What Airport Security Can Teach Us About Creating the Best Online Shopping Experiences

TSA

This guest post was written by Jennifer Goforth Gregory, who specializes in writing about content marketing and technology. She has worked with national brands including IBM, Adobe, Microsoft, Ameriprise, Allstate, Samsung, American Express and Intuit.


It’s no secret that the Transportation Security Administration takes a lot of heat from air travelers.

Lesser known is the fact that those who enroll in TSA’s PreCheck program are consistently more satisfied with their experiences than those who navigate regular airport security lines.

TSA’s PreCheck program simplifies one of the most stressful aspects of air travel — getting to the gate.

At a time when 97 percent of visitors to online shopping sites do not make purchases, might there be lessons from the TSA (of all places) about creating the best online shopping experience for your customers?

We asked Sean MacPhedran, group director of strategic planning for digital agency Fuel Youth, to entertain the idea.

Reduce steps to checkout

Between emptying pockets and separating carry-on items, travelers have a lot to do before passing through security gates. TSA PreCheck cuts out many of the steps.

MacPhedran sees a parallel in the world of online shopping. “Each bit of frustration in the checkout process, whether it’s difficulty in quick discovery or an extra confirmation page, will create a drop in total conversion,” he says.

Who does it well? Sodastream’s streamlined checkout process wins rave reviews from customers. With only three pages (including confirmation) and clearly marked tabs indicating progress, you know exactly where you are throughout the shopping experience.

Bonus points to the site for calculating delivery charges on the main page.

Offer personalization

TSA already knows that PreCheck travelers are low security risks. Customers who accept your offer to save their payment information are telling you they want to be similarly known; they want their online shopping experiences to be personalized.

A recent Forrester report notes that customers “will reward companies that can anticipate their personal needs and wants — and punish those that clumsily have to relearn basic customer details at each encounter.”

Who does it well? MacPhedran points to Northern Tool’s website, which offers both registration and guest checkout. The large red “Checkout” and “Sign In” buttons are “glaringly” obvious, drawing the customer’s eye to the correct path through the checkout process.

 Make it easy to get help

Trying to get a question answered in the regular airport security line is often a challenge. But there are fewer people in the TSA PreCheck line, and travelers sometimes receive personal service.

For the best online shopping experience, MacPhedran says, make it easy for your website customers to quickly get answers to their questions. He recommends live chat windows on all web pages.

Who does it well? American Eagle’s website includes a simplified chat window to provide real-time answers to customer questions. Instead of a lengthy registration, customers simply enter their name and email to start a conversation. The live chat window icon is visible throughout the shopping experience, from the home page to checkout.

 And keeping your shoes on is, of course, optional.

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