The fragile romance of a new website visitor relationship

The first stages of human relationships are fragile. There are any number of potential hazards or “deal-breakers” that might prevent a relationship developing – some obvious, others not clear at all.

The same applies in e-commerce. All through the customer’s journey there are potential deal-breakers – elements of the website that will deter customers from continuing on the road to conversion.

Deal-breakers take many forms. Some are purely commercial, such as the price of the products on show, their availability in certain colours or a lack of fast delivery guarantees. Others are related to the usability of the site. For instance, page layouts, where finding the right product requires a significant amount of scrolling or where navigation bars are poorly designed.

Equally, the problem might take the form of applications that contain hitherto undetected coding errors. When faced with any of these obstacles, some customers will simply drop off.

One person’s deal-breaker…

But uncovering the hidden deal-breakers on a site is no easy task. Sometimes, they simply aren’t obvious.

Let’s say a customer is looking for an SLR camera. He or she visits a generalist electronics/optics store and searches under “SLR”. The page that comes up contains around 30 items and to see them all, the customer has to scroll down.

This won’t be a problem for many. However, others – either consciously or unconsciously – will see this as a waste of their time. Instead of scrolling down through the complete list they will simply look at what is on screen and then scroll a couple of lines before dropping off the site.

Meanwhile another customer finds the camera they want, adds it to the shopping cart and proceeds to the checkout. At this point they are confronted with a registration form that must be completed. But it doesn’t load very quickly. And for this particular customer, this is a deal-breaker. However, others who follow the same route to the registration form, don’t find it a problem. They simply fill in all the fields and press on to conversion.

The moral is that no two customers have exactly the same deal-breakers. Some will happily fill in that registration form or scroll down the page, others won’t.

Some deal-breakers are more important than others

To take an extreme example, a registration form that asks for an email address as mandatory information and then stubbornly refuses (because of a software glitch) to accept that email address is a fault that stops 100% of the website’s new customers in their tracks.

In contrast, a registration form that is simply too long and perhaps asks for too much information might stop 10% or 20% of first time purchasers.

A broken link at the bottom of the page may affect two or three customers out of 500 visiting the site over a one-hour period. The faulty link has been a deal-breaker for those who clicked on it, but not a problem for the vast majority of visitors.

So for website managers, it’s important to know not only what the potential problems are but also how much of an impact they are having on conversions. Once you know that you can begin to prioritise the remedial work.

In some cases remedial work might not even be necessary – for instance, in the case of a design feature that has had a negative impact on one or two customers but no significance in terms of conversion rates.

Finding the deal-breakers

So how do you not only find but also fully understand and quantify the impact of your deal-breakers?

The easiest way to do it is to tap into the experience of your customers. UserReplay’s suite of tools allows businesses to record all customer journeys, determine how many of them encountered a particular problem, determine the impact of a problem on conversion, and play back a selection that are relevant to perceived or suspected problems.

For instance, if there is concern about the registration process, site managers can play back a sample of journeys through that particular part of the site. As the journeys are recorded click-by-click, it’s possible to see exactly what has happened from the customer’s point of view. Has a software glitch occurred? Is particular question (such as the requirement to provide a home phone number) triggering drop offs? And if so, how many people are reacting negatively?

In this way, sites can identify the serious, significant and also the relatively inconsequential deal-breakers and take appropriate action.

Deal-breakers aren’t always apparent to website designers. They become so when you view things from the perspective of the customer. If only offline relationships could be managed in the same way!