John Lewis — The £1 Billion Online Checkout

John Lewis — a quintessential British brand that has never failed to grow and adapt with the times. Their online store is hugely successful, with online sales almost tripling since 2011 and exceeding the annual £1bn mark back in 2014.

Well, they must be doing something right! I decided to check out their checkout (see what I did there…!) and see how much this process might have to do with their success or whether there were elements that weren’t so successful from the perspective of a Conversion Rate Expert such as myself. One thing I’ve learnt throughout my career is that there is always room for improvement where conversion rate optimisation is concerned…

The Overall Checkout Process

Checkout Process
Good Features
  1. They have a very clear display, without excessive menus or other distractions, that keeps the cognitive processing simple and easy — always important for conversion (thanks to the psychological principle “Cognitive Ease”).
  2. Online security can be the deciding factor when it comes to making an online sale. John Lewis have got it right here: on the initial checkout page there is reinforcement of the site security 4 times! The instantly recognisable padlock icon followed by the words “secure checkout” are given pride of place at the top of the screen right underneath “John Lewis” and are present throughout the process. On this initial page there is also “Welcome to secure checkout”, “continue securely” and “ is secure and your personal details are protected” also clearly displayed (this aids the need for certainty).
Areas For Improvement
  1. Next to this secure checkout confirmation they have two contact phone numbers. It’s great to provide a contact number or a live chat option during the checkout process incase visitors have last minute questions that could make the difference between actually converting or not. But why are there two different numbers showing? We can make an educated guess from the icons and the formatting that one is for UK customers and one for International customers but it isn’t particularly clear — especially if you might actually be an international customer who doesn’t recognise the UK dialling code etc.
  2. On the top right there is the option to “continue shopping”. Whilst it might be understandable that someone will suddenly want to add an extra item to their basket before completing the checkout, in the majority of cases this clearly displayed option will just cause distraction and potential leaks. Perhaps they see this and suddenly remember something else they want to buy so they leave the checkout process to see if John Lewis have it — only they don’t. So then they decide to go on Amazon instead and actually, once they’re there, they just decide to make all their purchases on their site instead for ease. Once a customer has started the checkout process, it’s always preferable to keep them safely in the funnel until the process is completed.

The Login Page

Login Page
Good Features

Allowing visitors to checkout as a guest without forcing them to create an account straight away is always a good thing. In an online world where the ever-increasing desire for convenience and immediate gratification is King, something as small as forcing customers to fill out a registration form to create an account could be the nail in the conversion coffin. People also like the feel as though they are in control and have autonomy (this is the psychological principle of “Autonomy Bias”) and so will appreciate being able to decide for themselves.

Areas For Improvement

Unfortunately though, the display is a little ambiguous here. Asking simply “Do you have a password?” may throw some people. Do they have a password? They might not know… were they given one last time they shopped with John Lewis? Are they going to have to dig through old emails now? This is the potential thought process thrown up by this question. Much more straightforward would be to have two tabs that make it completely clear which path visitors should follows: “I have an account” and “I don’t have an account”. Then within those tabs they can either enter their login details or just their email (with perhaps a subtle Call-to-Action button that allows them the option of creating an account straight away or informs them they will have the option to do so after purchase).

The Delivery Page

Delivery Page
Good Features
  1. It is always a good idea to use icons in addition to text. The brain will more automatically and immediately comprehend information portrayed through an image (Picture Superiority Effect). That extra ease of comprehension makes it more likely that people will continue on with the process. It also make the page more visually appealing.
  2. It’s great that they have so many different delivery options. Allowing people to choose the most suitable way for them to collect an item or have it delivered will certainly encourage continued conversion.
Areas For Improvement
  1. However, the first icon is not particularly clear. In fact, I can’t really see how it relates to collecting your order at all. Similarly, the second icon – whilst immediately relatable to the “delivery” element – doesn’’t make it clear that it’s UK as opposed to international (clearly shown by the globe icon at the end).
  2. If you’re spending less than £30 for click & collect or less than £50 for delivery, then there is no free option. Whilst they do remind people of this at the basket page, we are often all in a hurry and might not take note of the information. In any case I would expect a store as iconic and successful as John Lewis to offer at least one free delivery option as standard – even if that is just the click & collect. Why does it cost £2.00 to go into store and pick it up yourself? It would be interesting to know how many people drop out of the funnel at this point and whether it is due to the lack of a free delivery option for smaller purchases – an exit pop-up offering a free option for collection would be a worthwhile test.

The Review & Pay Page

Good Features
  1. Everything is clearly laid out on the payment screen. The cards you are able to use (including the John Lewis Partnership card) all have icons displayed. There is also a clear option to use Paypal as a payment method. This is an important option to include now because Paypal is the preferred online currency of many and not being able to use it could result in a serious loss in conversions – even at this late stage.
  2. Once again, there are multiple reassurance icons to remind people at this particular moment that John Lewis is a safe and secure site on which to shop.

In conclusion, it isn’t hard to see why John Lewis are so successful with online sales, even just from this small section of their site. Overall it is well designed with conversion in mind for most of the process. However, as I said to begin with, there is always room for improvement and if it were one of my clients I would suggest AB Testing some tweaks to see whether an even more significant conversion rate could be obtained.