Checking Out

It happens too many times. A shopper is all ready to take the on-line purchase plunge when momentum slows at the checkout cart. And billing questions and the fear of non-secure credit-card information only exacerbates the process.

Cheyenne, Wyo.-based multichannel retailer Sierra Trading Post is one company that sought to make it easier for shoppers to check out on line.

“We wanted to create a customer shopping experience that was all-encompassing, all the way through their purchase,” said Andy Newlin, operations manager for the retailer, which operates three retail stores, nine mail-order catalogs and an e-commerce site.

Sierra Trading Post was recently named one of Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Online Retailers in the United States. As more shoppers find their way onto the company site however, the retailer wanted to guarantee that it was a name that could be trusted.

“Customers are concerned about having their credit-card information stored in many places on the Web. A service that can provide a centralized location for storing information—married with the ability to use it at many of the places they want to shop on line—will become increasingly valuable,” Newlin said.

By integrating Google Checkout from Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, Sierra Trading Post is providing this very service.

The platform stores all purchasing information within Google’s database. This eliminates the need for customers to re-fill billing and credit-card information each time they check out on line.

“The average customer fills out at least 15 fields during an on-line checkout,” said Tom Oliveri, a group product-marketing manager with Google. “Besides having too many fields [to fill out], this is a bad use of a customer’s time.”

Shoppers using Google Checkout log on with a username and password.

“Not only is Google Checkout convenient for the consumer, but it also adds extra security,” Oliveri said. “The seller never sees the credit-card information and it’s not being spread out over the Internet to different merchants every time a purchase is made.”

The retailer added the service in July 2006. To introduce customers to the service, Newlin and his team used homepage promotions, an e-mail newsletter, campaigns and coupons offering customers $10 off on a purchase of $30 or more.

And the results have been big.

“At times, we have seen new-customer rates reach higher than 60%, and transaction- fee savings grow upward of 20%,” Newlin said. “We’ve also seen more than 1,000% increases in Google Checkout sales due to word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.”

Google Checkout is also reducing the retailer’s operating expenses. Since adopting the service, Sierra Trading Post reports that its transaction-processing costs have dropped an average of nearly 10%.

Finally, the platform is increasing customer satisfaction.

“Google Checkout has been welcomed by our customer base, and it’s attracting a new subset of buyers,” he said.

Pleased with early successes here and at other retailers such as GNC, Toys “R” Us and StarbucksStore.com, Oliveri plans to “bring this service to as many countries as possible beginning in 2007.”