6 Ways To Optimize Your eCommerce Checkout

by 9 07/10/2012

Unfortunately, most eCommerce websites don’t do checkout very well.

I believe this is mainly because the website owners business objectives have been put before the needs and wants of the customer.

There are many things one can do to ensure we focus on the customers needs and change our checkout process accordingly, so I’ve listed some of the more critical areas and those where, the smallest change can be the most effective.

1. Don’t force the account creation (registration) process

As a user, my need is to purchase a product – quickly, easily, and securely.

As a business owner, I want to make a sale as well as gather all the customer data I possibly can so that I can market and sell more products to my customers.

The problem here is that quite often, the gathering of this customer data is done at the first point within the checkout, by forcing users to create an account, or register, before they can complete their purchase, and this hinders the checkout process.

Experience has shown that this is one of the main reasons for cart abandonment.

Play.com still asks users to create an account
Play sign in page screenshot
The customer is on your website to make a purchase, not necessarily develop a long-lasting relationship with you, so don’t force this upon them.

Accounts can still be created once the checkout process is complete and the sale is made, simply by asking the user if he or she would like to save the information they have just entered.  If the checkout experience has been a good one, the customer is quite likely to tick the box to create an account.

2. Ensure the checkout area is isolated or self-contained

Once the customer has reached the checkout area, you need to keep them in there by reducing the amount of distracting and unnecessary information available to the customer.

The ideal situation here is for the customer to get to the order confirmation page as quickly and easily as possible. This is a win/win situation.  Don’t make it easy to exit the checkout – do make it easy to find relevant information and help.

3. Have a short, stepped checkout process and show the customers where they are within the process

Work out what information you need from the customer.

It is usually some personal details, full address details and card/payment information.

Some etailers will also need to cater for entering of gift card or voucher information. Ensure that you only take the information you need, thus keeping the steps in checkout to a minimum.

Let customers know at what point they are in the checkout process.

Walmart do this well, with a completely isolated checkout and a stepped process showing where you are in the checkout process.

Walmart Isolated checkout

4. Make form filling easy and intuitive through good design and best practice

There are many web form standards in existence that should be implemented in your checkout if they aren’t already.  This includes:

1)   Using asterisks for mandatory fields

2)   Using drop downs where there are lists of options (e.g. Titles, Country Lists)

3)   Using radio buttons when there are only a few options

Pay attention to the design of your forms.  Field size should be reflective of the content you’re expecting the user to enter and field labels should be aligned correctly.

Much research has been done into form field label positions and the impact they have on the clarity and speed of form completion.

Essentially it has been shown that the closer the label is to the field, the quicker and better the form can be completed.  When designing your forms, make sure you give clear guidance information on what information you’re asking the customer to input. A good example of this can be seen on Next.

Next card details form screenshot

The downside of this same form though, is that field sizes are misleading, especially with regards to the issue number and security code and the field labels are too are far away from the entry area, slowing down our customers.

5. Have clear delivery/shipping costs upfront

None of us likes rude surprises and there is nothing worse than having to complete a three-page form filling exercise only to be confronted with unexpected shipping costs.

This leads to users exiting your checkout, abandoning their cart half way through the checkout process.

It also leaves them feeling dissatisfied about your company and their online shopping experience.  You need to tell your customers as soon as you possibly can what the actual shipping cost is going to be.  Inform them prior to the checkout process what your standard delivery costs are – even if it is a range of costs – and calculate the actual as soon as you have all the necessary information.

Walmart does this well, allowing you to get shipping costs before you’ve even entered the checkout, just by typing in a zip code. They also show cheaper or free alternatives, like store collection, which is useful information to customers.

Walmart Shiping checkout

6. Reassure customers their card details are safe

When taking credit and debit card details, be sure to show off all your security credentials.

Show your customers they are in a safe area as well, with use of https and padlocks where appropriate.  You can also take the opportunity to explain to customers who holds their card data and if it is your company, the encryption and security information regarding the database where their information is stored.

Looking at Play.com, they show security icons throughout the site in the footer, small and discreet. When you get to the first page of checkout, the icons are right next to the “create account” or “sign in”. This is highly visible and very reassuring.

Play security icons

In summary, put your customers needs ahead of your own.

What kind of experience do you want to offer them on your website? A quick, easy and pleasant shopping experience will lead to satisfied customers.

Implementing these six simple changes will help ensure your cart abandonment rates decrease and your sales and customers experience satisfaction levels, increase.

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About 

Leanne Byrom is a Freelance User Experience Practitioner and Lead UX at Phosphor Digital with a focus on the role of digital in the end-to-end customer experience. Consulting with large and small companies alike in building best of breed online experiences.

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9 COMMENTS

Matthew Niederberger

Reassuring that your treating your customer’s card details with the utmost safety is not always enough. In a study I did last year, I discovered that the brand of trust logo that you use is crucial to building that trust with your customer. You can read about my study here.

75% of the participants stated they have at some time NOT purchased a product or completed an online purchase process because they did not recognize the trust logo.

So, see this as a step 6a to your wonderful list of ecommerce checkout optimization tips!

July 10, 2012 Reply

Leanne Byrom

Hi Matthew, thanks very much for your comment and link to the study. It’s very interesting and I have found the same issues with ensuring the use of the correct/recognised trust logo. I would recommend user testing with existing and potential customers, putting a number of trust logos in front of them, and asking which of them makes them feel most “secure”.

July 18, 2012 Reply

The eWAY Team

Easy form filling could be further improved by pre-populating fields, such as automatically setting the country based on the customer’s IP address, or pre-selecting “free” in the shipping options if that is the most common choice.

This is a very well-thought-out article. We may share it with some of our payment gateway clients.

Kind regards,
The eWAY Team

July 18, 2012 Reply

danny

Some obvoius stuff in there but a little old skool to..

“Using asterisks for mandatory fields”
Better to just mark out optional fields rather than messy stars

“Using drop downs where there are lists of options (e.g. Titles, Country Lists)”
What about predictive input for country lists…

August 21, 2012 Reply

Leanne Byrom

Hi Danny
Thanks for the comments. On some forms I also prefer to mark out optional fields. It really depends on how many are optional or required and then how it looks. Generally, it is less costly to implement drop downs than predictive inputs which is one of the reasons it still works so well. One of the other issues to consider is languages or typing errors in predictive text. For example a Spanish speaker might start typing Espana but we don’t pick this up as being Spain unless we make back end associations. Or unless the predictive text can be multilingual as well so that no matter what language you start typing in all the associations are already built in. I believe we could use an IP sniffer to detect location and thus language for which the predictive text capabilities are required, but that is never 100%. If the eCommerce site (or any for that matter) was restricted to a specific language then yes I concur on using predictive text for country selection.

August 21, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Agreed Leanne. Anything that predicts what the user is attempting to do should be very well thought out and tested. When it is done poorly it can really damage the UX. Better to do it 100% right or just use the dropdown.

    August 21, 2012 Reply


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