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Conversions Direct to Consumer

How to optimize your checkout process

As a business owner, you’ve (hopefully) spent a lot of time thinking about the design and functionality of your eCommerce site. The overall flow of your website impacts how satisfied your customers are, and that includes the checkout process.

This is a critical stage in the buying process, as the average cart abandonment rate across all industries is just shy of 70%.

Creating a positive eCommerce checkout experience for your customers will improve your conversion rate and reduce checkout abandonment. Yes, there is a difference between cart abandonment and checkout abandonment.

Checkout abandonment is when customers leave the payment process after starting it. These customers are a loss because you invested in marketing, operations, and development to get them to that point.

Leading factors of checkout abandonment

A customer can abandon the checkout process for many reasons — even simply needing to get back to another task. More commonly though, potential buyers leave the checkout process because it turned them off for one reason or another. Although you can’t eradicate every customer turn-off, you can pay attention to specific elements of your checkout process and make tweaks that can encourage customers to complete their purchase.

Some of the most common reasons people abandon the checkout process are easy to rectify. Consider these factors when creating your own checkout and read on to learn how to optimize for each one:

  • Surprise costs or charges: Unexpected fees added at the time of payment can deter your customer and have them second-guessing the value of the purchase. These can include taxes, shipping costs, etc.
  • Forced account creation: When you demand customers sign up for an account to proceed, you add a hurdle to the process. This slows down their checkout and can stop them from buying altogether.
  • Limited shipping options: Customers expect speedy delivery options, and when they’re not available, they’ll go elsewhere.
  • Complex or cumbersome process: Online shopping should be convenient, from browsing a site sans pants to the seamless checkout process. Offer fast checkout experiences to avoid losing people halfway through.
  • Security concerns: With fears of fraud now commonplace, it’s understandable customers want to be certain your payment process is safe and secure.
  • Performance issues or errors: If your checkout process has slow load times, crashes, or consistently experiences errors, your customers will jump ship faster than you can say “lost sale.”

Best practices for a seamless checkout

After you’ve channeled your hard work into attracting visitors to your site, the next step is turning them into paying customers.  After all, the main purpose of your online store is to close sales, so you should prioritize your checkout process, as it’s the purchasing finish line.

Remember, not even the greatest digital ad can overcome a bad checkout experience. Think about these solutions as you optimize your process to increase conversions and drive business growth.

Showcase fast, free shipping

If costly and slow shipping is the main reason for cart abandonment, offering free and fast options will help convert. Prominently display these promises in your checkout to encourage purchase completion.

We suggest adding it to your cart review page as an additional line item to make it crystal clear that shipping is free. You should also highlight a delivery timeline estimate on your address input page to set expectations for speed.

Read: How to offer free shipping while protecting your margins

Think mobile first

As with all elements of your eCommerce site, thinking mobile-first is imperative when setting up your checkout process. More than 230 million American consumers own smartphones, and almost 80% of those have made a purchase online using their device in the last six months. In 2018 alone, almost 40% of all eCommerce purchases were made online during the holiday season.

Mobile users also have the highest abandonment rate, coming in at a whopping 85.65%. Don’t be a part of this statistic — make sure your site and especially your checkout process are mobile friendly.

Allow guest checkout

Gaining recurring customers and fostering retention is an important component of growing your business, but you don’t want to discourage first-time buyers by forcing account set-up to proceed to checkout. Allow one-time buyers to put in their email and continue with their purchase via a guest checkout.

You can always prompt them to create an account easily after they complete their purchase.

Enable social or Google sign-in to expedite the process

Any time and steps you can save your customers will improve their experience, which, in turn, will motivate them to return to your eCommerce site. Allow customers to sign up, register, or sign in using their social media or Google accounts to expedite the process and verify their identity. This saves your customers time registering for an account and inputting their data.

Keep it short and sweet

Almost 20% of eCommerce cart abandonment takes place at the checkout stage due to a lengthy or complicated process. Keep it short and sweet when it comes to form fields and the information you ask of your customers. Collect only the information you absolutely need, and streamline the process. If possible, capture customer email addresses as early as possible, as it’s the one piece of information you need to be able to follow up.

When customers are presented with too many forms to fill out — especially if the information seems redundant or unnecessary — they may grow tired and simply abandon the process.

Remove unnecessary distractions

By the time your customer has made it to the payment stage, you’ve invested heavily in their purchase power through marketing and operational costs. Now’s the time to funnel them towards converting by removing any additional distractions. These include the header or footer, pop-ups, menu buttons, additional items to purchase, or anything else that might slow down the process.

One exception to this rule is a pop-up live chat option to help customers complete their purchase, especially if they’ve been idle for any length of time.

Provide multiple payment options

Multiple payment options makes your store more accessible to shoppers with different payment preferences. This helps encourage purchase and checkout, as consumers can choose their most convenient online wallet or credit card.

However, there are costs associated usually with each payment option. If budget is a consideration, prioritize the most popular payment methods (i.e., Visa, Mastercard, Paypal) and expand options as your business grows.

Be transparent about costs and fees

Unexpected costs can make customers second-guess their purchase and leave your site. You don’t want this to happen when they’re ready to buy, as this can lead to abandonment. PDisclose as many details as possible up front, including the subtotal, and any applicable taxes, shipping fees, duties, or other fees.

ASOS does a great job of this, offering a special FAQ section that details any additional delivery fees customers may experience. This is especially important for merchants who sell internationally, as duty fees can be a concern for consumers.

To counter this, ASOS offers some international customers discount codes (validated during the checkout process by confirming the shipping address) to help them get past these additional fees. Although this may not be an option for you, you can still be transparent and include messaging that tells your customers what to expect before they reach the checkout page.

Highlight security seals or badges

In the past two years, eCommerce has taken off exponentially, but so has fear of fraud for both consumers and eCommerce professionals. According to a 2021 fraud report from Marqeta, four out of five people surveyed said their amount of online shopping during Covid-19 increased, but they also felt more susceptible to fraud. What’s more:

  • 65% of respondents said they’re more concerned about fraud since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
  • 67% of consumers surveyed said they think shopping online more during COVID-19 has increased their risk of being victims of fraud.
  • 58% of consumers who responded feel the risk of fraud makes them less likely to try new forms of payment online.

Show customers you’re serious about protecting personal information by prominently displaying your security badges or seals. Some examples of these can include the certified organic label, or money-back guarantee. These badges should be featured throughout the checkout process so customers have confidence in the quality of security your business provides.

Use form validation and error notifications

Is there anything more frustrating than filling out a form only to receive a vague error message and having to scour every field carefully to find your mistake?

Typos happen, though, and this, unfortunately, is not uncommon for customers.

Real-time form validation can help your customers input their data accurately, as well as let them know when data can’t be accepted. Form validation integrations show your customers in real time when the data they’ve inputted is or is not acceptable. These integrations can even offer smart suggestions for addresses.

This means your customers won’t miss a step, and all data they input is correct and complete before they try to submit the form.

Make it easy to ask questions

Providing customer support at the right time can mean the difference between a completed or abandoned sale. Of course, customer support should be available at every opportunity throughout the entire shopping experience to build brand loyalty, increase sales, and ensure customer satisfaction.

Offer a knowledge base, call center/dial-in support, and live chat to give customers the communication methods they prefer.

Show a progress indicator

If you’ve ever had to endure a succession of online forms and wondered, “how many more of these are there?” then you know how important progress indicators are.

A progress indicator can be helpful in your checkout process, regardless of whether your platform uses a one-page or multi-page/-step system.

It usually looks something like: Shopping Cart Review > Shipping Address > Payment and Billing Address > Confirmation

This shows your customers where they are in the process, what steps they’ve completed, and which are yet to come. A progress indicator helps customers gauge how much time is left in the payment process, a perk they may find convenient as it guides them through the process.

Auto-save cart contents when abandoned

Sometimes your customer has to leave before they’ve completed their checkout. This can be for several reasons, including those that have nothing to do with your checkout process. When a customer leaves items in their cart unpurchased, ensuring those items persist in their cart until they return is a great strategy. By making it easy for your customers to pick up where they left off, you can increase the likelihood they’ll complete that purchase at a later date.

Further, if you capture the customer’s email address, you can send a friendly reminder email that their items are waiting for them.

Read: The biggest factors of cart abandonment and how to resolve them

Send post-payment order confirmation and updates

Repeat after us: The checkout process does not end at “payment complete.” When your customer arrives on the order confirmation page, they should also receive an email with their order confirmation within minutes of completing payment. This email should include:

  • Order number
  • Order details, including products purchased, cost, subtotal, taxes, applicable fees, and the grand total
  • Date and time of purchase
  • Returns/refund information
  • A link to your customer support page or customer support contact details
  • Next steps

In addition to this email, it’s important to keep your customer informed about their shipment. Be sure to communicate milestones reached throughout the fulfillment process. This can include notifications that an order is being prepared for shipment, the order has shipped, and especially any circumstances where the regular timeline has been disrupted.

By keeping your customer in the loop after their payment has gone through, you’ll continue to build trust and establish touchpoints that improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. This, in turn, will bring them back to your checkout page in the future.

Wrapping up — Optimize your checkout process for more conversions and happier buyers

Follow the tips we’ve shared above to ensure your checkout experience is as quick and seamless as possible. You want to prioritize convenience for your customers, which will lead to conversions for your business.

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