Six eCommerce Checkout Flow Essentials for Increasing Conversions

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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In the world of online sales, the eCommerce checkout flow is critical. Even the smallest amount of friction in this process could cost sellers a considerable number of conversions.

According to the Baymard Institute’s stats on shopping cart abandonment, cart abandonment rates still hover at nearly 70 percent.

Why?

Three of the 10 most cited reasons include:

  • The site wanted me to create an account (37 percent)
  • Too long/complicated checkout process (28 percent)
  • There weren’t enough payment methods (8 percent)
Three of the 10 most cited reasons for cart abandonment

Notice that all these reasons fall within the purchase process.

Therefore, small improvements to eCommerce checkout flows can have a significant impact on the revenue a site generates.

However, the question is: What changes should be made to reduce cart abandonment and boost sales?

While the specifics of implementation are a case-by-case basis, the principles for a better checkout flow are universal. To build that enhanced UX checkout experience, let’s start at the beginning.

Employ Guest Checkout Options

While the idea seems to bewilder some sellers, many consumers utterly detest the idea of creating yet another account on yet another website.

Inkjet superstore screenshot

For proof, head back to the Baymard stats at the beginning of this piece.

Because so many shoppers are averse to the idea of account creation as a prerequisite to giving away their hard-earned dollars, retailers must employ a guest checkout option to optimize their site for conversions.

Once merchants have overcome the considerable hurdle of getting a customer to initiate the checkout process, it is foolish to impede them in the name of data collection. By not supplying a guest checkout option, retailers hamstring themselves and significantly decrease their potential sales.

Moreover, this option should come before the login fields. When the sign-in option comes first, it pushes guest checkout down the page, making it effectively invisible and potentially results in abandoned carts. However, when it is listed first, users (particularly those on mobile) are more likely to follow through with their decision to buy.

While this may seem like an obvious eCommerce checkout flow improvement, some major online retailers still do not provide this option (looking at you, Target).

Moreover, things get even worse when merchants force shoppers to create an account and then ask for the customer’s:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Password

Nearly all these fields are mandatory to ship an item to a consumer.

A savvier move would be to collect this information during the guest checkout process and then ask the buyer if they would like to create an account on the “Thank You” page.

Confirmation pages aren’t typically super useful. By using this page as an opportunity to allow consumers to generate an account by simply creating a password, retailers remove tons of friction as all the other necessary details have already been provided.

Additionally, merchants can entice buyers to create an account by offering a small coupon (say, $5 off their next purchase) to earn the sale and the contact information.

Avoid “Hidden” Charges

For those who have tried buying a plane ticket recently, they know that hidden fees are abundant. They also know that these added charges do not make for great customer experiences.

In fact, it’s all those little extra charges that add up and ultimately turn consumers away from making their purchase.

The aforementioned Baymard data shows that 21 percent of abandoned carts are a result of the customer’s inability to calculate the charges upfront.

Shoppers want to know how much something costs before they invest time filling out form fields. The main things consumers want to know are:

  • Estimated taxes
  • Shipping costs (and arrival dates)

For this reason, some retailers provide a tax calculator for customers to use prior to checkout. While this is nice, it isn’t necessary as most shoppers expect their order total to be impacted by sales taxes. However, retailers should at least remind consumers that their subtotal does not include tax.

The real culprit for charges that cause ditched carts is shipping fees. Merchants who offer different shipping options (standard, express, two-day, etc.) should let shoppers know, prior to checkout:

  • Estimated cost for each
  • Estimated arrival date

Retailers who surprise their shoppers with bigger-than-expected price tags are destined to generate lower-than-expected revenues.

Help shoppers understand the out-the-door cost of an order before checkout to minimize abandoned carts.

Showcase a Progress Bar

Once shoppers have entered the checkout process as either a guest or a returning customer, they should be able to view a prominently placed progress bar showing them where they are in the eCommerce checkout flow.

Showcase a Progress Bar

Naturally, implementation of this element differs from site to site. While some may prefer a clearly presented progress bar, others might opt for a simple step number system. Either way, the concept is the same and the result informs buyers on:

  • Which step they are on currently
  • How far until the process is complete

Without this feature in place, consumers might grow fatigued moving from page to page, not knowing when they will be done.

However, even with a progress bar, extraneous checkout processes will produce abandoned carts, which brings us to our next point.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Amazingly, even though 28 percent of consumers abandon orders due to overly long checkout processes, many retailers still tout verbose checkout flows.

Looking at a usability study from the Baymard Institute, the organization found that:

“…The average checkout contains 14.88 form fields. Yet our checkout usability testing also reveals that most sites can achieve a 20-60% reduction in the number of form fields displayed by default. In short: the average checkout displays twice as many form fields as needed.”

Therefore, to improve an eCommerce checkout flow, retailers ought to limit form fields and checkout pages to the bare minimum as these are significant points of friction in the overall process.

Since consumers can feel overwhelmed when confronted with a myriad of form fields, merchants can:

  • Combine first and last name fields
  • Use a single address line with the option to add a second for those who require its use
  • Remove all fields that are unnecessary to completing the transaction and delivering the order

Given the paring down, what is the ideal length? According to Baymard:

“…the top 50 grossing US e-commerce sites reveals that the average checkout flow for a new user is 5.42 steps long – counting from the shopping cart step to the order review step (both included).”

To produce a fruitful checkout experience that satisfies customers, retailers might consider employing autofill fields that populate zip codes, countries, states and cities.

Shipping address form

Additionally, merchants who allow customers to populate their shipping address as the billing address with a single click are also likely to see a reduction in cart abandonment. By decreasing the process’s complexity and length, retailers will increase their buyer’s UX satisfaction.

Showcase Trust Signals

Data breaches are an unfortunate–and all too frequent–fact of life in the digital age. Because of that, when users reach the most sensitive pages of the checkout process where they are asked to enter their payment information, many think twice before proceeding. In fact, 17 percent of Baymard’s respondents cited security concerns as their reason for abandoning a shopping cart.

Therefore, retailers should aim to quell consumer concerns by prominently displaying security badges throughout the eCommerce checkout flow, particularly on payment information pages.

checkout label

These signals tend to increase consumer confidence in a brand’s security implementations and lead to more conversions.

In fact, the Baymard Institute also conducted a study on how users perceive security during the checkout flow. The organization compared a variety of stamps, signals and seals to establish which ones induced the greatest sense of security among consumers. Some of the signals analyzed came from trusted sources such as:

  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Google TS
  • Norton
  • TRUSTe

As Baymard found:

“The SSL seal from Norton dominates as the seal that establishes the best sense of trust… The seals from well-known consumer-facing brands, like Norton and Google, perform very well. This suggests that it’s at least to some extent possible for e-commerce sites to leverage the recognizability of these brands.”

Given that consumers place trust in brands that leverage well-known and respected security brands, retailers would be wise to implement such measures and symbols in their eCommerce checkout flow to ease consumer concerns.

Provide Various Payment Options

More than ever before, shoppers have an array of payment options at their fingertips, and they like to use them.

chckout page

In fact, research shows that 59 percent of consumers will abandon a cart if their preferred method of payment is not available, while 40 percent place more trust in stores that feature various payment options.

Given this dynamic, merchants are likely to enhance their eCommerce checkout flow and user experience by providing a myriad of payment methods.

While debit and credit cards are a staple, PayPal has become a massively popular option alongside newer choices like Google Pay, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay and similar services. Additionally, some merchants might even consider financing opportunities for high-ticket items.

The more freedom the customer has to pay with their preferred method, the more straightforward retailers make it for shoppers to complete their transactions.

The eCommerce checkout flow is possibly the most critical aspect to a retail website as it is responsible for getting the customer across the finish line and completing their purchase. This is what boosts the brand’s bottom line.

Retailers should aim to remove all possible friction from this process and create the most streamlined, intuitive and trustworthy flow possible.

While there is no such thing as a perfect checkout process, Visiture’s UX and CRO teams have come pretty close by building a two-step checkout for one of our clients that increased average order values by 28 percent and conversions by 40 percent.

If your brand needs help in engendering similar results, reach out to inquire about our user experience consulting services and we can put your brand on the path to a fully optimized eCommerce checkout flow.

Join 150+ Leading eCommerce Brands

And see how Visiture can grow your revenue online through award-winning transactional focused marketing services.

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