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Clear and Present Payment

Leading with One Voice

Leading with One Voice

How payment options are presented can have a direct effect on conversion rates, writes Chloe Rigby

Retailers sell products online most effectively when they present their wares clearly and to the most relevant website visitors. By using strong imagery and by offering thorough information, they give customers the detail they need and the confidence to buy. But merchants who apply such merchandising techniques only to their products are missing a trick, for that same attention to detail is just as relevant to the payments page.

For far from being the afterthought of the site, savvy retailers regard the checkout as one of the most important single areas of a website. It’s where shoppers make the final decision not only on the products they have chosen, but also on the payment methods available. Missing out one that matters could have a real effect on conversions and ultimately on the bottom line. It’s worth taking time to consider in detail, for as Tom Waterfall of Webtrends says, the payment page is the “really critical” one when it comes to generating a return on investment in internet retailing and cross-channel commerce.


If effective presentation of payment is about making it easier for customers to buy, that starts when retailers show clearly what type of payment options they accept. Clear and well-placed logos occupy little space but reassure consumers that as and when they go to the shopping cart, they will be able to pay using the type of payment option that they want to use. Don Bush, VP, marketing, at payment processing and fraud screening specialist Kount, says it’s important to show the choice on offer as early as possible in the shopping process. After all, he says, no shopper wants to get to the point of payment only to find that their chosen method isn’t accepted. “Where I’ve seen it merchandised well,” says Bush, “is when it’s even on the home page. Payment types may not be a sexy part of the web page, but down at the bottom [of the page] retailers can list the ones they accept.” That effectively communicates a vital piece of information that can reduce wasted time on a site, something, argues Bush, that is better than frustrating the customer once they’ve arrived at the virtual till. Taking a clear approach to presenting goes beyond payment options. It’s also important to show customers that the retailer will look after their financial information carefully. That’s a message that can be given through the use of trustmarks or by judicious use of the padlock symbol. It is important to make sure that the symbol used is one that is recognised – and that may vary from market to market. We’ve more on trustmarks in our customer engagement feature (page 28).


Key to selling different markets is the understanding that shoppers in other parts of Europe and the world don’t have the same expectations of payment as in the UK. Shoppers in the Netherlands, for example, expect to be able to pay using the Ideal bank transfer system – one that would be entirely foreign to customer paying in the UK. It’s important, then to keep payment pages relevant to their visitors. Through website optimisation and personalisation, retailers can ensure that the payment page each visitor sees is relevant to them, containing only the payment types that are available to them in the country from which they are shopping.

That idea of relevancy also extends to showing visitors different information about payment based on whether they are first-time visitors or if they have previously bought from the site. “I think you do need to consider small differences that can make a bit of an impact on sales,” says Tom Waterfall, optimisations solutions manager at Webtrends. “Some things work for some cultures and languages and some don’t. Overall, the company needs to be consistent in terms of its brand, but small tweaks can make quite a difference. The journey is also quite different if you’re a new visitor checking out or the first time, or someone who is logged in. You have an opportunity to make that final critical page in the journey different – and that can make a big difference to sales.”

Another driver of this kind of relevant optimisation is the device that a shopper visits from. As more people buy from mobile phones or tablets, it’s important to make sure that the most relevant method of payment is available to those buying from different devices. “More and more visitors are buying on their mobiles, on tablets,” says Waterfall, “but it’s not always that easy to fill out a form on a touchscreen entering all those little digits on your credit card number. Facilitating the process for those other devices therefore becomes really important.” This idea is explored further in the cross-channel feature (page 16).

Meanwhile, continuing to promote messages about the retailer’s unique selling point – or why the retailer is relevant to the customer – up to and throughout the payment process can also have a marked effect. Waterfall suggests that messages such as ‘you’re qualifying for free delivery’, or ‘free returns’ can help to ‘seal the deal’.

But it can be hard to know for certain what works or doesn’t work on any given site unless a retailer is measuring through testing.


Best-practice advice may offer bigpicture guidelines to tactics that work online. But individual retailers who want to be sure that they are backing the right approach can find out how it works on their unique site, with their unique set of customers, through A/B or multivariate testing. Payments, says Daniel Martin, managing consultant at Maxymiser, is “always an area that we test”.

He adds: “There are always things we can be improving and there’s always uplifts to be had in the payments area of every retail website.” He points to “usual suspects” that retailers can explore through testing. They include presentation of information about delivery, security and terms and conditions. Meanwhile, the wording and positioning of reassuring messages can also be important.

Small changes in the way that each of these is presented can have a significant impact in the way that shoppers use the site. Highlighting returns, or using different payment options can inspire some shoppers to spend more, and retailers can get a clearer idea of what works for their customers by testing different versions. The choice of payment methods, for example, can have a measurable effect on the number of payments that are made. One payment option might prove a winner for some retailers while having a negative impact on sales for others. Testing, says Martin, can thus give useful business insights. “I think it’s about enabling the business to understand the value of that payment option, how successful it is and also use that to go back and get better terms and conditions from them.”

The same can be true of security messages. Webtrends’ Waterfall points to a test that his company ran on an international travel company’s payment page across a number of different markets. He says that while consumers in the UK responded well to the inclusion of a small padlock symbol, underlining the company’s approach to security, “It didn’t work at all with the Nordic countries.”

Testing across different markets is critical, says Maxymiser’s Martin, because shoppers from different countries can and do respond differently to the same information. What might seem like a small difference on the page can make a real difference to the bottom line, and advocates of testing swear by its ability to deliver business changing insights.

When it comes to merchandising payments, that might be just the kind of long view that is needed.

Speaking from Experience


“It’s really hard to say there’s best practice in today’s day and age. That’s where A/B testing and multivariate testing come into play.”

Tom Waterfall, optimisations solutions manager, EMEA, Webtrends [IRDX VWET]


“For me, if I see that at the home page, down at the bottom – here are the payment types we accept and these are the certifications that we have, I appreciate because then I haven’t spend a bunch of time shopping, I haven’t started the process. Some retailers might argue with that and say we want to get them all the way through the shopping cart – I think that’s somewhat frustrating.”

Don Bush, VP, marketing, Kount [IRDX VKNT]


“Whatever is best practice doesn’t always work for our retailers so we always test it. I think that’s particularly applicable when you look across different regions. What happens in the UK may not happen in Germany or France or other regions where there are very different cultures. You’ll find that when you test across different regions you get different results for exactly the same test.”

Daniel Martin, managing consultant, Maxymiser [IRDX VMAX]

What’s New

With retailers increasingly realising the value of testing, the take up of related approaches to ‘merchandising’ key website areas, including the payments page is now taking off rapidly. Expect this to become the norm as online retail becomes ever more competitive and merchants seek to be sure that their sites are as efficient and effective as possible.

Case Study: How Clarks Used Testing to Improve Its Payment Process and Lift Conversions

Shoe manufacturer and retailer Clarks [IRDX RCUK] found that small alterations to the presentation of its payment process had a significant effect on site conversions.The company teamed up with online testing experts Mayxmiser in a partnership that started in 2010 in order to find out how to adjust its site to give customers the best experience.

“Clarks has always been very customer-focused – it’s a major part of our ethos. But having launched the website, we knew that we didn’t yet have the ‘voice’ of our online customers,” says Mark Carlock, web analytics manager, Clarks. “The site was how we wanted it – but we needed to establish whether it was how our customers wanted it.

Among the areas that it examined through the prism of multivariate testing, was the payment process. “We knew people were coming onto the site and viewing products, but we weren’t clear on why people were leaving without purchasing,” says Carlock. “What’s more, we didn’t understand whether changes we were making to the site were helping or hindering us.”

Maxymiser and Clarks drew up a programme to analyse every part of the sales funnel, from the landing pages to the checkout. One checkout test looked at a simple change in wording about delivery charges. The minor change that was introduced as a result boosted conversion by 4.2 per cent. “This is huge,” says Carlock. “The test showed that a small change in phraseology could provide the catalyst for real improvements in conversion. This highlights a major tenet of multivariate testing: little things can drive huge change.”

Another checkout test questioned why Clarks was using a ‘closed basket’ that meant users could not longer see the items they had put in their basket. “They couldn’t see what they were buying,” says Carlock. “The subsequent test suggested an ‘open basket’ increased customers’ propensity to purchase. It led to a 1.99 per cent increase in conversion. In financial terms, that’s a massive uplift for us.”

Carlock says the retailer’s approach to testing has altered over time. “Not only do we test our site more than ever,” says Carlock, “but the way we test continues to evolve too. If we want to build something new into the website, we can now test it pre-launch and it makes such a difference. Testing has become part of our culture. We couldn’t do without it.”

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