46

Some online shops follow these guidelines (case A):

  • Let user enter a billing address.
  • Have a checkbox "Shipping address same as billing".

Some other online shops do it just the other way (case B):

  • Let user enter a shipping address.
  • Have a checkbox "Billing address same as shipping".

In case A, it seems that the primary view of the checkout workflow is to generate an invoice, whereas in case B the checkout process is seen as a step in the workflow to finally ship the actually product being ordered to the customer.

An example for case A is WooCommerce, an example for case B is Shopify. Amazon also seems to prefer case B.

My question:

Is there any real reason to prefer case A or case B?

  • 9
    I'm thinking about the billing address when entering or confirming my payment information, not when I'm deciding where I want it delivered. – Michael Hampton Feb 21 '17 at 20:15
  • 8
    I think of it like this: After I have filled my shopping cart and selected a shipping method, the next screen prompts me for an address. Since I just finalized my shipping method/zip code, it is only logical that I will now continue to elaborate on the shipping process. Also, since I've not yet entered payment information, I am still expecting to see that and have a chance to specify a second billing address. Case B wins in my vote, overwhelmingly. I also can't think of any significant examples in my personal experience of case A, but it does seem plausible. – Darren Ringer Feb 22 '17 at 1:10
  • 3
    Case B goes: Browse -> Select -> Fill Order Details -> Pay. This makes sense (especially when you have to calculate shipping costs). Case A goes: Browse -> Select -> Fill some of order details (except for address) -> Fill some of payment details (address only) -> Fill rest of order details (address) -> Fill rest of payment details. This doesn't make sense. Case A is almost (almost) like calling a pizza place for delivery then having them ask for your credit card number, then ask for where you want it delivered, then ask for your credit card expiration date. It's just weird. – Jason C Feb 22 '17 at 5:13
  • 4
    When delivering physical goods, a delivery address is obviously mandatory. An average user who pays by credit card or paypal may not even think of needing an invoice sent (and in particular not in paper form). Therefore I'd always treat the billing address as "secondary" – Hagen von Eitzen Feb 22 '17 at 15:15
  • 5
    @Ville-ValtteriTiittanen if you use a credit card you have a billing address -- it's the address that the credit card company uses to communicate with you. One of the most basic checks on a credit card purchase when you're not physically present is that the post/zip code matches. And it's very similar if you go through paypal to use your CC – Chris H Feb 23 '17 at 10:10

11 Answers 11

60

For me personally I would go with case B:

When you are prompted for shipping address I think users immediately know the answer (where I want my goods to be delivered). It's a simple answer. However, in the case of billing address users can be hesitant (makes them think), but if they have already inputted the shipping address it will be easier for them to come to the conclusion that if they're shipping somewhere different than their home address (your usual billing address) then it is different.

  • 3
    Thanks, I do prefer case B, too, although the beta testers of our own shop software currently complain that they prefer case A. 😐 – Uwe Keim Feb 21 '17 at 14:23
  • 4
    Who are your beta testers? – SteveD Feb 21 '17 at 15:42
  • 9
    Who is your target audience? Is it the long-time users who will be using it mostly or is it inexperienced new users you are targeting? Maybe your long-time users are pros who are used to dealing with invoices on a regular basis, while new users may get confused or hesitate. I've worked with e-commerce sites professionally and in my experience it depends a lot on the people you are targeting. – Winter Feb 21 '17 at 16:10
  • 6
    @UweKeim Since you are selling a CMS, I assume your customers are not the future users of the online shop system, but the merchants. If the beta testers are those merchants, the billing address might be more important in their eyes than the shipping address. Just an idea. – Dubu Feb 22 '17 at 11:50
  • 4
    @UweKeim Check mattumotu's answer. A for business, B for consumers. There is no one-answer-fits-all. – Agent_L Feb 22 '17 at 16:03
49

As a user I would expect to fill my shipping address first because I might need to check whether the seller ships to that particular location. Then if it ships I might enter billing address.

Some checkout processes are divided on multiple pages. It seems more logical to put the shipping address before billing address, in order to check if shipping is available, and whether it is possible to make the order. Then, on the payment pages the billing information should be filled in.

Advice: Look at your Analytics and see which one is more frequently filled in. This data will give you pretty good reason to choose one of the ways.

  • 2
    Digital goods?? – user67695 Feb 23 '17 at 16:21
  • @nocomprende look at the last paragraph. – Kristiyan Lukanov Feb 27 '17 at 9:03
16

I'm for Case B.

Right when the user goes to checkout, they will want to:

  1. See if that item ships to their location
  2. Check shipping costs associated with their location

Since billing information is directly related to payment for the order, it should be near the end. The checkout process should be grouped into something like: Shipping > Shipping Costs > Payment (which includes the Billing).

As a couple other of people mentioned, out of the two, the billing address is more likely to stay the same, but I wouldn't say that changing the order of the checkout process (Case A) is a good solution for that. Users who frequently purchase should create an account and have that information saved so that they don't need to fill it out every time.

The last item to consider is what users are familiar with. Most of the ecommerce sites that I visit use some form of Case B. Shopify and Amazon (as you said), in addition to Walmart and Zappos.

  • 1
    Chrome will auto-fill forms, so I never create a profile on a site if I am not forced to do so. The only thing I have to type is credit card info, and I never save that with a vendor either if I can possibly help it. Laboriously typing the credit card info prevents me from making too many spurious purchases! Someone can't steal your data unless... well, the vendor ends up with it even if you don't create a profile, right? No help there. – user67695 Feb 23 '17 at 16:05
6

It might depend if you are selling B2B or B2C, I'm assuming B2C

To me as a user/customer the highest priority is getting the item, actually paying is the bit I don't want to think about, tacked on at the end.

For the seller the highest priority is getting paid, and shipping is the work done after getting paid.

The website forms are being filled out by the user and so should make the user the priority (when the order is submitted you will have both addresses anyway) and so should ask for shipping address first. IMO B2C eCommerce sites that ask for billing addresses first is an indication of a business that isn't considering their users needs above their own. You say Amazon seem to prefer Case B, I'd assume this is because they do a ton of research on putting the users first and making things as easy and normal as expected.

But that's just my opinion, the best this to do is do user research to find out what your users think.

  • 2
    This is what I was going to say. Also, in business paper is the king, even if you have goods in your warehouse, they're considered contraband unless you can produce a sufficient paper trail. But an invoice alone can be worth what's written on it, because you can use it to force someone to eventually deliver. So it's all different priorities of different users. – Agent_L Feb 22 '17 at 16:00
5

My organization asks for billing first, and then lets the user skip shipping if it's the same. There's a few reasons for this. First, we're a non-profit, so we're most interested in a user's address of record, which is generally the same used for financial purposes. The shipping may or may not be same as that. Second, we sell more "virtual" goods than physical ones: memberships, tickets, etc. We have retail items for sale, but it's not a primary focus. Third, we've found that our users actually get more confused the other way around. This may be mostly due to the fact that we're selling a lot of virtual goods. Filling out billing first, allows them to sort of gloss over shipping if it's not really that important for what they're purchasing anyways.

  • 1
    Right. For many 'goods' these days, there's no place like home. – user67695 Feb 23 '17 at 16:15
  • 1
    Good example reinforces the idea that it depends on your users (or in this case products). – mattumotu Feb 23 '17 at 16:22
4

Whichever one is being used to compute shipping costs and taxes should be first. The second is irrelevant if the customer does not accept the total cost.

  • 1
    This is always true, even with digital goods (sales tax differs in every US state, and Amazon collects it now). So, can you 'ship' digital goods to a different place than the billing address? As a gift, for example. Then what? Ugh. – user67695 Feb 23 '17 at 16:19
  • 1
    And how do you account that perhaps they purchaser decides to proceed with the purchase but have it shipped to a different location after examining the total costs. As a Canadian who frequently buys items from the US, if the shipping costs to Canada are outrageous, I might just have it shipped to a border PO box, drive over and pick up next time I go. – Ian W Feb 23 '17 at 22:49
3

I would go with case A.
The first question you ask then is about who I am: it shows I am the one taking part in the agreement. The next step would be what you want, if I wanted a package to deliver somewhere else, or to someone else, I could indicate that there.
I would hesitate to first fill in someone else's name if I wanted to buy them a gift.

In general though, both ways would be acceptable, because in general people order things for themselves.

  • 5
    This is an interesting perspective on the question, but can be used to reach the opposite conclusion. If I come upon a shop online because they are selling exactly the product I want, the most important fact is "what I want"; I may never shop there again, so "who I am" is secondary. Your logic works only if I'm opening an account that I expect to use regularly - "who I am" is permanent, and "what I want" will keep changing. Retailers often want customers to become regular users, but that's generally not what customers have in their minds when they reach the checkout page. – IMSoP Feb 22 '17 at 14:06
  • 2
    I agree with @IMSoP: if I could use anonymous payment (like cash in a shop) I would always do so, and never identify myself or have vendors save my info at all. I can't tell you how many times I ordered pizza from the 'Hut' a short walk away and never created a profile. Chrome autofill is great! I walked in and always paid cash. I got a grocery store "loyalty card" and never registered it - I still get all the discounts, with no nagging. They need my money, not my mind. – user67695 Feb 23 '17 at 16:10
  • 1
    "I would hesitate to first fill in someone else's name if I wanted to buy them a gift." - maybe, but I doubt the majority of remote purchases/delivery orders are surprise parcels to someone else. Overall, that is probably more of a niche case. Personally, I would hesitate to fill in someone else's name at any time, unless they know I am having something delivered to their place. – O. R. Mapper Feb 23 '17 at 19:29
3

Consider the complete picture.

As a customer, I purchase an item. My billing address is tied to me; the shipping address is tied to the order. The billing address may also be used to verify the credit card for payment authorization.

If I buy an item, ship to A (my house), bill to A. Next I buy another item, a gift ship to B (recipient's house), still bill to A. What If I buy multiple items but want shipped to separate locations? How does that work?

If you store the Billing Address (option as same as Shipping Address), it is more likely to remain unchanged over time (and the same). Shipping Address is more likely to be the variant, to the extent you may not even over an option to store frequently shipped locations.

  • 3
    i wouldn't necessarily think about storage for this question..you can of course store both and let user choose from all stored addresses for shipping and billing like amazon does it.. – Can Feb 22 '17 at 2:55
  • 1
    Just do like most websites and let the user choose from a list address they have used in the past for both address. – Ian Feb 22 '17 at 13:00
  • 2
    @Ian That's an interesting additional point - that the flow for returning users can be different - but you've still got to choose some layout for first time customers. Unless you force them to create an account with an address book before placing any orders, which would put off anybody making an impulse purchase. – IMSoP Feb 22 '17 at 14:08
  • 1
    @UweKeim, if it was not clear, my recommendation is always get Billing Address first (and store) , then option Shipping Address, same or other ? – Ian W Feb 22 '17 at 23:36
  • 1
    It probably depends on your site, if you are selling gifts then this is a valid use case, if you are selling sex toys, probably not – mattumotu Feb 23 '17 at 10:09
2

Implicit in your question is that the customer is ordering stuff not downloadables.

If you are ordering real physical goods you definitely need them delivering to you or to somewhere. You may not need to provide a billing address at all. Think PayPal or any other virtual-money payment systems where your billing address is not part of the transaction.

On that basis, if get payment details up-front (which most places do not bother with...) you'd possibly ask for billing address up front. But as most places don't ask for billing details until they know what you're ordering, where it's going, what discount you are eligible for and how you are proposing to pay, I'd ask for shipping address first.

So mostly, I'd say 'B'

  • 1
    "Think PayPal or any other virtual-money payment systems where your billing address is not part of the transaction." - I think it sometimes is. It is probably more related to the jurisdiction of the vendor than to the payment method used. – O. R. Mapper Feb 23 '17 at 20:36
1

I hate saying this, but I would actually go B. Because of the failure modes that occur if you get it wrong.

For shipping address, there's fairly little that can go wrong -- or rather, there's fairly little that you can detect at entry time. I mean, you can validate the address against someone's list of deliverable addresses and force them to choose an amended address, but it may not be worth doing. (some customers's addresses are misconfigured in those systems, and that drives them bonkers and they blame you.)

Whereas with billing address, that can go easily wrong. The main purpose of billing address is to inform the bank's fraud-detection algorithms**, and as a result, a wrong billing address is very likely to cause an immediate decline and then you need to iterate with the user to fix their address. If you took their billing address last, it's still front-of-mind for the user.

That's one way a valid-shipping-address check can mess up. If it has auto-corrected to Istanbul, the credit card may decline because they have them in Constantinople.

  • 1
    And watch out for that uppercase 'i'. – user67695 Feb 23 '17 at 16:13
  • 1
    "a wrong billing address is very likely to cause an immediate decline" - wrong as in how? Aren't those checks about as unreliable as the aforementioned checks for a valid shipping address? Related: "inform the bank's fraud-detection algorithms" - what bank? It's not a given the customer's bank is known at the time of ordering, and even if it is, it is not at all guaranteed the billing address is known to that bank. – O. R. Mapper Feb 23 '17 at 20:20
1

I think it really depends on your shop.

Let's think of the cases, having in mind that this is a B2C e-shop:

  1. I buy something for me or my friends, then the billing address is my home address

    • I want it delivered to my company because it is more convenient to receive it there
    • I want it delivered to a friend's house/family house
  2. I buy something for my company, then the billing address is my company address, I want it delivered to my company or I buy something for me and I want it delivered to my home

The most important question is what do your users do more often? What is the context of your e-shop? If it is shoes and clothes, most probably they choose the first scenario. If it is office supplies or electronics, then it is the second scenario.

In the 1st scenario, I would put first the shipping address and then the billing address, whereas, in the 2nd scenario the opposite.

  • 1
    "I want it delivered to my house because it is more convenient to receive it there" seems like a fully valid option in case 2 to me. – O. R. Mapper Feb 23 '17 at 20:37
  • 1
    @O.R.Mapper that is correct! I will edit my answer – Dimitra Miha Feb 24 '17 at 10:29

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