At Bolt Peter’s User Research Friday conference today Jared Spool talked about a test I had never heard of before. He called it the Compelled Shopping Test.

When I first heard the premise I must admit it made absolutely no sense to me!

Here is how it works…

  1. You recruit test users for testing a shopping site who are carefully screened to really and truly be in need of buying particular item at that moment (for example they are in the process of replacing their laptop computer).
  2. You give them 2 weeks to do all the research they need to figure out what they want to buy.
  3. On the day of the test all they have to do is buy the product on the site in front of you.
  4. You pay for their purchase as part of the study!

What? You buy the product for them? How could you possibly get further from reality!

But later on in the talk Jared gave the rationale for the Compelled Shopping Test in the form of a story that made a lot of sense.

I will call it the 7-11 parable.

What if you had a device that would tell you in real time who had just run out of milk and was just heading out the door to go to 7-11 to pick some up?  You pull up in a limo in real time and offer her a ride to 7-11 and also offer to pay for the milk. What would the conversion be in this scenario. 100% right? Only a drive-by shooting at the convenience store would reduce that conversion.

The purpose of the Compelled Shopping Test is to eliminate the myriad of reasons why people don’t purchase (not ready to buy, not sure what they want, planning on buying it elsewhere, etc) and leave nothing but a brilliantly distilled scenario which should have 100% conversion. Then the gap between actual conversion and the 100% you would expect with the CST scenario is really due to broken stuff on the shopping site in question.

What blew me away is that Jared said that the best conversion rate they have seen in a compelled shopping test is only 66%. Kind of unbelievable if you think about it: 1 out of 3 people who are given the money to buy something they want to buy don’t do it in the end because of something broken on the site. And that is for the best sites!

Here is UIE’s description of the 7-11 experiment.

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