How to improve your online store’s checkout experience

The checkout page is where all the work you’ve put into your online store finally pays off. There’s a lot of high-stakes riding on how well-designed it is. The more convenient you make it, the more likely your visitors are to convert into paying customers. 

On the flip side, plenty of shoppers choose to abandon their cart simply based on an inconvenient checkout experience. The reasons may vary, from lengthy page loading times to incompatible payment methods. 

We’ll walk you through some general tips and best practices that can help improve and enhance the checkout experience for your online store. But first, let’s talk about some of the common reasons why most shoppers tend to leave a checkout page or abandon a cart mid-purchase.

What drives a good checkout design?

The key to creating a high-converting checkout page is to design it as an experience, not a product in itself. In other words, this is the pivotal point in your customer’s journey of shopping with you. They aren’t going to remember, and much less, care about what kind of features you’ve added to the page. This is a point of transition, not exploration. It’s where the lead becomes a deal.

Your checkout page should include everything relevant to turning your prospect into a paying customer, and exclude everything that could distract them. 

A good way to measure how well-designed your site is is to observe how customers interact with it. Do they end up needing someone to explain what the next steps are, or is the entire layout in itself self-explanatory?

Cart abandonment: telltale signs of a lacking checkout page

Why is cart abandonment such a huge concern? Because it doesn’t represent potential audiences that you failed to target. Instead, cart abandonments reflect missed customers who were almost about to make a purchase, and decided not to at the last minute. These are the shoppers you were able to engage through marketing and impress with your products, but were unable to secure with your checkout process. And for any business, that can be a huge blow, especially for online retail.

So let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why most shoppers might bail out on that last mile of shopping, after investing all that time and effort in your store.

Common reasons for cart abandonment

Unexpected costs can trigger shoppers to leave

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Every time you shop, chances are that you have an average figure rounded out in your head as to what the purchase is going to cost. It might even be a conservative estimate.  But it certainly is surprising when you see a number of those unexpected costs pile up and leave you with a final bill that’s more than you’re willing to pay.

We’re talking about transparency here. Customers appreciate it when retailers are upfront about how much they charge. Getting a shopper into picking a product, only to surprise them with a few add-on costs is not going to promote any impulse buys. It is more likely to deter those shoppers from ever wanting to buy from the same store again.

Unexpected charges are what lead your customer to second-guess the purchase, and oftentimes, shop at your store.

Registration forms mid-checkout

This is a mistake that online retailers make way too often. Customers don’t appreciate being held up at regular stores, so why would online be any different? Requesting your customers to sign up for an account or membership mid-checkout is one of the most counterproductive things you can do. It can backfire quickly if they drop the cart altogether. 

Allowing them to shop first, and sign up later might not seem like the best way to build a database, but it certainly helps drive revenue. This is way more important for online retailers who are just starting.

Every time your shopper lands at your checkout page, you should be trying to speed up the process, not slow it down. Get rid of anything that could impede the customer’s payment experience. Requests for feedback or registration can be made after the payment as well.

Poor checkout flow

The key advantage that online stores have over physical ones is that customers don’t have to wait at the checkout line. 

Obscure payment gateways, requests for feedback, and complicated sign-up forms are all things that your customers do not want to deal with. They might be less likely to walk out of an actual queue once they’ve already picked up a cart full of groceries, but it’s quite different online. 

The time they’ve already spent at your store isn’t as tangibly convincing as a physical, visible cart full of goodies. 

Security red flags

The primary reason why most shoppers would hesitate to shop at a local-based store that’s online is security concerns. Trust is huge when it comes to online retail, and a poorly designed checkout page can easily trigger warning bells to go off in your customer’s mind. 

Big brands have a huge reputation, and most customers are less likely to second-guess their checkout pages. But if you’re new to the game, then your page needs to reflect how reliable you are.

Payment methods: customers don’t adapt, brands do.

Not every customer prefers the same payment method. Rather than adapt to your brand’s choice of a payment processor, most customers are likely to simply drop off and shop at a store that offers and accepts their preferred payment option.

Errors in optimization or flawed performance

Now every website has its issues. Minor ones can be overlooked. But there are major performance issues that you need to look out for when designing a decent checkout page. If your loading time is slow, or the website is glitching randomly, customers would be quick to drop it altogether.

Most useful tips to change up your checkout game

Having said that, here are some of the best tips and tactics you can use to optimize, improve, and re-imagine your checkout experience:

Fetch email info early

A simple pop-up box requesting email information will suffice. You can request additional information through your follow-up campaigns later on. 

Most customers would be skeptical about starting an account if they’re new to your site. By limiting your request to their email, you’d be reducing their sense of risk with the information they’re providing you.

Once you secure your customer’s email ID, you can then launch an email campaign targeting all abandoned cart customers. You’d be able to identify why some customers are dropping out of the purchase, and will also get a chance to re-convert them into buyers. 

Just make sure you do this early on in the sales process, and also that you don’t request too much additional detail or information. Remember, the goal is to keep your prospects’ shopping, not busy filling out arbitrary forms.

Make your layout distraction-free

One of the few places where most online retailers get it wrong is by adding a header and a footer. Most of the time, this is unnecessary. Unlike your website’s homepage or a landing page, where you aim to convince customers to shop, your checkout page is solely designed to make it easy for them to purchase. 

Eliminate all distractions and clutter that could lead your customers away from the actual checkout process itself. Only highlight what’s most relevant to them. 

You could additionally add boxes that signal trust (merchant badges, verified symbols, etc.) and other indicators. But there’s no need to overdo it with banners that will only lead your customer’s focus away from the actual checkout process. What they’re looking for is the cart summary, how much it adds up to, how to pay, and when it is going to be delivered. These are the essentials that you need to convey.

Break your flow down to the basics

Once they’ve made up their minds on the purchase, and get to the checkout page, your customers are primarily concerned with what to do next. 

Give them very clear, actionable steps to make the whole process smoother. It’s better to take them through filling out essential information (like a billing address) one at a time. This de-clutters the process and gives them fewer things to focus on.

Adding too many actionable buttons will only serve to confuse or deter your customers from completing the purchase. There’s also no need to dish out all the steps to them at once. Keep it simple, frictionless, and easy to follow. 

More forms to fill? Don’t turn shoppers into droppers

Filling out fields is usually what many customers are put off by. Limit the information that they need to volunteer down to the absolute basics. 

If we were to bring the number of fields down to the essentials; it would be the customer’s name, delivery address, and payment information. The rest is mostly for post-order marketing. You need to know this so that when you offer your shoppers a form to fill out, you can keep it minimal and prioritize the basics. This reduces friction for your customers and keeps the cart checkout flowing.

Visual progress bars to map your flow

The best thing about a progress bar is it lets your customer estimate how much time the whole process is going to take. What generally ticks a shopper off is the unpredictability of most checkout flows. Knowing what to expect, and how long it’s going to take can relieve a lot of the stress that many new customers usually experience when they shop at your store for the first time.

Also, break the process down into simple steps, and add a metric to indicate progress. This is a great idea to keep your customers from getting tired of having to complete multiple fields. When you know that you’ve completed at least half of the checkout process, you’re more likely to do the rest.

Last-minute cart customization is a must-have

Another important point to note: Allow your customers to add and remove items from the cart without having to redo the checkout process from scratch. This way, you can make the best of cross-selling strategies. It sounds pretty basic, but you’d be surprised at the number of retailers who overlook this part.

Locate and validate, hassle-free.

Payment processors that instantly cross-check and validate addresses are a great way to save time. Furthermore, if you’re an online retailer with international customers, it would be best to add a solution that recognizes users by their IP address. This can help you automatically alter the currency based on where they’re located, minimizing customer effort to manually select it.

Trust signals convert on-the-fence shoppers

Let’s address the elephant in the room here. We all know what most customers are thinking when they transact for the first time on a new website: “Is it secure?” and  “will I get my money back?”

Trust signals are vital for your checkout page, especially when you’re an up-and-coming online retailer. Most customers would be immediately hesitant to share sensitive credit card details or make a transaction, without knowing how reliable the website is. So, how do you showcase trustworthiness to skeptical shoppers?

Tailor your checkout page to assuage these concerns through trust signals, from genuine buyer reviews, FAQs, SSL certificates, and third-party validation badges.

Instant response for rush-hour customers

Also consider offering a helpful FAQ section that tackles common questions related to transaction failure, returns, and refunds.  It’s also better to use logos of the trusted payment options you provide. These are more recognizable, and easier to grasp. 

Why are page redirects usually a bad idea?

One thing that can trigger customers’ distrust or suspicion is redirecting them to a different payment page that does not share the same domain name as your website. It might be a bit more expensive to get your website SSL-certified but it might seem worth it in the long run. 

Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with sharing an SSL with a third party, not having your checkout page doesn’t look good for your brand 

Multiple payment options, for every kind of customer

Many online merchants offer bonafide credit options and pay-on-delivery to fetch better conversions. It builds trust in a way that instant online payments can’t beat. You’d be reducing the risk factor to a bare minimum. 

However, credit options are too risky if your business is going beyond the local scope. It is difficult and time-consuming to follow up on defaulting customers, which becomes common once you allow them to shop on credit. 

Cash-on-delivery would be a better option, for low-floor purchases. It gives customers the transparency they desire and saves you the hassle of dissatisfied customer returns. 

Free shipping is too expensive? Try conditional shipping

Balancing free shipping with the extra cost burden might seem like a challenge. Beginning retailers bear the brunt of this the most. After all, you do need to keep those margins intact. One way you can offset this is by setting an order threshold for free shipping. 

Encourage customers to shop more and avail of free shipping, past a certain spending limit. This way, you won’t have to drain your revenue by shipping minimal carts for free. It is a strategy that has been tried and tested, with great success.

Google-based, except for shoppers on-the-go

Google-enabled and map-supported auto-complete can help you fill out address fields based on location. It might not work for most customers on the go, but it is a great solution for shoppers at home. It also keeps your orders free of errors, enabling faster and smoother deliveries.

Check-out in minutes is the new norm

Frictionless checkout is what draws and attracts your customer. When you give your shoppers too much time to think and second-guess their purchase, they will. It’s not about forcing a buy, either. It has a lot more to do with human nature and valuing your customer’s time.

For online retail, you must take advantage of the one-click function and have it installed. Retail is an industry where you’re expecting one-time shoppers to become regulars. You do not want them to go through the process of filling out their delivery information many times over. It is better to have an auto-save plug-in that saves all your customer’s information from their first purchase itself. 

Mobile optimization for the best results

We mentioned this in one of our previous blogs. It isn’t surprising at all that a majority of retail shopping online happens on mobile devices. 

Optimizing your online store to be mobile-friendly is the best way to take advantage of this. This generally means you need your website to be faster to load, easier to resize depending on the screen, and responsive to a variety of finger gestures.

Incorporating functions that allow shoppers to swipe, scroll, click, zoom in, zoom out, etc. are a few examples. 

Instant support for fast shoppers

Offer instant and live customer support links, chat boxes, and contact information right on your checkout page itself. 

Remember, you don’t want them to leave the page, so instead of redirecting them elsewhere, let them get in touch with you mid-process. All you’d have to do is invest in a good support staff that can guide them through what’s difficult. This also makes for great feedback, which you can later use to customize and redesign the page if needed. 

Being responsive and helpful in real-time can help your retail business more than you think.

Last-minute marketing tactics

The checkout section may be the final page, but it doesn’t have to be the end. You can still use it to non-intrusively promote other complementary products that your customers might be interested in. Just make sure it doesn’t distract them from completing the actual purchase.

As cliche as it sounds, human nature and psychology play a huge role in every purchase. We aren’t talking only about impulsive buys. Even the most rational-thinking customers tend to act on cue when it comes to sales tactics

Stock level indicators on your checkout page can motivate shoppers (“Only 3 more left”) with a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) and drive out uncertainty. 

Others might be more responsive to urgency prompts that offer a promise of a better reward for quick purchases (“Same-day delivery offer ends at 12.00”).

Find ways to use psychological triggers and sales tactics that are proven to encourage better spending and more shopping. 

Make their wish(list) come true!

What’s great about including a wishlist option? It gives you an idea about buyer preference, so you know which products they prefer. 

More importantly, you can notify them every time there’s a deal or discount on any of the products they’ve picked and haven’t bought yet. This way, you won’t lose out on any customers just because your pricing is off. 

Better deals to bring back cart-droppers

Some shoppers might drop out of your checkout page simply because your pricing is too high. If you’re willing to be a bit more flexible, try reaching out to accounts that haven’t made the purchase, offering them better deals on the items they picked but won’t buy yet. You don’t have to skip to this stage all at once though. A simple pop-up questionnaire box that inquires why they chose to exit helps you identify what triggered them to leave.

Incentivize future shopping

You don’t always have to offer a discount on an ongoing purchase to get customers back. Try encouraging them to shop from you again by offering them vouchers, and upgraded membership deals. This gives them a better incentive and motivates them to buy more from you.

Specify errors to validate in real-time

Here’s something that a lot of eCommerce websites tend to overlook. When you enable form validation that checks the customer-filled data for errors, make sure you indicate why it won’t be accepted.

In other words, customers have no way of knowing what to change if you don’t specify what’s wrong in the first place. The quicker you get shoppers to correct random mistakes, the faster you can direct them to check out. 

Sealing the deal

Finally, do not forget to automate sending order confirmation details as soon as the customer completes payment. A general summary of the total, items included, and delivery details are essential. This would also be a better-suited space for you to request new customers to register an account, offer feedback, or leave a query.

The Takeaway

Cart abandonments and missed shoppers can be dispiriting, but it doesn’t have to be. It forces you to figure out ways to improve your checkout in real-time, with live customer responses guiding your entire process and flow. 

We’ve discussed a few tactics you can use in this blog, but a lot of it depends on what kind of business you run, and the kind of customers you’re able to attract. Not all of them are essential. Nevertheless, they’re great for helping you reconsider how to construct a value-driven checkout experience.

Have thoughts of your own, or need advice on how to set up a winning checkout page for your online store? Feel free to reach out to us here. We’re more than happy to help.

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