This started out as a completely different post.
In anticipation of buying international airline tickets, I was planning on writing how much simpler doing business has become for consumers. Believing all the hype about how everything on the Internet is now three clicks--or fewer--away, I was going to point out how much better business-to-consumer commerce had gotten, using my experience as an example.
I was going to write about how I was able to purchase two tickets to Australia--my daughter has moved there--with just three clicks of a mouse, and then say that if you are not providing this kind of service for your customers, you are in trouble.
Then, I actually tried to purchase the tickets--and did a couple of other transactions as well--and realized that it is probably the minority of cases that things are three clicks away.
That represents an opportunity, of course.
More on that in a minute. But first, my experience with three clicks. Let's start with those airline tickets.
Here's one reason why I couldn't buy them with three clicks. For one thing, there were multiple outbound flights to choose from, and then I had to enter another set of clicks to see if the returns I wanted would work.
For another, different flights had different price tags, so there was a series of clicks again to figure out the best deal. And if I wanted to see if we could pay for the trip with miles, there was another set of clicks.
At some point, I gave up counting how many times I clicked the mouse, but I know it was a very large multiple of three. (30? 72?)
I was curious to see if the more-than-three-clicks situation was an aberration, so I set out to do two other transactions as well.
We needed to change (and downgrade) our phone service now that the last kid has graduated from college. I was curious if the "triple-play" packages in all those ads, in which one communications company provides you with TV, Internet, and phone for one (one hopes, low) price, would make sense for us.
Not only could I not figure it out in three clicks on the various providers' websites, I needed to spend 20 minutes on the phone with a customer service rep. (But I did end up saving $60 a month, or $720 a year, or 1.44 percent of what I paid for the "baby's" last year of college tuition. But I digress.)
OK, maybe, I said, three clicks only applies to information. Fair enough. So I set out to find the complete lyrics and author(s) for a song I wanted to be able to quote accurately in an upcoming book.
I was able to do it, but it took more than the three clicks. (Google, like me, wasn't absolutely certain if it was the Gershwins or Berlin who deserved the credit. It took a lot of crosschecking and additional clicking to find out for sure.)
Cut Out the Clicks
So, where do we come out? Well, there is absolutely no doubt that transactions--commercial and otherwise--have gotten easier and faster on the Web. But we are nowhere near the point in which all information can be found, and all transactions can be completed, with no more than three clicks of a mouse.
That, as we said, represents a huge opportunity to simplify things on behalf of your customers.
Here are two ideas that can serve as a starting point as you begin to think about how you can take advantage of that fact.
Automatically bundle things that need to go together. In the case of airline tickets, that would be having the round-trip options appear on one screen. (Very few people just fly one way.)
In the case of the "triple-play" package, it would mean automatically comparing a customer's current bill with what he or she would be paying.
I will leave it to you to figure out how you can simplify things on your site, but the fact is, you should.
People will always pay for options that make their life simpler or make it better.