2009: Year of the Checkout?

2009: Year of the Checkout?

As a Shop.org member & supporter (often attendee and sometimes speaker) I always look forward to the SORO information. This round, the stats on checkout are starting to make their way around the web and it’s being claimed that 2009 is the year of the checkout.

As a checkout consultant I’m very glad for the exposure. And yet, I will absolutely look a gift horse in the mouth. The problem I have with the reposts: they are all surface. So, the facts:

According to the survey, eight out of ten retailers (79%) said enhancing the checkout process was on the top of their to-do lists for the remainder of the year, with 90 percent of medium-sized retailers* listing checkout as a top priority. [Source.]

The primary claims evolving from the above statement are varying but overall, there is a theme of predicting that large retailers are going to focus on retooling their checkout process before holiday. That would make sense. All purchases pass through checkout. It is one of the few parts of the site that touches all buyers. A gain here is a gain that resonates throughout all channels. It’s brilliant!

But it’s also difficult. I’m going to come out and say it: I don’t foresee many Shop.org retailers optimizing checkout before the end of the year. Here is why:

  1. IT still owns checkout. It’s one of the last strongholds.
  2. Checkout updates are expensive for mid-size retailers.
  3. Many feature releases are already 2010 and beyond
  4. Launches would be happening now, or maybe in October
  5. It’s been a tough year. Resources are tight.
  6. Marketing generally pushes this initiative, but often can’t claim it.
  7. Conference content isn’t supporting this; the education isn’t there.

I could be wrong already – I doubt it – and more importantly, I could be made wrong. All it would take is a bright e-commerce manager to read through that list and realize that all 7 of those points are fixable.

IT a roadblock? Incentivize them. Make them a part of the solution. Product managers might care, so loop them in. User experience managers: even more so. Don’t have one? Become one or appoint one.

Checkout updates too expensive? Map your biggest checkout problems in quadrants. Find the high-impact low-cost projects and knock them out.

Feature releases too far out? Sneak upgrades in a bug fix or scheduled maintenance. Works better with an incentivized team. Works best with a team that gets to own the glory. Understand process and policies.

Too late for the pre-holiday deployment? The holiday code freeze should be a thing of the past. Fight it. If it’s a losing battle, go with little fixes like logo/icon/messaging changes.

No budget? Often the biggest problem is manpower. Contractors and technical consultants don’t cost a tremendous amount. Get the data and make a business case. If you think you can spend $5k on a contractor and find $200k in holiday revenue, you’re probably going to get approval.

Can’t claim it? Find a way. Or get creative. Maybe it’s about making search/media/feeds more effective, or capturing more e-mail addresses. Again, maximize your dollars. High impact, low cost!

The education is not there? This is a little self serving, but I’m trying. Ask for the content at conferences. Share the problems you have below, through e-mail, or elsewhere, and let’s figure out a way through them.

I am excited to hear that 79% are going to focus on checkout in the remaining months of the year, it’s a good sign for the industry and it’s a good sign for those passionate about checkout like I am. Let’s get through the roadblocks, make smart moves, and start making up for the revenue we’ve been missing out on for so long.