibility and lots of interesting options, but when we started chatting with them we realized some of them, had no clue what “SLM memory limit” meant. So we reduced the number of options, renamed our resources and added simple descriptions. In short, we had to redesign our store so any person could understand and use it.
2. Multiple Call-To-Action elements were confusing and scaring regular customers away. Many customers were clicking on buttons and menu items in the shopping cart, which lead them away from the purchase process and even away from our web site. We wanted our customers to be 100% focused on the purchase, and determined that any additional information was simply defocusing clients from completing the purchase process.
3. Our customers’ emotional reaction to our web site was the fundamental driver in their purchasing decision. It became clear that long registration and configuration pages in our store were significantly reducing our sales.
4. A very slow shopping cart experience will make some people leave. Why? Because customers conclude that if the hoster’s own store is slow, their hosting will be even slower. So we had to increase our store performance.
It took us two months to make all these changes in the standard PBAS store, but the following results were well worth the effort. In the six months following the store changes:
• Abandoned shopping carts were reduced by 57%
• Online store sales increased by more than 150%
We shared all this information with Parallels PBAS developers who used the feedback, as well as feedback from other PBAS customers, to improve online store usability and functionality.
Today, PBAS Store is a ready-to-use and powerful tool. Released this month as part of Parallels Business Automation Standard 4.3.4, which includes:
• Simple, single-page order processing to reduce ordering time
• Redesigned, simplified, and streamlined interface
• Easy-to-add online chat services
• Ability to choose which resources are visible and add meaningful descriptions to them
• Support for stand-alone deployment on a high-performance dedicated server to increase store performance
• Many other enhancements
These enhancements demonstrate how Parallels learns from customer’s feedback to help its Partners grow their business. I am very proud to be part of this company.
~ Alex Goncharov, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, Parallels