Tax and Shipping Estimate: Customer Favorite But Source of Friction

According to Oneupweb, 59.1% of consumers expect your website to offer a tax and shipping calculator to help them estimate the total cost of purchase before checkout.

Linda’s note: The above image is NOT the client in question. Had some comments about the real problem being the high shipping cost and that was not what we tested in the usability test, nor was this the test site.

Our consulting practice recently conducted a quick-and-dirty user test for a client and found that 4 out of 4 test participants believed that the tax and shipping estimator was a required step on the shopping cart page – even though the box clearly stated this was an optional tool. And, all had trouble with the feature.

The results of this little test is not to be taken as gospel. For one, it doesn’t have statistical significance (nor, as a user test, is it meant to have). But it points out an unexpected area of friction in the checkout process that can apply to any site. Most folks want to see a tax calculator, but 40% don’t expect one. And it’s possible a good chunk of your visitors will believe it’s a required step, which may hinder them from moving through to your checkout if the tool is difficult to use or just looks complicated.

Food for thought.

It also validates the adage that you can’t expect people to read everything on the web.

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9 Responses to “Tax and Shipping Estimate: Customer Favorite But Source of Friction”

  1. Mark says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I would have thought paying 230% more for shipping than the product is actually worth would have been the real deal breaker.

    That’s the first thing I see, and i would be out of there instantly.

    The fact that there is a cheaper shipping option would have been totally missed.

    Even at $30 I think there is still going to be the psychological resistance to paying as much for shipping as the product is worth.

    It just seems like a bad deal all round.

  2. Just want to clarify, the image here is a SAMPLE – it’s NOT our client :)
    I know the very high price is a major turnoff, I just used that as an illustration of showing a tax calculator on a shopping cart page. Most folks are domestic anyway and there wouldn’t be this much sticker shock.

  3. peter says:

    I like big green checkout button in this site

  4. More content is usually better, as long as it’s not crowding or taking away from the design of the page. Interesting study Linda, thank you. It’s testament to the increasing levels of upfrontness shoppers want from online merchants.

  5. Ziller says:

    Recently a client of ours was having issues with their ecommerce conversion rate. In their cart the shipping cost was calculated in the checkout and this is what seemed to be the problem. As soon as the shipping cost calculators moved to the product pages and shopping cart pages the conversion rate immediately increased…

    • Interesting, Ziller. Thank you for sharing. Could you define the conversion rate? For example, it could mean more completed checkouts, but with tax/shipping shown earlier, means less folks began checkout. Did you compare revenue differential?

      • I am interested in more information on this as well. What if the shipping calculator was replaced with a pre-computed shipping estimate? I’ve always figured the less steps a customer has to complete the better.


  6. Great topic Linda. At the Baymard Institute we have done a large usability study of the checkout process and more than half of the test subjects had problems with using the shipping calculator. Especially pages where there was a separate “apply” button caused difficulties as there were now to attention grabbing actionable buttons on the checkout page.
    On some of the sites we tested our study also verifies what you found: the majority of the customers think the calculator is a required step.

  7. Very true, but what is more, more and more often buyers expect to have free shipping, especially if they are spending a fare amount of money. Of course if you can’t offer a usable shipping calculator, it is better not to have one at all and better just clearly state the shipping policy throughout the checkout process.

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