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eCommerce Buy Box: 7 Critical Elements

Hey everyone,

I've been in the ecommerce game for a long time now (17+ years) and have done a really poor job of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper (virtual or otherwise).

Thought I'd take a crack at writing a few articles on ecommerce tactics I've used successfully over the years.

Here's my first – be kind!

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eCommerce Buy Box: 7 Critical Elements

Getting your potential customer to click the Add To Cart button is the single biggest moment in the ecommerce buying process.

When someone clicks “add to cart”, they are taking a significant psychological step towards doing business with your company.

However, most customers will need answers to a few key questions beforehand, and its your job to provide these answers in context – while they are still on your product page.

Don’t force them to hunt around the rest of your website looking for answers.

If you introduce friction before this critical step, you run the risk of losing the sale and the customer.

What is a Buy Box?

You may have heard the term “buy box” before, especially if you sell on Amazon.

The goal on Amazon is to “get the buy box” – which means having your offer for a product shown in the buy box on Amazon’s product listing page instead of your competitors.

Image: Amazon's Buy Box highlighted in red

Your website also needs a buy box – it’s where the action happens before a customer commits to purchasing your product.

Visually it needs to be one of one of the most prominent sections on your product page.

It’s should draw the eye and be obviously “special”.

Your buy box must separate itself from the rest of the clutter on the page such as descriptions, bullet points, social media links, wishlist buttons and reviews.

The goal of your buy box is to help the customer zone-in on committing to a purchase.

Image: Example wireframe of Buy Box Placement, Visual Hierarchy

Closing the Sale vs. Facilitating the Sale

Think of your product page as a virtual salesman.

You’ve convinced the customer that your product is right for them through persuasive copywriting, high quality product images and product expertise.

You’ve built trust by demonstrating you’re an authority in your industry and shown social proof with customer reviews.

The customer is ready to buy; your buy box is where you ask for and close the sale.

So many ecommerce stores aren’t forceful enough in closing the sale; they’re almost apologetic with a seemingly random assortment of these critical items strewn around the page, or completely missing.

Think of the Buy Box as your virtual salesman saying to your customer “here’s the price, it’s in stock, we’re ready to send it to you for free and you’ll receive it in 2 days – just click the Add to Cart button”.

The checkout isn’t where you close the sale. Once your customer is in the checkout, it’s too late to do any more convincing about the product – and you shouldn’t need to.

When the customer has made it to the checkout, you just need to get out of the way, maintain buying momentum and facilitate the sale.

The 7 Critical Buy Box Elements

Provide these critical pieces of information in a “buy box” – a clearly defined area prominently on your product page which visually draws the eye so the customer knows that is where the action happens.

#1 – Price

An obvious one, but ensure the price you are showing is the final product price, and doesn’t include any hidden fees or surprises.

Are taxes included or additional? How you display taxes will depend on which countries you sell to, but make sure product prices are shown as your customer would expect to see them in their location.

For example, in New Zealand prices are always shown including tax (GST) for retail stores. Showing prices to New Zealand retail customers excluding tax would be confusing and immediately cause friction.

Currency is important to show if you sell to overseas customers. If you provide currency conversion based on the customers geo-located country, then make sure you tell them they are viewing prices in their local currency.

#2 – Stock

Customers want to know that you physically have the product in stock, ready to deliver to them.

Many ecommerce stores only tell the customer if a product is out of stock and say nothing about stock if the product is available.

Not having any stock status – even if the product is in stock – may leave an element of doubt in the customers mind. Doubt means friction in the buying process which should be avoided.

Don’t assume the customer will know the product is in stock if you don’t tell them otherwise.

Make it very clear that the product is in stock and ready to be dispatched.

You want the customer to imagine that the product they are considering is physically sitting there in your warehouse, waiting for them to place an order so you can send it to them.

“In stock, ready for dispatch” is my go-to line for confirming that we have stock, and we’re waiting for their order.

Just saying “In stock” is better than nothing, but building anticipation by letting the customer know they’re just a few clicks away helps to maintain and build buying momentum.

Bonus Points

If your warehouse is in the same region where the majority of your customers are, let them know the product will be dispatched from a warehouse within their region. This alleviates any lingering doubts about packages being lost or delayed in transit while transiting across regions.

This is easier said than done. It’s easier and more effective to implement this in New Zealand or Australia than the USA or UK.

For example I’m in Auckland, New Zealand and approximately 60% of my orders are shipped to Auckland addresses. “In stock at our Auckland warehouse” appeals to the majority of my customers and lets them know delivery should be quicker than if I was at the other end of the country.

#3 – Dispatch

If I order now, when will you dispatch my product?

Not process it…

…but when will it physically be picked up by the courier?

When does the actual delivery process start? Only then does the estimated delivery timeframe come in to play.

Nothing grinds my gears more than ordering something online and days pass without the order being dispatched.

I joke to my partner Hannah that I imagine the people who work there are sitting around looking at my order thinking “might get on to that at some point”.

If you can commit to orders being dispatched the same day before a certain cutoff time – for example 2PM – then communicate this promise in the buy box.

A same day dispatch deadline adds an element of urgency to the buying process – especially as it gets closer to the cutoff time.

For bonus points, have the dispatch cutoff time count down, for example: Order within the next 23 minutes for dispatch today!

#4 – Delivery Cost

Where possible, tell the customer how much delivery is so they have clear expectations around the total cost of the order.

A simple delivery fee structure is makes it easier to clearly communicate delivery costs without requiring the customer to find them out on the cart or checkout pages.

Free delivery across the board is ideal.

Free delivery above a certain order value threshold is the next best option.

A flat rate delivery fee for all orders is fine as long as it’s relative to your products price points.

Try to avoid having automatically calculated delivery fees based on weight and location.

Work out what your average delivery fees are and set a flat rate across the board so you can clearly and easily communicate this to your customer.

Delivery fees which change based on weight, destination, number of products or type of product add an additional mental hurdle in the buying process.

Variable delivery fees introduce uncertainty and doubt, which creates friction.

Friction in the buying process is a conversion killer.

If you use a free delivery threshold, for example $80, then communicate this clearly in the buy box. To be extra clear, if the product is over $80 say “Free delivery on this product” or something similar.

Free delivery is probably the single biggest conversion enhancement you can make for your ecommerce business.

Treat the cost of offering free delivery as a marketing cost, rather than seeing it as increasing your operating expenses.

#5 – Delivery Time

“How long will it take to receive my order?”

It’s the ultimate question and the biggest barrier for ecommerce stores.

In the instant gratification world we live in and Amazon raising the bar to next day and even same day delivery times, customers are used to their orders arriving quick-smart.

Of course not many small-medium businesses can compete with Amazon when it comes to delivery times, however you absolutely must communicate as clearly as possible when the customer will receive their order.

Don’t bury this information in a “delivery info” page. Don’t leave it until the cart or checkout page.

Answer this question at the height of customer engagement – right when they’re about to commit.

Depending on where you sell to, communicating delivery times can be tricky. The more areas you deliver to, the more cases you need to cover.

Mighty Ape – New Zealand’s largest ecommerce retailer – do a great job of this with an availability tool underneath the buy box on the product page.

This allows customer to choose their delivery location (if it hasn’t already been geo-located) and see when their order will be delivered based on the available delivery options to their area.

Image: Mighty Ape understand the importance of letting customers know when they will receive their order

#6 – Call to Action

The primary call to action on your product page is the Add to Cart button.

Visually it needs to draw the eye as the main action you want your potential customer to take.

Avoid having other buttons compete with your add to cart button by using the same colour and same visual dominance.

Call to Action Wording

The wording of the button is not critical, however two variations I’ve had success with depend on your product offering:

  • “Add to Cart” is an ecommerce convention and is a safe default to stick with. It typically works best where a customer may want to add additional products to their cart – or where you want to encourage it.
  • “Buy Now” has worked well for me where the business was a single product store with no other products to consider. It’s a more direct call to action and will typically take the customer directly to the cart or even checkout.

Avoid getting too tricky with different terminology such as “Add to Bag” or “Add to Trolley”.

Firstly, it doesn’t make as big of a difference as you think and goes against ecommerce convention.

By all means test the button wording and colour, but your A/B testing resource is usually better spent testing other elements.

Quantity Input

Consider removing the quantity input – especially if your products are typically not ordered in multiples.

By removing the quantity input, you remove a friction step where the customer has to think about whether they need to interact with the input or not.

For most businesses, they probably won’t need or want to adjust the quantity and by removing it you reduce the cognitive load on your customer.

Your customer can always adjust quantities in the cart.

If your products are often ordered in multiples and you need to keep the quantity input, make the quantity input a text field with plus and minus buttons either side of it as opposed to a drop down menu.

A text box by itself (without plus and minus buttons) requires at least 2 clicks/taps – clicking in the text box and typing in a number.

A drop down menu also requires at least 2 clicks/taps – clicking on the drop down and clicking an option.

A text box with plus and minus buttons only takes 1 click to adjust while still allowing the customer to type in it if they choose to.

#7 – Point of Action Assurance

Underneath the add to cart button, have a short statement reassuring that when they do click add to cart, their checkout experience will be fast, safe and secure.

It answers the last lingering doubt your customer may have at this step around security, and reassures them that buying the product will be a painless process. You have to back that up of course with a seamless checkout process.

A statement like this is basically telling the customer “we know what we’re doing”.

It helps maintain forward momentum through the buying process.

Bonus: Remove Distractions

It’s important to get rid of (or reduce the visual importance of) anything that doesn’t help the customer achieve the primary goal on the product page – adding to cart.

Things like share with a friend and social media links are so rarely used that having them cluttering your product page – or worse yet competing with your add to cart call to action – adds friction to the buying process and adds to cognitive overhead for your customer.

Seriously, go into your analytics and work out what percentage of people use these features which are there by default in most ecommerce templates.

It’ll be a minuscule percentage of people.

For most businesses even wishlist features should be removed or given less visual prominence.

Wishlist functionality lends itself more to particular types of businesses than others, but for the majority of stores it’s simply not used enough to warrant taking up prime real estate.

Example Buy Box Layout

This is a version of a buy box I’ve used on many of my own ecommerce businesses with great success.

Image: Example Buy Box Layout

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