Making Money in Subscription Business - Part 5 (and Final of the Series) - Checkout Pages

When you look at the LinkedIn profile of all successful subscription companies, you'll see a lot of people who work on checkout pages.

Why is that?

The checkout page is the only place where a 1% increase in conversion leads to a 1% increase in new revenue.  That is not true on any other page of a product. 

Checkout pages have existed for a long time online.  Conceptually they're relatively easy to understand. 

You need a place for a consumer to:

  • Understand what they're purchasing
  • Enter payment information
  • Process the payment

What makes checkout pages unique is where they sit in the funnel of any product.

Every single ad campaign that you're running leads to your checkout page. 

Every bit of SEO improvement that is getting you more users, those users purchase through the checkout page. 

For every PR win you have, those users get monetized through a checkout page. 

Losing people at this stage is equivalent to opening a restaurant, hiring the staff, cooking the food, and never opening your front door. 

That is why the Uber of the world still puts millions of dollars of R&D into checkout pages each year. 

There are a few tradeoffs that you need to manage at this stage: 

Minimize Information Collection vs. Payment Processing Success Rate:

A successfully processed payment is the goal of a checkout page.  The more information you collect from your user (name, address, zip/postal code, etc.), the more likely the transaction will be approved, but also, the more likely that a small% of users will abandon the page. 

The more users you have going through your product, the more impact this will have.  

It sounds silly; as someone gets to this stage in your funnel, will they really abandon the page because you asked for their address?

Yes, a small % of them will, and that costs you money. 

Unless you are shipping something physical, the trend in the industry is only to collect name, payment info, and zip code.  This is different for every product and scenario, but I would opt for the least you need. 

Payment Method Flexibility vs. Tech Maintenance and Fees

Especially for products purchased primarily on a mobile phone, the clear trend is to have single-click payment solutions (e.g., Paypal, Apple Pay, G Pay, etc.) as options on a mobile payment screen. 

These have been shown to help conversion on these pages; however, the tradeoff is that you now have 3rd party technologies running on your most important page that are likely to break sporadically as browsers get upgraded.  

Paypal default launches in a pop-up on most desktop web applications, and you have to keep an eye on this to ensure that it doesn't get blocked by ad blockers. 

Additionally, each payment provider will likely hit you with an additional fee for processing the payment, so you want to be net/net higher after an a/b test in the costs. 

Solve all the edge cases.

As mentioned in previous posts, convincing people to pay you is tough.  Once they are convinced, don't screw it up. 

The larger a company gets, the more edge cases they'll need to handle on the checkout page.  The ideal checkout page solves all the edge cases when someone tries to pay you and it goes wrong. 

One of the most valuable things we ever did at Codecademy was going through all of the error copies that came back with declined payment.

So instead of a generic "payment declined" message, change that to "CVV number is incorrect" or "Zipcode does not match card." 

Most payment processors you work with send back detailed error codes you need to read and translate into a human-readable form via the copy on the page. 

Be clear with what you ask the user to do and fix it to try again.  This was the greatest effort-to-reward ratio of any project that we did. 

Countries with long last names (such as Brazil or Spain) don't fit cleanly in most pages' "last name" fields.  The more users that you have, the more this will be challenging. 

Additionally, you want to give the consumer the feeling of maximum trust, as this is when all of their uncertainties and doubts come to a head about who you are and what your product is.

Bonus: Post Conversion Survey

Right after someone checkouts or buys a product, you have someone's attention.   It's also a great time to ask the user a single question that can help you improve the clarity of your sales funnel.

We asked questions such as:

  • "Did anything almost stop you from purchasing this product?"
  • 'Was there any information you were looking for about this product that you couldn't find?"
  • "Did you choose us over a competitor?  If so, why?"

Always ask these questions open-ended, summarize the answers into trends, and then action anything material.

Asking questions like these, we learned that our Paypal integration was broken in MS Edge or that our refund policy was not clear. 

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