Archive for the 'ROI' Category

CVV and Conversion Rates

Yesterday on the Intellivative blog, there were two interesting blog posts:

  1. AVS & CVV: When to use it and why?
  2. Does CVV affect e-commerce conversion rates?

The second one is the most intriguing to me because it presents a quandary for e-commerce businesses.  CVV–that 3-digit code on the back of the credit card–is one of the recommended practices for fighting fraud; yet, if you use it on your e-commerce site, it appears that it might actually reduce the number of orders you may get from your site. The surprising mythbuster comes from the E-commerce Checkout Report from Get Elastic, which found:

Conversion rates were a full 40% higher where Top 100 retailers did not request a CVV (Card Verification Value), yet over 55% of them do.

The other interesting part about it was even though conversion rates were higher when the e-tailers didn’t use the card code, still over 55% of them still use it–which implies that either they didn’t know their conversion rate might be higher without it (did they try an A/B test on CVV code?) or that the fraud reduction benefits of the CVV code outweigh the potential higher conversion rate.

As a consumer, I think I would like it better if the site did ask for my CVV code–it shows they’re doing the due diligence to check for fraud which not only protects them, it helps me, the consumer. After all, if someone is out there trying to use my credit card (who wouldn’t have the CVV number), wouldn’t it be better if they were inhibited in their spending spree by web sites who do check the CVV code?

I always thank people who ask to see my ID with my credit card–they’re protecting me by doing that. Even though it’s a hassle for me to get out my ID and show it to them, I’d much rather they ask for it and make sure that I am the rightful owner of the card.

But apparently I’m an oddity. Either the CVV code is too complicated to find–or too much work to enter for many consumers shopping at the top 100 e-commerce web sites. Or maybe consumers just aren’t aware that the card code actually helps protect their identity and their credit card?

Thanks to Get Elastic for putting the work into this study and challenging our paradigms.


“Going Green” to gain consumer trust

I’m a big treehugger, but sorry, this entry isn’t about helping the environment. It’s about e-commerce success and reducing shopping cart abandonment. What does that have to do with “going green”? Well, it’s about the use of the color green, and also the color red … to give consumers and indication of whether or not they can trust a particular e-commerce web site.

I saw a presentation from Verisign at Online Market World on a new service they’re offering called Extended Validation. The thing that inspired me about it is that their new service is highly intuitive for consumers because it’s so incredibly simple–the basic crux of it is:

  • If a site is safe to shop on, the address bar turns green.
  • If it’s not, it turns red.

Extended Validation SSL Certificate Green Address Bar

The green bar appears as soon as the consumer enters an SSL-secured page, which is typically when the consumer goes to check out–just when they need that extra layer of assurance that everything is okay.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, of course, but for the consumer, it’s just that simple. These colors inspire strong emotions in people that signal whether it’s okay to proceed or not.

There’s an additional layer of information, too, for those of us who want to know is this site who they appear to be and who says it’s safe and why, the right side of the bar rotates between the business name and the certificate authority who issued the SSL certificate. Consumers can click on the “Identified by Verisign” to see additional information about how secure the site is and who says so (the certificate authority).

There’s a bit of marketing in there from Verisign, of course. They’ve worked with the browser vendors to work on this solution, and if you want your web site to show as “green“, you have to sign up for Verisign’s Extended Validation service. (I don’t know of any other certificate authorities who offer this service–yet.) But it appears that it may be well worth the additional cost.

Here are some numbers to back it up:

  • 84% of online shoppers believe that online businesses do not do enough to protect them.
  • 65% of online shoppers abandoned a purchase for security concerns.
  • 24% of shoppers do not purchase online at all due to security concerns.
  • (Sources: Forrester Research, 2005, TNS Research, 2006)

Tec-Ed consumer research did a study in January 2007 to test whether the “green bar theory” really works and here’s what they found:

  • 100% of participants notice whether or not a site shows the green EV bar
  • 93% of participants prefer to shop on sites that show the green bar
  • 97% are likely to share their credit card information on sites with the green EV bar, as opposed
    to only 63% with non-EV sites
  • 77% of participants report that they would hesitate to shop at a site that previously showed the
    green EV bar and no longer does so

So it looks to me like the green bar theory does work, and several of the big players in the e-commerce industry have jumped on-board: e-Bay, PayPal,, to list a few.

Now, keep in mind the green bar is only going to work in some of the newer browsers, so not all consumers are even going to see the green bar. If you’re wanting to test how well it works on your site, that makes it really easy because you can segment your population by browser type and compare the conversion rates and the bounce rates on your shopping cart page(s).

All in all, I have to applaud Verisign for their usable solution to online security.

Are you winning the race?

It’s great to track conversion rates and do analytics and usability tests on your site, but without knowing how you stack up to your competitors, you are driving with your windows painted black (to borrow a phrase from Avinash Kaushik, the Analytics Evangelist for Google). Without competitive analysis, you can’t see where you are in relation to the rest of your industry–and that’s a bad thing.

So surveying the competitive landscape is good, but it’s always been very hard. How do you get the inside scoop on how the others are doing? Bryan Eisenberg from FutureNow has pointed out 14 tools out there now for “spying” on your competition.

Here’s the list:

  1. Statbrain
  2. AideRSS
  3. FeedCompare
  4. Xinu Returns
  5. Google Trends For Websites
  6. Google Insights for Search
  7. Microsoft’s Keyword Forecast tool 
  8. Microsoft’s Search Funnels
  9. WayBackMachine
  10. Web Page Speed Analyzer , WebSlug , WebWait
  11. Web Page Readability
  12. Attention Meter
  13. Websitegrader and Twittergrader
  14. Google Alerts

See Brian’s Post for more info on how you can use these for competitive analysis. I’ve gotta go try these out–once I get a minute to breathe. Lately, it’s hard just to stay afloat with all we’re doing at work. I have used Google Alerts before and they’re awesome for keeping your finger on the pulse of things, but, like everything, it takes time to sift through all the stuff you get from it.

Does anyone have experience with any of these tools? Care to Share?

Conversion Optimization and Beer

This was just a Friday post waiting to happen. Bryan Eisenberg at FutureNow wrote a post likening conversion optimization to the song 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.

Key points:

  • Repetition is good: In the song, you keep repeating yourself over and over. With conversion optimization, you must keep repeating the same cycle: analyzing the numbers and striving for continuous improvement.
  • Know where you’re going: There’s a clear goal in the song–to drink all the beer! Same with conversion optimization–you must have a goal and stick to it.
  • Do it together: singing alone is no fun. Optimization alone just doesn’t work, and that kills all the fun.
  • Numbers matter: in the song, someone has to keep track of what number you’re on, just like conversion. Someone has to watch the numbers.
  • 99 (+) items: lots of beer to keep track of, lots of conversion items to keep track of, but if you keep whittling away at the list one by one, it will steer you towards your goal.

He missed one, though: everything is better with beer! Make sure you stop to celebrate your accomplishments. It doesn’t have to be with beer, but when you stop to look back and appreciate what you’ve done, your team has renewed energy and excitement to move forward. Since the process never ends, you need that periodic reminder that what you’re doing makes a difference.

You have to read this page

Have you ever considered using white text on a black background on one of your web sites? Black backgrounds are very effective for showing off pictures, but really, really, really bad for reading. Why? Read this page to find out. Really read it. All the way down to the end. You’ll never want to make that mistake again.

Thanks to Bryan Eisenberg at FutureNow for pointing to the page.

Offering extra service to your Online customers: Domino’s Delivers!

If you’re a store that normally does business by phone or face-to-face, offering a little extra something for your online customers is a great way to encourage and stimulate that channel of business. One area where there’s definitely room to take advantage of the online channel is pizza delivery.

I must be a total dinosaur because I just, for the first time, tried ordering Domino’s pizza online. (Actually, I’m really into saving the earth and eating our own homegrown food, so ordering or eating out is a rarety for us.) The kids and I were really excited to encounter the “pizza tracker”–once you’ve placed your order, a “pizza tracker” appears, showing the five stages of pizza preparation and delivery, and what stage your pizza is in. What an great idea –this is a fantastic example of “delivering” a little extra to your online customers!

As the pizza progresses through the process, the stage it’s in pulsates in red (sort of like a hot pizza oven). So I could tell at a glance when the pizza was being prepared, baked, boxed, and finally delivered. When the pizza guy drove up, I was ready for him. I had the tip all ready, the table cleared and set, and the daughter well on her way into her homework (except she kept getting distracted by that cool pizza tracker thing).

Domino’s does a great job gathering feedback from this channel as well. Just below the pizza tracker is a “rate our service”–a survey, but it’s so easy to fill out, it doesn’t feel like a survey. Since I kept the site open throughout the entire delivery process, it was still open after we’d finished eating, and as I went to close it, I was drawn to fill out the “how did we do?” portion of the site by clicking on the stars. They add some great personal touches by giving the names of the delivery person and the cook as you’re clicking on stars to “rate” them, then you can add a personal note (or not) and send it off. I’ve got to say, I will never order pizza by phone again! This online experience was waaaaaay too fun.

If you’re a multi-channel store, what are you doing to keep your online customers engaged? What little extra are you doing that keeps them coming back?

Putting the Requirements Doc in its Place

I sat in on a webinar today entitled “A Roadmap for Building the Right Solution” (Slides are now posted.) It was sponsored by iRise, a company that I greatly admire (even though I didn’t choose their prototyping tool). At iRise, as at Axure (the tool I DO use–almost every day), they have some great thinkers who know that people are visual in nature, and, as Kurt Bittner, the speaker in the webinar said today, requirements documents are rarely read. It was a refreshing reiteration of the value of visualizations in software development. In order to build a software solution that truly satisfies the business need, you need to use a communication vehicle that’s visual–and a requirements document just isn’t visual enough to show people what you mean. That’s where rapid prototyping using a tool like Axure or iRise comes in. 

Requirements documents serve an important purpose, but it’s not the way they’re usually employed. Typically, businesses write up requirements documents and hand them over for someone else to “review and comment” on. Now, for someone to really review and comment on a requirements document, they have to not only read it, but also form a mental picture in their minds of what the writer had in mind when they wrote it, and then structure some sort of response to that. All of this takes a lot of time. And time is money. If you write up your requirements and then spend a lot of time (a.k.a., money) reviewing them, you may still be no closer to solving the business problem than you were when you started. You may know how fast it has to go and how reliable it has to be, but does it really answer the right questions? Do the right things? Is it usable? You can’t really answer that until you have something visual in front of you.

We should use requirements documents–absolutely we should! But they should be the formalized notes stating the decisions resulting from our discussions. Use other methods (with a visual, interactive prototype early in the process) to get to the decisions. If we do it this way, we get a lot closer to delivering what the client really wants/needs, rather than what the client SAID they wanted.

I am involved in quite a few projects, all with the same client company, and it’s amazing how different the requirements process was for each one. There was always a requirements document, but we always introduced a visualization early in the process. We took what our clients asked us for, interpreted it by creating a visualization of the solution using Axure, then used that as a focus for our discussions. Usually that resulted in some changes to the requirements document, and we moved on from there. Once we’ve agreed that it’s what we want, the engineers then go and build to the prototype, with modifications as noted in the requirements document. The most successful (and enjoyable) project we’ve had involved a very short description of requirements, which we took and then built a visual prototype which showed the solution in action. This prototype was the center of our discussions as we molded this solution to become a viable result, simplifying even further as we began to more fully understand the problem and cut out all unnecessary elements to make the interface even easier.

They have posted the presentation from the webinar at This is a drastic change from waterfall software development where the requirements are defined in great detail before anything is ever prototyped and some people might find it a dramatic shift in thinking. But it’s much more successful. Because of our visual nature, humans need a visual communications medium to SHOW us the idea, not just tell us. Words are great, but pictures, especially interactive pictures that show us the behavior of the solution, go a lot further towards getting to an effective response to the business need.