How to create an optimized checkout process

Your digital marketing funnel is working well. Customers are responding to your content and ads. Visitors are flocking to your ecommerce shop and its bounce-rate is still low despite the heavy traffic. Consumers are searching for their favorite products and discovering new ones thanks to the handy suggestions feature your website’s developer implemented. They are adding products to their carts and are close to making the final payment. But shortly after the checkout process begins, consumers leave your company’s shop. No explanations, no bad reviews, no hard feelings. They simply opt to abandon their cart, and, most of the time, despite consistent remarketing efforts, they do not return to resume the process.

This scenario does not have a happy ending and unfortunately marketers see it unfold quite frequently. In fact, according to Baymard Institute, approximately 70% of initiated checkouts are abandoned.  Depending on the industry and the total price of the cart, reasons may vary and can sometimes be beyond the control of the marketing and development teams. According to the same institute, most carts are abandoned because the final price including shipping and other fees is considered too high by the consumer. In such cases, the checkout process itself can easily be improved by offering a discount code or another incentive through a pop-up when potential consumers first try to navigate away from the purchase. However, when it comes to big-ticket items, like automobiles, additional discounts are often not feasible and marketers simply need to bid these indecisive consumers goodbye or invest in remarketing in hope of bringing them back.

However, UX specialists can provide useful insights to ecommerce owners and marketing teams looking to improve their conversion rate. Aside from the 49% of potential customers that are deterred from making the final purchase by mostly financial reasons such as extra-fees, there are other groups of consumers who abandon their cart as a result of more technical issues that are well within the company’s control. For instance, a seemingly harmless action like asking users to create an account in order to begin the checkout process is responsible for 24% of abandoned carts. Additional payment issues, a time-consuming checkout process, poor website performance and a lack of overall trust will also contribute to a high cart abandonment rate.

But what can ecommerce platforms do in order to improve their overall shopping experience and optimise their checkout process? In this article we will explore simple UX solutions for some of the most common issues ecommerce businesses need to address in order to lower their cart abandonment rate.

1. Build trust

Although gaining user trust is essential throughout the consumer journey, trust is even more important during the checkout process. After all, at this stage, consumers are giving away extremely sensitive information in hope of receiving the product they order. There really are no guarantees that the product will be delivered on time or that it will live up to their expectations. However, by offering a good return policy, multiple shipping options and shipping cost estimates, companies can help alleviate some of the inherent anxiety of online shopping. Confirmation emails are another simple way to make sure that consumers have all the information they require in order to track their order and request a refund, if needed.

Trust can also be built by being as transparent as possible about additional fees, shipping fees, product availability, and inventory. There’s no need for complex, eye-catching graphics that might divert user attention. Quite the opposite. During the cart review stage and final purchasing phase, all information should be displayed as plainly as possible, making sure that all additional costs are highlighted and included in the final price. Openness and honesty are more persuasive than catchy slogans and imagery when it comes to completing online transactions.

Any delays, errors, or technical glitches will convey a sense of instability and increase the consumer’s anxiety, making him or her more likely to lose trust and abandon their cart. After all, a website that’s not 100% up to date is more vulnerable to data breaches and security issues. That’s why displaying credit card logos and other trust signals throughout the checkout process is important. Needless to say, implementing a security protocol is mandatory for any ecommerce business because, without an appropriate certificate, browsers can mark websites as unsafe. You can learn more about SSH and SSL protocols in a beginner-friendly article.

2. Eliminate unnecessary steps and temptations

When it comes to creating an effective checkout process, less is definitely more. According to a report created by the Baymard Institute, a lengthy, time-consuming checkout process is responsible, on average, for 18% of abandoned online carts. Ideally, a user should not have to fill in more than 7-8 fields in order to make a purchase, so it’s essential to only ask for information that is truly relevant and eliminate ”market research questions”. It’s also considered best practice to request information in a predictable way, and to place the most sensitive information (i.e. credit card information) in the final form fields.

A quality checkout process should focus exclusively on providing a great user experience. So, ecommerce websites can simplify the process even more by implementing auto-complete and data-validation functions.

However, regardless of how much you simplify the process, if it still consists of multiple screens or stages, it is always good practice to implement a progress bar that lets users know how far along they are, keeping them focused on the final conversion. 

Limiting navigation options during checkout can also help keep consumers focused on the final purchase. By removing the header and footer from the checkout pages, ecommerce websites can prevent consumers from clicking away out of sheer curiosity. Whether we like to admit it or not, impulse shopping accounts for 40% of all money spent on ecommerce websites and if that impulse is lost while browsing other pages on the website, the cart will most likely be abandoned. However, not all types of navigation are created equal, and it’s considered good practice to allow customers to keep browsing new products even after they review their cart. Make sure that if users decide to add new products, they can resume the checkout process exactly where they left off.

3. Simplify payment

When beginning to optimise your checkout process, start with the ending. Payment issues can be extremely frustrating for consumers, particularly because they occur in the last stages of the checkout process. When potential customers spend precious time carefully selecting products only to discover that their payment method of choice is not supported, they are unlikely to shop again on that particular website. That’s why before improving any other aspect of the checkout process, it is crucial to make sure that all the most commonly used payment methods are available. Being able to choose from multiple payment options (different types of cards, PayPal, on delivery) is really non-negotiable for modern customers.

Ecommerce is a highly competitive business. Even after carefully planning every step of the customer’s journey and optimising the entire shopping experience from first click to final checkout, there will always be consumers who simply cannot commit to the purchase. In such cases, it is always recommended to offer additional support through live-chat or an extra-incentive like a discount code.

However, these strategies will not always provide the desired results and the best thing to do is to be prepared for failure. Every abandoned cart is an opportunity to learn more about what is not working properly, so be sure to include a pop-up that asks users to specify why they are choosing to leave. Checkout optimisation is an ongoing process and any data about user exit-intent can provide the insight needed for future improvements. In fact, the secret to a great checkout experience is the willingness to constantly test and try out new strategies in order to create a perfect user-experience. 

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