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A Checklist

Here's a quick checklist for your IT department to keep handy when building an order form for your web site. (For a print-ready PDF version, click here.)

Technique

Description

Break up the order form

Short pages with a few items to fill in look less alarming than long pages with lots of empty blanks. Make it look easy for the user to fill in the info, and you're more likely to hang onto that potential customer.

Offer the convenience of registration

Explain that registering makes checkout quick and easy. Emphasize security and privacy. And remember that registration is for potential buyers. If you force registration, you're likely to lose the casual shopper who might otherwise buy sometime, but not today.

Get that email address

It's much easier (and cheaper) to contact a customer by email than by any other method. If you collect the email address as part of the purchasing process, you have a built-in contact method. You can even offer your newsletter or other email marketing options (but add that email address to your list only if the customer okays it).

Request daytime and evening phone numbers

Having a second phone number gives you an option for directly contacting the customer who spends her life in multiple places (like most people). It also helps in preventing fraud.

Reiterate what the customer is buying

Do you force the customer to remember the product information to order it? Might as well just post a sign: "This way to the exit." If you make it difficult, they'll give up.

Track the costs and keep them visible

Most people want to know how much they're spending as they go along; don't make it a shock at the end of the process. If the customer can easily see his cumulative total and add and subtract items and options until he reaches his limit, you're more likely to complete the sale.

Offer multiple shipping methods

Assuming that your fulfillment department can manage the options, consider offering expedited handling and shipping—at a premium price. The customer can choose these options as desired, and the price should be reflected in the running total.

Get both billing address and shipping address

Offering to ship to an address other than the billing address gives your customer more options—particularly when the customer is ordering for her office or a friend, is purchasing gifts, or is buying items of (ahem) a private nature. Include an option to use the same address for both billing and shipping, so the customer doesn't have to retype info.

Ask for the credit card info last

If you wait until the end before asking for the buying "commitment," you can still capture a customer's info, even if he or she abandons the purchase.

Offer some extra services

Gift wrapping, coupons, discounts, and other "specials" can help guide the customer all the way through your checkout lane.

Give 'em one last chance

If a customer abandons the shopping cart, offer an immediate discount to complete the sale. It's generally worth the cost to persuade the customer out of "buyer's remorse."


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