In the UK, postcode anywhere is one of the most popular functionalities to ease the customer journey during one of the most critical areas of your eCommerce website.
- You have brought the visitor to your eCommerce website – Tick
- You have convinced the visitor to add one or more products to the basket – Tick
- You have convinced your visitors to move towards the purchase stage – Tick
- You are supporting them during checkout, one of the most crucial stages during the customer journey – Tick
Postcode anywhere is a great tool to speed up the daunting process of filling out forms. We consumers (let’s exclude the all different millenials) are not used to providing all these details in the real world of shopping. So the faster we can complete the checkout process, the better.
Just recently I have been asked to manage the implementation of the Postcode Anywhere functionality on one of our German eCommerce websites.
And here is why:
I will take you to the place in Germany where I grew up. The address is
Schweinfurter Strasse xx
For my usability test I am using the PCA post code anywhere demo feature on this website: http://www.pcapredict.com/en-gb/address-capture-software/
Just like with a UK address I started off by typing the postcode into the field. After a couple of seconds I am presented with a list of 100 potential streets.
I patiently continued scrolling through the list of streets, just to find out that my street “Schweinfurter Strasse” wasn’t even part of the 100.
Great! At times of immediate gratification, I am already uncomfortable with this task.
So I tried typing the postcode plus the name of the place “97509 Kolitzheim”. The list became significantly smaller with only 6 options left. However, my address was still not part of the list.
Last try! I started typing the name of the street first to see what the results would be.
Unfortunately I was disappointed yet again, as now my street was showing on a list of 7 results but there was no sign of the place I am looking for. My place “Kolitzheim” seemed to have disappeared from the radar of the postcode anywhere tool.
Now, Kolitzheim is just a small place in Germany with 5k inhabitants. Try finding an address in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich. Good luck!
A little bit of background information about the German Postcode System
Since 1993 German postcodes consist of 5 digits. The first digit determines the geographic zone and the second two digits the postal region. There are only 9 geographic zones in the whole of Germany and only 99 postal regions. The last two digits are used to split the postal regions up further.
However, the total number of postcodes in Germany peaks at only 28600 post codes in the whole of Germany. To make things sound worse, 1 postcode covers on average 1313 properties. Now try to condense this number into a digestible dropdown list – No chance!
As a comparison, there are 1.8mio. postcodes in the UK which results in 14.7 properties per postcode.
Believe me now, that postcode anywhere in Germany will never work the same way as in the UK?
Zalando, Amazon, Otto.de, Tchibo.de and other eCommerce giants on the German market have understood this challenge and therefore stayed away from a postcode anywhere feature.
Reach the German Culture Digitally – With this lesson learnt
Don’t try and simplify the customer journey during checkout by adding a postcode anywhere functionality to a website in Germany. Albeit very popular and time saving in the UK, due to the complex postcode system in Germany, this feature will only risk you losing your visitors.
Whereas in the UK around 15 properties are covered by 1 postcode, in Germany the figure summits at 1313. This fact makes it nearly impossible to condense all results for a given postcode into a user friendly dropdown list.
Keep the street, postcode and city fields as normal text or number input fields and trust me, you will save your valued visitors time and convert them into customers, wherever they are located in Germany.