The checkout flow is probably the most important part of any e-commerce website. It’s directly responsible for driving sales and contributing to the business bottom-line. It needs to be streamlined to provide an interruption-free experience.
Checkout is a flow that often needs multiple back-end integrations and, thus, substantial IT capabilities to develop it and test.
The most Common Checkout Mistakes
- Containing too many steps
- Having to register before buying (forced registration)
- Asking for the same information several times
- Using not updated address validators without the ability to override them
- Surprising customers with hidden costs (shipping, tax, other fees, etc.)
- Confusing representation of the shopping cart content
Checkout usability and optimization is a big complex topic that could not be covered in a single article. I recommend any digital commerce team to do extensive research. Here we will be focusing on the most common building components in an ecommerce project.
For interesting checkout design ideas see 25 Inspirational Checkout Designs
Removing distractions from the checkout page, commonly referred to as “enclosing the checkout,” is a standard tactic to boost sales. While on most pages of the digital commerce site, you want to make it easy for shoppers to navigate to other pages, content, etc., on the checkout page(s), you want to do the opposite! Hide header, footer, navigation bar, search box, and other elements as they only serve as a distraction for shoppers in placing the order.
Visually show the checkout process.
The checkout progress’s visual representation reassures your shoppers that the checkout process won’t take long to complete and shows a clear path to finalizing the order. Having a progress indicator signals convenience to your shoppers and can significantly increase the number of people who go through with the purchase.
Forcing customers to sign up for an account has been shown to decrease conversion rates. Anonymous checkouts are especially important for first-time customers. Placing an order online requires trust in the merchant, and many customers don’t feel comfortable saving their contact information during their first visit to a new store. Also, checking out as a guest is often quicker than creating an account and is considered a lesser commitment.
Although guest checkouts improve the user experience for first-time customers, there are obvious drawbacks for merchants. Email addresses can only be used for shipping notifications, not for marketing purposes. That makes it more difficult to send customers your newsletter, promotional materials, and shopping cart notifications. But these shortcomings are negated by the fact that a faster checkout equates to more sales, and if you provide great value and a good user experience to customers, they will return.
Having guest checkout does not exclude an opportunity of getting customers to register. Many sites offer an incentive to users to sign up for an account. It can be a gift card, a special discount, store points, or any other bribe to motivate them.
A cunning way to get users to register is by offering them an incentive after placing the order. The merchant already has most of the required information, making the registration process fast and straight forward. As a motivation, you can offer a cool discount on their next purchase.
Registered accounts give customers an interactive experience and enable them to leave reviews and get more involved in the brand. This relationship is a prime marketing opportunity for businesses to personalize user experience and send out targeted product recommendations and promotional materials.
If you insist on having shoppers create an account in your e-store, you can also offer a social login. With social logins, users can forego the registration process completely and create an account using their existing profiles on Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Multi-page vs. one-page checkout
The standard checkout flow goes like this:
Overcomplicating the checkout process can result in lost sales and unsatisfied customers. There are two main approaches to checkout implementation: one-page and multipage checkout.
Multi-step checkouts spread out the steps of checkout into several pages. In contrast, a one-page checkout displays all elements of a standard checkout, including basket contents, billing and shipping address, shipping options, and payment information on one page.
The debate revolving around them is never-ending. While some e-commerce professionals prefer one step checkout, others feel a multi-step checkout is a better option.
Which option works best for your business depends on a variety of factors.
A one-page checkout displays all standard checkout elements, including basket contents, billing and shipping address, shipping options, and payment information on one page. Originally, one-page checkouts were put into practice to simplify the checkout process with fewer clicks and fewer pages.
Pros of a One-Page Checkout
- Fewer clicks,
- It appears to be easier.
- Reduces Cart Abandonment Rate
Cons of a One-Page Checkout
- Customers can experience slow page loading due to one-page checkout complexity.
- It could be intimidating and confusing, not suitable for complex or expensive purchases when a customer would like to take time to understand the process fully.
- Having a one-page checkout doesn’t allow merchants to track sales funnel data. In other words, Google Analytics can’t identify the point at which a customer abandons a sale.
Multi-step checkouts spread out the steps of checkout into several pages. While multi-click checkouts take more time from the customer, some online shoppers prefer them because multi-click checkouts give customers another opportunity to confirm that all the order details are correct before placing the order. It is essential for customers when buying expensive items online. The multi-page allows customers to think through their purchase and confirm all necessary information carefully.
Pros of Multi-Step Checkouts
- Support for complex orders
- Easier to incorporate 3rd party processing like payment providers or include third party offerings
- Ability to personalize checkout experience based on customer segmentation
- Allow for flexible shipping options like split shipment.
- Leveraging the power of Google Analytics to find out where customers exit the checkout process
Cons of Multi-Step Checkouts
- Difficulties in correcting information
- Lengthy and Time-Consuming
- High cart abandonment rate
Multiple shipping options
Different people have different needs and schedules, so it is ideal to have multiple shipping options available. Some people don’t mind waiting if it’s going to save them a few bucks, while others don’t care about the cost; they want the product at their doorstep as fast as possible.
If a business has retail locations, a customer also expects to have a pick-up in store option. It will require a different checkout flow, as you can see from the Best Buy example below.
Customers will also appreciate the ability to split the order and send it to different shipping addresses. Split shipment functionality should allow the customer to specify a different address and shipment method for each shipment.
Ecommerce sites should provide an abundance of payment options. Customers have various preferences regarding payment options, so the more you offer, the better. 40% of consumers have more confidence in online shops with multiple payment options, and 59% will abandon a transaction if their preferred payment method is not in place.
See the Payments article for more information.
The order confirmation page usually presents an order ID and a thank you message. It also offers an opportunity for further customer interaction, such as offering promotional deals, newsletter signups, account creation, feedback, or encouraging social media interaction about the purchase.
See the Order article for more information.
Mobile checkout is arguably the most important ecommerce conversion optimization trend today. Statistics show that ecommerce site visits via mobile devices have increased exponentially over the years. No wonder, because people carry their smartphones everywhere, from a bed to work to the bathroom.
Ecommerce designers need to consider that mobile users have a whole different set of requirements than their desktop-using contemporaries. They’re probably on-the-go and, as a result, are likely to be prone to distraction by incoming phone calls, messages, and notifications. They may not be connected to WiFi and have not always reliable data connections. Importantly, they’re using a touch-screen device with a smaller screen and a fiddly keyboard.
The mobile checkout experience needs to be tailored to these conditions.
Follow these guidelines when designing a mobile checkout experience:
The majority of mobile users are operating their phones with one hand. Thus it is vital to place the essential controls within reach of a one-handed thumb.
- Use multipage checkout to avoid scrolling.
- Minimize the number of entry fields
- Define an appropriate keyboard layout for each entry to make it easy for users to enter an email address, date, or a telephone number
- Take full advantage of browser autocomplete
- Implement an address finder to cut down a significant amount of time required to enter a full address that could span over 3 or 4 input fields. It is also less error-prone.
- Offer payment methods with mobile wallets like Amazon Pay, Google Wallet, and ApplePay
Explore the links below for more advice on designing a mobile checkout experience.
Learn about selecting payment providers and payment methods for your business (credit cards, bank transfers, recurring payments, payments in installments, gift cards, invoices, eWallets, cash on delivery, and others)