How To Improve Ecommerce Checkout: 14 Tips
November 25, 2019
The Bolt Team
The process, design, and features of your ecommerce checkout impact how satisfied customers are with your service, and how likely they are to return.
A lot of time goes into the design of your ecommerce website. The process, design, and features of your ecommerce checkout impact how satisfied customers are with your service, and how likely they are to return. Keep reading for strategies to help you optimize your ecommerce payment and improve conversions. If all else fails, learn how to recover lost revenue through email efforts.
- What checkout abandonment is and why it matters to you
- Why customers abandon the checkout
- The optimal ecommerce checkout flow
- 14 best practices to perfect ecommerce checkout
- 5 optimized checkout examples to learn from
To start, let’s look at what checkout abandonment is and how it impacts your online store.
What checkout abandonment is and why it matters to you
Creating the best ecommerce checkout for customers is about developing a great customer experience to improve your conversion rate. For best results, focus on reducing your checkout abandonment rate, as customers that leave have a significant impact on your bottom line.
Checkout abandonment is when customers leave the payment process after it has been initiated. These customers represent lost revenue to your business, as you have expended marketing, operational, and development costs to get customers to this point. You should always work to reduce your checkout abandonment rate.
Know the difference between checkout and cart abandonment to identify where customers are leaving in your sales funnel. Understand this clearly enough that you can start to identify why customers are leaving.
Why customers abandon the checkout
The truth is, there are a number of different reasons customers abandon checkout. It varies across industries, audiences, and even from customer to customer. However, there are common reasons that customers have for abandoning payment.
Here are a few to get you thinking about why customers may be leaving:
- Surprise costs and charges: any additional fees (taxes, shipping costs, etc.) added at the time of payment deter the customer and cause them to second guess the value of the purchase.
- Forced account creation: demanding users register for an account to proceed puts an obstacle in their way. This slows them down and sometimes stops them from buying.
- Complex, burdensome process: Convenience is the name of the game for online shopping. Offer customers a fast checkout experience to reduce the likelihood that they’ll drop off during the purchase.
- Limited shipping options and methods: Delivery is a major component of the ecommerce experience. Customers want multiple shipping methods and customized delivery options.
- Concerns over security: Whenever a customer enters billing, shipping, and personal information they expect the system to be secure. Display security badges when possible and offer customers a secure experience when buying using your store.
- Lack of available payment methods: Customers like to pay with their preferred payment method whenever they can. When one isn’t available, they may not complete the purchase.
- Performance issues and errors: Customers are looking for a smooth, fast experience. Small issues are fine, but consistent performance problems on the website or app, slow checkout load times, and crashes will turn customers away.
The optimal ecommerce checkout flow
One of the best ways to improve your ecommerce checkout design is to follow a clear process and user experience flow. The ecommerce checkout process is the series of steps a customer must follow to purchase items in their online shopping cart. The best checkouts will have a clear flow and will be designed to be seamless and frictionless for the user.
A common checkout flow follows these basic steps:
This will vary somewhat based on what you sell. For example, digital goods will never require shipping details as the product will be directly downloaded. In general, the ecommerce checkout will follow these main steps, whether you use a single-page, multi-page, or more complex process.
14 best practices to perfect ecommerce checkout
Now that we’ve covered checkout abandonment, the differences between checkout and cart abandonment, the main reasons for customers leaving payment, and a typical checkout flow, let’s look at tactics to improve your ecommerce checkout page.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best and most common strategies for improving your ecommerce checkout to drive conversions and gain more revenue. Test each on your store and monitor the impact they have on your conversions.
1. Optimize for mobile-friendly first
Any modern ecommerce checkout page design should be made to be mobile-friendly (and maybe even have the mobile version prioritized over desktop). When developing your layout and integrating call-to-actions, make sure that the design is responsive.
Why it’s important: Over 50% of online shopping is now done using a mobile device. If you fail to optimize for mobile, you will be missing a large segment of your customers.
2. Allow guest checkout
While it’s important to gain recurring customers and foster retention, you don’t want to discourage one-time buyers. Make sure that a guest checkout is available to customers so that visitors can easily buy. Allow one-time buyers to input their email and continue with their purchase.
Why it’s important: Not all customers want to register for a service, despite seeing value in making a one-time purchase. You never want to create an obstacle for people who want to buy your product, instead making it easy for them. These one-time buyers can be reached out to after the sale as well.
3. Don’t ask for unnecessary information
Stick to the bare necessities only. Collect the information you absolutely require from the customer, eliminating any unneeded steps and streamlining the process. If you can, get a customer’s email early in the process, as this is the only essential piece of information you need to be able to follow up with and market a product to them.
Why it’s important: Added steps cost the customer more time, making the experience less convenient. Customers are also wary of giving up personal information. Always remove any steps you can and only ask for essential information.
4. Use a clean design and remove distractions
You exhaust a lot of effort and cost to get customers to the payment stage. Once you have them in a position to buy, you should do everything possible to funnel them towards converting. Remove any additional distractions, such as the header and footer, menu buttons, additional items to purchase, or anything else that will take the customer away from completing their purchase.
Why it’s important: A simple design keeps customers on track and gives them less reasons to leave.
5. Offer adequate payment methods
It is always in your best interest to provide as many payment methods as possible. That being said, offering more methods is costly. Prioritize the most popular methods first, expanding the options as your business grows and scaling becomes feasible.
Why it’s important: Customers can be particular about using the payment method they prefer. While many will choose the best option available, some will only pay using their preferred method.
6. Remove surprise costs and fees
Additional costs cause customers to leave, or at the very least second guess the value of their purchase. You don’t want customers making this decision when they are ready to buy, as it will lead to an increased checkout abandonment rate. When possible, provide as many details as possible up front, including a subtotal, applicable taxes, shipping fees, and a final order total.
Why it’s important: Customers want to know the costs ahead of time. With every added charge, customers are less likely to finish. It is advisable to show the final order total including additional fees at the cart.
7. Feature security seals and badges
Prominently display security badges and seals to show customers that your ecommerce platform takes safety seriously. These badges should be shown throughout checkout so customers have confidence in the quality of security the system has.
Why it’s important: Customers require a safe, transparent system to be confident in the security they have. Badges showing the systems protecting them instill confidence and give them peace of mind.
8. Use form validation and error notifications
Enabling form field validation in real-time can help customers input data and allow you to collect accurate information. Error notifications alert customers when they input data that cannot be accepted, making sure they don’t miss a step and that the data they input is correct.
Why it’s important: This helps guide customers through the process, at the same time making sure the data you collect for customers is accurate. This also helps validate transactions.
9. Connect customers to support when they need it
Facilitating customer support at the right time can mean the difference between a completed sale and an abandoned sale. Enable a knowledge base, a call center, and a live chat to give customers the communication method they prefer. Study analytics about why customers leave, and attempt to offer adequate support to keep them on track to buy.
Why it’s important: Providing the right customer support prompt can guide a customer through to purchase, keeping them on track and reducing your abandonment rate.
10. Use progress indicator to guide checkout
Whether your platform uses a one-page, multi-page, or multi-step checkout process, integrating a progress indicator is always helpful. This lets customers keep track of where they are in the process, as well as review the steps they’ve completed and see what steps are still to come. Overall, it gives customers an idea of how long is left in the payment process.
Why it’s important: Many customers find this convenient. More than that, it actually guides customers through the checkout and makes the process easier to complete.
11. Enable social sign-in to speed up registration
Allow customers to sign-up or register for your service by connecting via a social account. This lets users connect with a pre-existing account, verifying their identity and collecting personal details via their social account. This saves customers steps registering for your account and inputting data.
Why it’s important: Any time and steps you can save customers improves the experience, and motivates them to return to your online store.
12. Auto-save cart contents when abandoned
Offer customers an option to save cart contents, or simply auto-save items for them when they leave. This saves customers time by allowing them to return to their checkout, eliminating the need to browse and find the products they are interested in. This increases the likelihood that they will return and finish where they left off.
Why it’s important: If customers have already browsed for an item, done their research, and considered buying an item, they are unlikely to search for it again. Even if they are interested, they are less likely to come back and repeat that process.
13. Use discount and promo codes carefully
If you offer discount or promo codes to customers, you want to make them easy to input on your checkout page. You need to be careful about how you handle this, as you don’t want it to be too obvious for users without a code. Customers that don’t have a discount code and see an area to input one may go searching for a discount code.
Why it’s important: Customers that have a discount code will expect it to be easy to enter. Make it prominent for customers that need it but not too obvious that other customers are discouraged about the price they are getting.
14. Send post-payment order confirmation
After a customer completes a purchase, follow up with a post-purchase order notification and thank you. Most commonly sent via email, this will summarize the details of the order, including the subtotal, additional costs (shipping and taxes), item count, item details, final total, delivery estimates, and any other information the customer may need. This is also a great place to thank them for choosing your service. For guests or one-time buyers, offer them the option to register.
Why it’s important: Giving customers a great experience goes beyond payment. Packaging, delivery, and post-checkout communication all impact the overall customer experience.
5 optimized checkout examples to learn from
Now that we’ve covered best practices for ecommerce checkouts, you want to get started using these strategies to improve your payment process. The best way to do this is to look at real world examples of ecommerce payments and identify what they do well and how they could improve.
The following are checkout examples that range in quality so you can learn what features to use and why:
Nike’s ecommerce checkout hits the mark for most of the best practices. Their design makes it easy to enter as a guest, member, or through a social login. The checkout is isolated and removes the header menu so there are few distractions. Once a customer initiates payment, they are simply guided along the process. Support is also easily accessible and call to action buttons are clear.
- Clear order summary, with taxes and shipping info included
- Error notification for form fields
- Guest checkout is easy and prominently featured
- No trust seals displayed
A prominent ecommerce store in the UK, Schuh is a great example of an online checkout to learn from. They hit many of the best practices to follow, but miss on others. They consistently test and improve to make the experience better, showing the importance of regular testing and adjustments.
- One-page checkout makes it easy and clear to complete
- Order summary includes all pertinent information (totals, item count, item details, and additional fees)
- Customer review plugin actively giving customers real-life reviews
- No trust seals displayed or featured
- A lot of negative space that is not used, making it fill more of your screen
- No form validation or error notifications
Nordstrom applies many of the leading ecommerce checkout best practices, isolating the process and removing extra distractions. They use an accordion-style design to guide customers through each step. All details are provided upfront so shipping and costs are clear. The main drawback is that customer support is not easy to find.
- Order summary with all information (including cost, shipping fees, taxes, and final total)
- Self-contained with few distractions
- Inline form validation and error notifications
- Clear shipping and delivery details
- No security badges displayed
- Customer support is not easily accessible during checkout
Asos keeps it simple and sleek, eliminating obstacles and distractions to make it easy to follow along. They use an accordion-style to break up the payment process while still containing it to a single page. They make one fatal error; while they allow guest payment, they make it difficult to find (it takes 3 clicks to get to a guest checkout page).
- Accordion-style checkout guides user through process
- Order summary displayed clearly
- Trust seals shown throughout
- Call to action buttons are prominently featured
- Guest checkout is difficult to access
- Cart contents are only autosaved for 60 minutes; after this, you need to start over
- Additional shipping fees and taxes are not indicated in summary
Bonobos uses a simple, clean design. Prior to entering the payment process, they intuitively integrate cross-selling that suggests related products and allows you to add them to your order with the click of a button. They have a progress indicator that makes following along extremely easy. The big mistake they make is requiring registration, forcing customers to enter an email and create an account.
- Progress indicator guides users through process and alerts them of steps left
- Inline form validation and error notification
- Customer support option (via live chat) clearly indicated and easily accessible
- No guest checkout available; forced registration
- Order summary missing shipping fees and taxes
Bolt delivers a checkout experience twice as fast as competitors. We reduce the number of form fields, require fewer clicks, and provide faster checkout load times to make the buying experience fast and convenient.
This great experience is backed by the very best in fraud detection, prevention, and protection. Our system is designed to provide customers a safe, secure portal while also saving you money as a retailer by stopping fraud and approving more good orders.