The Importance of a Simple eCommerce Checkout Process

All online business owners can agree that the most critical component of your online store is the eCommerce checkout. It takes a lot of work (and sometimes paid advertising) to ensure that your website is even found on Google, so it would be tragic to lose your customer at checkout!

For sure, customers who shop online want an easy and relaxing shopping experience.  There is a  reason they are shopping from the comfort of their own home after all.  A confusing or long check out process is frustrating to online customers. In fact it is very common for an online shopper to browse an online store and put items in their basket only to abandon their cart come checkout time. The average number of online shoppers that do this is a whopping 69.3%.  While a portion of those customers who abandon their cart were browsing and not ready to buy, 27% abandoned an order solely due to a too long or complicated checkout process.*

Many of the problems can be fixed through your website design.  The following are some ways that you can simplify and streamline your eCommerce check out process and retain more sales:

1. Don’t Require an Account

Many online stores require a customer to sign up for a new account before they can finish the checkout process. These accounts typically require a lot of extra information and the time it takes to fill out the extra fields can frustrate a customer.  Also, most account sign-ups require a customers to supplying private information such as phone numbers and email addresses which can be a turn-off.  No one wants to be on the receiving end of unwanted calls and emails trying to sell more products, and we don’t want our personal information to be sold.  Being required to create an account caused an average of 35% of customers to abandon their cart*, even more than those facing a complicated checkout!  This problem is easily solved by offering your customers a guest checkout.  Almost all shopping carts offer this option in the cart setup.  If you do not have such an option with your shopping cart software, it would be smart to look for new software!

2. Make Shipping Costs Clear & Easy to Find

Customers like to know the full price of an item, including shipping, before having to go through the hassle of adding their contact and credit card information.  Can you imagine the reaction of a customer who has to sign up for an account before they can see shipping costs?  Adding a shipping details page to your website or a shipping calculator is an easy fix.  A full 24% of customers abandon their cart because they cannot calculate the full cost up front.*  To bring it closer to home, that is 24 out of every 100 customers!

3. Communicate Out of Stock Items on the Item Page

There is nothing more frustrating than filling out all your payment information only to find out the product you want is not available. Out of stock items should be clearly labeled before a customer tries to put the item in their shopping cart.  You should also include information about when the stock will be replenished.  The out of stock item will most likely be found on another website, so if you want to keep the business your customer will need to know how long they have to wait.

4. Give Customers a Chance to Review their Order

Having the opportunity to look over the details of your order one last time before hitting submit is reassuring to a customer. It also benefits you as a merchant by reducing errors in shipping addresses, etc.  You should be sure to include:

  • The product photo
  • Link back to the item
  • Quantity of each item
  • Price of each item

By offering this option, a customer has the security of knowing they didn’t accidentally add an unwanted item to the cart or select the wrong size or quantity of an item before confirming their purchase.

5.  Keep the Shipping Information Simple

Does anyone shop at a brick and mortar store anymore? Fortunately, we can say yes!  But the level of expectation is much different.  When we shop at a physical store we expect a line at the checkout counter, so we settle in and wait patiently… most of the time.  However, the internet is all about speed and getting things done quickly.  Even a slow loading website can result in a customer clicking out of the site and going elsewhere.  Because of the fast pace of online sales, you should keep the required fields in the shipping area at checkout to a minimum.

The following is a list of extraneous fields you probably do not want to use:

  • Title.  It makes no difference to a purchase if the customer is a Mr., Mrs., or Miss.
  • Company name.  This should only be included if you are offering discounts to business owners or selling directly to businesses.
  • Date of birth.  Requiring this type of information is too intrusive.  Unless you are selling an age restricted item or have a birthday club, etc., you should leave it out.
  • How did you hear about us?  Unless you are in the middle of an active advertising campaign, this question is unnecessary.  Much of that information can be gleaned through analytic software.
  • separate billing and shipping address fields without the use of a button or link that copies the information from the billing address into the shipping address.  For example, “Use billing address” or “Copy address above”.

6.  Keep the eCommerce Checkout Process Short

Simply! Simplify! Simplify!

Whenever possible, it is best to use a single page checkout with all of the required fields on one page.  That will help reduce the amount of times a customer has to click the back button when they fail to fill out a required field.  If it is not possible to use a single page checkout, you should limit the pages to two at most.  And remember not to surprise customers with the cost of shipping on the second page!  If for whatever reason you need to use more than two pages, make sure you incorporate some type of bread crumb trail so customers know where they are in the process and how many steps are left.

7.  Secure Your Credit Card Payment Processing

In a recent post, we mentioned that online identity theft has increased drastically since the issuing of chip cards.  That is because it has become almost impossible for identity thieves to use counterfeit cards at a physical store so they have turned to the online venue.  As identity theft continues to grow, you should offer your customers the highest security possible.  That will protect you as an online merchant as well!  You should purchase an SSL certificate to secure your checkout process. That little lock icon in the corner of a browser goes a long way to reassure your customers that shopping with you is safe.  It is also a good idea to display the logo of your SSL provider on the home page and checkout screens.

8.  Give as Many Online Payment Options as Possible

Most shoppers have a preferred way of paying for a product online.  Maybe one credit card offers more security, like instant alerts, while another card offers cashback bonuses on specific products or when used at certain stores.  Whatever the reason, it can be very frustrating for a customer to get all the way to checkout only to find you do not accept their preferred form of payment.  You should use a trusted and full-service payment gateway such as Authorize.net so that you will have the ability to accept all major credit card including American Express, debit cards, and telecheck.  Many people are still confused by PayPal’s antiquated check out process and it will cost you more in fees as your sales grow.

9.  Display Business Information Clearly

It is very important for customers to know they are dealing with a trustworthy business. For that reason, you should display your company information clearly throughout your website and especially during the checkout process. To ensure your customers that they are making purchases from a reputable business be sure to display:

  • Physical address
  • Contact phone number with a customer service or need help graphic
  • Money back guarantee or button for return policy
  • Link to privacy policy and security information

10.  Test Your Online Checkout Experience

After you have incorporated the above suggestions and believe your eCommerce checkout process to be simple and streamlined, check it out for yourself!  Visit your site as a shopper and go through the process, making note of any delays or problems you might not have noticed the first time around.  You can also sit down with a friend or two and let them pretend to be a customer.  Their insight may be invaluable.

 

* Baymar Institute – January 9, 2017

 
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