What’s the Buzz?

Business-to-Consumer (B-to-C) Online survey: How do leaders in their fields stack up against each other in usability and the old 3-click rule?

by Technology Coach Jonathan Lane

We tested 31 websites in 8 B to C industries to see just how easy it was to get to the finish line, i.e. to check out with our shopping cart, or equivalent. Following are some objective and subjective conclusions. We have chosen to mask the actual names of the companies and websites we tested.

Airline Reservations
Objective: Find roundtrip flights and make a reservation.We checked the sites of 3 unaligned travel reservations services (cos. A, B and C) , and 3 U.S. airlines (cos. D, E, F).Range of clicks needed to get to checkout: The Multi-vendor or unaligned reservations sites scored a 6.7 average.The individual airlines did significantly better at 4.3 clicks to checkout.Overall average: 5.5 Clicks to heckout.

Comments: Perhaps understandably, the single-airline-only sites got us to the purchasing process in fewer average clicks. Several times, we were informed on Company As site hat a fare that was offered and we selected was no longer available one quick click later. While this could be attributed to the volatile nature of that industry, we suspect that this could be averted.While in these times, every dime of revenue counts, and we understand the value of up-selling, we felt that many customers could become disoriented and lose sight of the continue button when its located 3 screens down from the top, after a great deal of content about rental cars, local tours, hotels, etc. etc. Kudos overall to the airlines for streamlining the proces

Apparel/Department Stores
Objective: Find and buy a mens tie.E-merchants: 2 High-end brick and mortar department stores and a popular, hip, web-only vendor.Range: 5-7 clicksAverage clicks: 6.0 to checkout.Comments: A and C, the big departments stores, made for 2 very different experiences. Company A permitted us to browse for a tie by brand OR by category, in a logical set of clicks. Company C chose to present us with a choice of a dizzying array of virtual versions of current print catalogs, and brands/designers. This is how many people like to shop at the brick and mortar locations. Why not take advantage of the cross-referencing abilities of the online database to allow those many shoppers who are just looking for a nice tie to shop across brands, easily?

Commercial Banks
Objective: Get enough information to choose a checking account and begin the application process.Range:6-12Average clicks to checkout: 8.5Comments: More clicks generally meant that these banks required a back-and-forth method of comparing the various options. Fewer clicks meant that a comparison matrix was available on one web page. In the latter case, if we were really opening a checking account, more back-and-forth clicks would have been required. Maybe more than wed have tolerated, and off wed have surfed to Bank C or D.

Marketing and Advertising Associations Unify against SPAM
Just one day before Microsofts COMDEX announcement, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and the Direct Marketing Association (The DMA) urged ht US Congress to (get off the stick and) pass national anti-spam legislation.
Conclusions: Better late than never. We certainly support the legitimate use of outgoing communications, including e-mail (see WebPromote Anti-Spam Statement), for sales and marketing purposes. The general sales and marketing world realizes that their future may well lie with self- and government-regulation so that the legitimate solicitation is not

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