Analytics for online retailers


Surprising checkout error analysis

Time to look at some data after gathering checkout error data for a while.

Surprise #1

43% of all transactions had at least one error message during checkout. I expected there to be fewer although I don’t know why.

Checkouterror1-9-14-2009 3-34-46 PM

Surprise #2

Seeing an error message does not necessarily mean that those people don’t convert. In fact, 91.7% of visitors who saw an error message still completed the purchase. Forgot to put in the state or the email address? Just hit the back button and try again. This is what most people (thankfully for retailers) seemed to have done.

ErrorCR9-14-2009 3-41-33 PM

Surprise #3

Not all error messages are created equal. In particular, if the error message has to do with an incorrect CVV value, the conversion rate drops from 91.7% to just 61.9%. Or to put it another way: of all visitors who see an error message during checkout, those who don’t see a CVV-related error message are almost 50% more likely to convert than those who do. Using the sample data above, it looks like over 210 transactions are lost due to CVV issues.

Perhaps this is not a huge surprise though. Here are some plausible reasons I can think of why CVV errors might lead to fewer conversions:

  • If you supply the wrong CVV value or leave it blank the transaction may not go through at all (as opposed to a typo in your shipping address).
  • Could it be a symptom of fraud? You need the card present to see the CVV value.
  • Do visitors have trouble understanding or locating the CVV value?
  • Or perhaps the error message itself (e.g. “You seem to have supplied an invalid Credit Card Verification value.”) is not as helpful as others in actually helping visitors to correct the error.

One caveat

This sample data is from one source. I have seen checkout errors on other sites that are completely different, so use caution – as you always should – when using anecdotal data or drawing general conclusions.

Finally, I am wondering if your aim should be to reduce error messages in general, either by making (design) changes to your checkout pages or by limiting the amount of data you try to collect?


Published: 14 September 2009

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