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Chapter 4. Transactors > Taking Care of Unfinished Business

Taking Care of Unfinished Business


Sometimes when users start a transaction but just aren’t ready or able to complete it, you need to provide a means for them to continue the transaction later.

The online experience isn’t always a continuous one. Unless you have captive users who are chained to their desks, getting on with everyday life is enough of a reason for users to stop a transaction. For complex transactions such as loan-application forms, your users might not have all the information they need to complete the form. When it comes to shopping, your users might simply be undecided. So you need to provide some means for your users to stop and then come back to pick up where they left off.

One of the challenges in allowing your users to stop and save their transactions is that you need to be able to motivate them to complete the task at a later time. Three different techniques, covered in the following sections, can help you encourage your visitors to finish their interrupted transactions.

Saving User Information

The first step is to enable your users to store the information they just entered. This can be accomplished in three ways:

  • Automatic storage. This approach involves automatically storing users’ entered information without explicitly asking them to save it. This approach is facilitated through the use of a cookie (a small text file that is saved to the user’s computer that can be used to provide information back to the web site on a subsequent visit). This is most commonly used for shopping carts; items that have been placed into the cart can automatically be retrieved at the next visit. This approach, however, should not be used for any information that should remain private.

  • Explicit storage. This is also done via a cookie, but this time users are explicitly asked if they want to store their information for the next visit. This is more appropriate for private information because the user can determine whether his or her computer is secure enough for this information to be stored (because any one user who uses that computer might be able to access this information).

    At the Chase bank site, users can explicitly store their information at any point in the application process to remember it for next time. Users can also clear the information so that no one else sees it. www.chase.com

  • Create a user ID and password. This last option is the most cumbersome, but it also is the most secure and enables users to retrieve the stored information from any computer. This approach asks users to specify a user ID and password for accessing their entered information. Although this is more secure, it does require the user to remember yet another user ID and password combination. If you do go with this approach, make sure you send a confirmation email (see the “Providing a Reminder” section later in this chapter).

When Users Can’t Decide

For retail or travel-oriented sites, users might need some time before they make a final decision. In this case, it’s appropriate for you to allow these users to save or bookmark what they are interested in as an alternative to buying. Options such as “Save It For Later” or “Save It To My Wish List” provide a quick means for users to go directly back to the products they are really interested in. This type of functionality is often displayed as a secondary option under the main buy button and is usually accessible as a subsection within the shopping cart.

At the 1 Book Street site, whether you “Banish Your Belly” now by adding it to your shopping cart or later by adding it to your WishList (just under the “Add To Cart” button) is up to you. www.1bookstreet.com

Providing a Reminder

Now that your users have stored this information, you need to remind them to complete their transaction. There are two ways to provide reminders:

  • Remind them when you greet them. When users add something to Amazon.com’s shopping cart, the next time they return to the site, there’s a summary of how many items are in the cart right on the home page. This method is applicable for when a cookie is used to store the user’s information.

    When users go back to Amazon.com’s home page, they are immediately reminded that they have items in their shopping cart. www.amazon.com

  • Send a confirmation email. This is only applicable when you’ve asked your users to register and provide their email address. After your users register, you should send them a confirmation email that their information has been stored. This email can then act as a reminder for them to complete the transaction and should include a link back to the login page to access their stored information. To motivate your users to follow up, however, you might want to set and communicate an expiration date for when the information will be removed so that users don’t take for granted that the stored information will always be available.

    Reminders aren’t just for unfinished application forms. Evite’s site sends users an email reminder about any electronic invitations they have created but haven’t finished or sent. www.evite.com

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