On a current client project that we are building on Magento Commerce – the client brought up a great question – should we provide shipping and tax calculators on the shopping cart page – or on the checkout page? By default, Magento Commerce has widgets that do both on the cart page itself, but to answer this question, we wanted to do a little research.
We actually posed this question on our twitter account and just as we expected, most of the respondants indicated that they felt it was better on the shopping cart page itself. And traditional logic would lead us to believe that this is the case, we’ve been told for years that “surprise costs” late in the checkout process can lead to higher rates of shopping cart abandonment. The theory was, provide as much cost information to the customer as early in the process as possible to provide transparency of final costs. So many of us have been practicing this technique for years.
But, we wanted to see how some of the top converting online retailers handle this very question. And I’ll preface this study by clarifying that just because something works for them, doesn’t necessarily mean it will produce the best results for you. Every market, every site, and every product is unique, so by no means are we necessarily advocating any particular method simply because the best converting sites do it.
With a conversion rate of an astounding 42.1%, Schwan’s site calculates shipping and tax on the checkout page. In fact, what surprised me most is that they have an industry leading conversion rates while requiring users to register or login to proceed, which has been well documented as to lowering conversion rates.
With a 36.5% conversion rate, ProFlowers actually calculates shipping on the product page. In fact, because of the nature of these products that make the delivery date a much more integral part of the order process I consider this example to be an exception simply because of the uniqueness – as it actually provides shipping rate estimates on the product page itself. But continuing through the order process, I’m never actually presented with an order total at all until after my credit card is processed. In relative comparison though, I’d think this would be equivalent to providing the user actual tax and shipping costs on the checkout page.
Boasts an impressive 33.2% conversion rate. But, after taking a look at the site – really? Very surprised by these results especially seeing that the site seems unusable – buttons actions that aren’t apparent (on a catalog page, scroll down, add something to cart – absolutely nothing happens even though it is actually added to the cart), very small text, small photos, poor layout/design, etc. Regardless of what I think about the site however, they also calculate tax and shipping costs on the checkout page.
Converts 28.9% of its visitors, and does so without mentioning shipping costs or taxes (aside from some shipping banners) on the cart page, and does calculate these on the checkout page.
Manages to convert 24.2% of its web traffic while providing users estimated tax and shipping on the cart page, with actual tax and shipping costs being provided on the checkout page.
Are you seeing a recurring theme yet? For the sake of keeping this post short (is it too late for that?), to summarize the remaining 5 top converters, LL Bean – checkout page, Office Depot – checkout page, Tickets.com – doesn’t equally apply, but checkout page, 1800Flowers.com shows shipping on the cart page, but taxes on the checkout page, and finally, QVC – checkout page.
So what do I take away from this? Well, first of all, 9.5 out of 10 of the top online retailers by conversion rate calculate shipping and tax costs on the checkout page and not the shopping cart page. So I think we can see a pretty significant trend towards this practice, but something I’ve noticed over time primarily with smaller retailers as well as eCommerce platforms in the small to mid market (such as Magento), by default, provide tools for the user to actually calculate these costs right on the shopping cart page itself. While I wouldn’t say the results of this brief study are at all conclusive, I think it’s worth questioning whether you should be calculating this in your shopping cart.
One of the unexpected results of this research however was actually in the surprise that many of these top converting online retailers actually go against some of the traditional best practices for conversion rate optimization and minimizing shopping cart abandonment. Which leads me to believe one of three things:
- These sites do quite a bit of conversion optimization and testing. Best practices are never a “one size fits all solution” – each individual site could have realized greater returns using these techniques that go against the “norm” through testing.
- That some of these sites see a great deal of repeat customers, which typically convert higher than first-time shoppers. If a significantly larger portion of their visitors are existing customers, it could greatly influence these conversion rates.
- The numbers presented in this research are not accurate. And I’ve questioned its accuracy before. It’s based on Nielson Online Megaview Retail which according to Nielson is “MegaView Online Retail service is based on the Nielsen/NetRatings’ MegaPanel®, which provides retailers with the most comprehensive intelligence on online consumers by linking past surfing behavior from the panel’s large sample with current opinions through real-time surveys. By combining these survey results with the actual surfing habits of the respondents, retailers and marketers are able to better understand how consumers are spending online.” How this data is actually beats me, maybe someone else has a better idea of how Nielson collects this data and how accurate these numbers might be, but some of its results are certainly surprising and have raised my eyebrows on a number of instances.
Take what you will from this data, I think there were some interesting results and I think it’s a good practice for everyone who runs an online store to walk through the checkout process of these sites just for the experience. Where are your shipping and tax costs being calculated?