Case Study: Who Has The Best Conversion Process For Buying An iPhone?

Now that you can get the iPhone 4 on various networks in the UK, I decided to compare the process of buying one from the leading retailers to see which website performed best from a conversion standpoint. As you will see, the results are quite interesting!

Just to give you a bit of a background on the conditions of the test, I asked myself what I’d be looking for if I was buying the iPhone 4. These are the four most important criteria I came up with:

  • Color – black or white
  • Memory – 16GB or 32GB
  • Monthly tariff
  • Delivery conditions

I think these are pretty standard and cover what factors would play a part in the sales process for the user. If a retailer’s website makes it difficult to choose any of these factors, then it could prevent me from buying the phone.

I’m using Google Chrome and a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 for this test.

First up – Vodafone

I hit a bit of a problem with Vodafone which I’ll come to shortly, but I wanted to start off with the good points. I landed on their homepage and saw a nice visual advert for the iPhone 4 which caught my eye straight away:

Vodafone Conversion Process Step 1

I want a phone for personal use so I clicked on the “See more” link, for info the image was also clickable.

Conversion rate thumbs up: Making such a key product obvious and accessible visually from the homepage is a good move.

Next step was for me to choose my tariff, color and memory size. Before I could do this though, I was given a message saying that the iPhone 4 was currently out of stock. However I could still order online and be sent one as soon as they were back in stock.

This in itself can make most buyers go elsewhere. However to be fair to Vodafone, they can’t help this but they are still trying to get the sale by letting me proceed and order. So I’ll proceed anyway and order my phone.

This is an important step as these make up three of the four factors I highlighted earlier that were important in my process. Let’s see how Vodafone presents this information to me:

Vodafone Conversion Process Step 2

This is actually quite good in that it answers 3 out of 4 of my main buying factors on one interface. My only slight niggle here is that I’m not given the option to buy a white one. I think these aren’t available in the UK yet but still, if I’m dead set on getting a white iPhone then this could force me to go elsewhere looking for one.

Conversion rate improvement tip: Add a small pop up here to let users know that the white iPhone isn’t available in the UK anywhere. This will prevent users from going somewhere else in the hope of finding one.

I’ve also highlighted in red a subtle reassuring line from Vodafone which re-enforces that Vodafone are a good network to choose.

Also note that the call to action button is red, which stands out at the bottom of each option. Despite some opinion that red is a danger color, I think it works well here as its very easy to see and click on.

Conversion rate thumbs up: Adding the subtle reassuring that Vodafone are a reliable network as well as making the call to action buttons stand out.

Now this is where things get a little strange. The next screen asked me if I wanted any extras. Which is fine, but no thanks I just want my nice new shiny iPhone 4. So I tried to carry on, the checkout button on the right hand side (highlighted yellow below) wasn’t clickable. The actual checkout button that was clickable was below the fold.

Vodafone Conversion Process Problem

As I said, I didn’t want any of these extras so I just found my way down the page to the checkout button and clicked it. I was then confused when presented with this screen:

Vodafone Conversion Process Problem Step 2

Erm… what happened there?!

My first reaction (apart from surprise!) was to click the back button in my browser and try again. The same thing happened again though. So I went back two clicks to the tariff page and clicked on my chosen tariff again, from which I got something that looked a bit more promising:

Vodafone Conversion Process Step 2a

Conversion Rate improvement Tip: Erm… make sure your site works! I’m sure this was just a bug on the Vodafone site, we made them aware of it and they have fixed the issue.

As you can see from the screenshot above, if it is working correctly, the page actually looks fine and has two checkout buttons which I’ve highlighted.

The next step is for me to review my basket:

Vodafone Conversion Process Step 3

Conversion rate improvement tip: Move the delivery details further up the page. My screen resolution very nearly cut this off, and this was one of my important factors. The text actually says “Our goal is to provide next day delivery.” OK, thats fine by me, next day is good—so tell me about it somewhere a bit more obvious.

Conversion rate thumbs up: The proceed to checkout button is nice and clear and they do a good job of showing the difference in the one-off costs and the monthly costs. The useful information box is also a nice feature to have integrated onto the page (highlighted in red above).

The final step before entering personal details is a small pop up which tells you which details you will need for checkout depending on being a pay as you go customer or pay monthly. This is as far as I’m going with this testing.

Overall, apart from the rather big bug I encountered, the process was quite good. As you will see, Vodafone are the only retailers who allow me to pre-order the phone which earns a big thumbs up.

Second up – O2

I expected a lot from O2—they have been the exclusive UK provider of the iPhone for a long time, and you’d expect them to have the process nailed by now. Unfortunately, it looks like they may have become a bit complacent.

The first step is great—I go to their homepage and there is a nice big advert for the new iPhone. Exactly what I was looking for:

O2 Conversion Process Step 1

Naturally, I click on this banner and proceed to the following page:

O2 Conversion Process Step 2

Whoa! Did the O2 web design team go on vacation when this page was put up?! Don’t get me wrong, I love simplicity in designing ecommerce sites, but I think this could be improved a lot. An overall theme for me in this process of analyzing O2′s iPhone purchase process was the inconsistency of the page design.

Anyway, what this page tells me is that the iPhone 4 isn’t available to buy online—what? Why? I can understand if it’s out of stock, but surely there is a way for me to pre-order it online as I could with Vodafone?

Doesn’t look like it. Instead I’m given two choices: sign up for updates to find out when it is back in stock online, or find my nearest O2 shop with stock. OK, I’ll give them a chance. I checked O2 shops for availability of the 16GB or 32GB in the whole of London. Not a single shop had them in stock. Again I can understand, but I want to pre-order one and get one as soon as they are available—which the website will not let me do.

They do get a thumbs up on one point though.

Conversion rate thumbs up: They have told me that the white iPhone isn’t available in the UK, so at least I’m aware of this and won’t go off to another retailer in search of one in the UK.

Conversion rate improvement tip: Let me order a phone in advance! Vodafone solved the issue of not having the phones in stock immediately, yes I could have still gone looking elsewhere but at least I was given the option of buying it.

Unfortunately, due to this rather big flaw, I can’t show the rest of the ordering process for buying the iPhone 4 on O2. In the interests of fairness and digging into their buying process, I selected the iPhone 3GS.

The first step is actually very simple and covers off two of my important factors which were memory and color. I’m also given the opportunity of buying online or at a store. Personally I’d rather not give a customer the option as I want them to order online now. Choosing to buy at an O2 store allows me to find a local shop, but I can’t buy and reserve it. They are relying on me to not get distracted from leaving the website to going to the shop – not a good idea as I’m very easily distracted!

O2 Conversion Process Step 3

Conversion rate thumbs up: Very simple to use and tells me clearly what type of phone I can choose in terms of color and memory.

Conversion rate improvement tip: Don’t give people the option of being distracted by buying offline. The user is already on your website and has got this far, so you should be trying to convert them to a paying customer now.

In the next step, the design of the page changes again, with the left hand navigation being removed. I’m not a big fan of this page as it isn’t overly user friendly. I think that the box telling me that the iPhone is in stock should be moved up the page and the call to action buttons made bigger. Also a friendly message saying “Your iPhone is in stock – now choose your tariff.”

O2 Conversion Process Step 4

As you see, the call to action buttons are tucked away at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. I actually had to scroll down to find them.

Conversion rate thumbs down: Call to action buttons should be clear and easily in the eye line of the user.

Conversion rate improvement tip: Add some personality to this page and improve it by telling the user their phone is in stock and can be with them very soon, then invite them to proceed to choosing their tariff.

On we go with the next step where I get a little confused as I’m asked two questions that I’ve already answered: what type of iPhone and color I want. These are highlighted in red. These sections are useless and all they have done is push the price tariff further down the page:

O2 Conversion Process Step 5

Conversion rate thumbs down: I really don’t think the options to choose color and type of iPhone are needed. I’ve already chosen these options so they are just distractions at this point.

Conversion rate improvement tip: Move the tariff table up the page and get rid of all the other stuff that is distracting the user at this point.

Next I’m taken to a page where I can select various extras. This page is actually quite good and if I don’t want any extras I can easily proceed to checkout.

O2 Conversion Process Step 6

Conversion rate thumbs up: Making it easy to proceed without choosing extras and a very clear call to action button taking me to the checkout.

The final step before registration allows me to review my purchase, overall thumbs up for this page as it has all the information I need to complete my purchase.

O2 Conversion Process Step 7

Conversion rate improvement tip: Add a checkout button to the bottom of the table as some users will have to scroll down to view the full package price.

That is about as far as I can go on O2 without entering loads of details about myself, none of which actually talk about a delivery date which is a bit disappointing. It hasn’t been mentioned at all so far in the process so I have no idea when I can expect to receive my iPhone.

Overall I was quite disappointed with O2. There was no consistency at all with site design and there seemed to be little attempt to convert me into a paying iPhone 4 customer online. Even getting me to pay online and collect in store would be an improvement.

Last up – Orange

I was a bit surprised when I arrived at the Orange homepage. I haven’t been to their website in quite a while but they seem to have turned more into a news and information portal than a mobile phone retailer.

There are some references to the iPhone 4 on the page which are highlighted in red below, but they’re not as obvious as on the O2 or Vodafone sites.

Orange Conversion Process Step 1

Interestingly enough, you are taken to different pages depending on which of these links you click. If you click on the text link on the left hand side, you are taken to this page:

Orange Conversion Process Step 2a

This page actually does a good job in that it is quite simple and shows off the product beautifully.

Conversion rate thumbs up: The list of reasons why you should choose Orange over other retailers. Nice call to action as well with the orange buy iPhone button.

However, when you click on the buy iPhone button you go to the page which you’d have gone to if you’d clicked the link in the top right corner of the homepage. This begs the question, is the page above really necessary? Although it looks good and works well, could Orange afford to leave it out?

Lets take a look at the page you’d land on by clicking the buy iPhone button above or clicking the link in the top right corner of the homepage:

Orange Conversion Process Step 2b

I really like this page. It covers some of the important factors in the buying process such as color, memory and tariff within a few clicks and on one interface.

Conversion rate thumbs up: Nice clear interface allowing me to choose important options on one page.

Conversion rate thumbs down: Let me pre-order online, the same reasons I highlighted above with O2. Surely this can be done?

To check an actual sales process, I’m going to choose the iPhone 3GS instead. The product I’m buying isn’t as important as learning from the process itself.

After I’ve selected the iPhone 3GS, I get a pop up with confirms my options. There isn’t really anything wrong with this but I feel it could be integrated into the following page, either in the sidebar or at the top. Also, the most common place to check your order is on the checkout page where you review your basket.

Orange Conversion Process Step 3

Conversion rate thumbs up: The checkout button is at the top which I can click on rather than scrolling past all the options that I don’t want and taking up more time.

Conversion rate thumbs down: Remove the pop up telling me what I’ve just selected and integrate it into another page somewhere. It is just another click in the process that isn’t totally necessary.

Following this page I can see what I’ve selected so far in my basket and I can choose delivery options. Unfortunately the delivery options are below the fold so I can’t include this in this screenshot.

Orange Conversion Process Step 4

Conversion rate thumbs up: Letting me know that the website is secure and including the various security logos on this page is excellent. I’m about to reach for my credit card, so having this security pointed out to me is a timely reminder that the website is safe to use.

Further down this page is the delivery options section which looks like this:

Orange Conversion Process Step 5

Conversion rate thumbs up: Nice and easy to use delivery options table and the re-enforcing of the security of the site by the inclusion of the logos at the bottom of the page as well.

Conversion rate thumbs down: I’m sure this page could be tightened up by a re-design so that I don’t have to scroll as far down the screen for the delivery options and the “next” button is a little small.

Overall I quite liked the process for Orange. They make things quite simple, include reasons to buy from them and enforce that they are safe and secure to buy from.

Key takeaways

So to sum up what we have learned from this, here are some quick tips on improving your checkout process.

  • Test your website properly—small technical bugs can cost you money.
  • If you want to push a key product, make it obvious on your homepage.
  • Subtly enforce your selling point in the copy and headlines.
  • Make calls to action clear.
  • Don’t drive people offline to buy unless you absolutely must.
  • If you want to up-sell extras, don’t force them on users and give them an easy way to carry on without them.
  • Make sure all steps in the process necessary.
  • Give a clear list of reasons why the user should buy from you.
  • Keep pop-ups minimal.
  • Enforce the security and persuade the user to trust your website.

Finally, for me, conversion rate optimization comes down to a simple process:

  1. List the needs of your user and what is important to them.
  2. List the objections of the user and what will stop them buying.
  3. Satisfy the needs and answer their objections in your sales process.

I hope you’ve found my first Search Engine Land post useful. I’d welcome any feedback you have in the comments section below.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Conversion

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About The Author: is an SEO Consultant working for Distilled, an SEO Company with offices in London and Seattle specializing in SEO, PPC, conversion rate optimization and repuation management.

Connect with the author via: Email



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