The goal of any e-commerce site is of course to sell products. However, many people make the mistake of thinking that the catalog is all that really sells your online brand to its customers. Actually, how convenient it is to shop with you is also a major factor. This is especially important when you are operating in a competitive market, or are a new business trying to win over its first customers. The e-commerce checkout process, along with how well you manage shopping carts is a key part of this.

Here we’re going to take a look at how and why to make e-commerce checkout processes as straightforward, fast and seamless as possible, in order to make sure users have the best possible experience whenever they shop with you.

Shopping Cart Abandonment – Why This is Something You Need to Fight Against

Most people in the retail industry, whether online or in bricks and mortar stores, are familiar with the concept of shopping cart abandonment. This is one of the biggest bugbears in the retail industry and actually costs billions in lost sales every year. However, studies have shown that up to two thirds of this loss may be things that business owners would be able to recover by making some changes to their processes.

While sometimes shopping cart abandonment occurs for reasons beyond the control of the people who run the shop or e-commerce site, for instance the customer may not be able to complete a transaction because they lose their internet connection or, in a physical shop, realise they have forgotten their wallet, a lot of the time shopping cart abandonment happens because of a deliberate decision by the shopper not to continue with their purchase. In many of these cases it is possible for the business owner to address the obstacles that the person shopping felt stood in the way of them completing their purchase in a convenient and satisfying way. This is where the checkout process comes in.

Shopping Cart to Order Confirmation – What Are the Steps?

When you want to look at streamlining your online checkout process, the first thing you need to analyze is exactly how many steps are involved and whether or not all of these steps are necessary. The best user experience comes with the minimal number of steps, and when all of the steps involved are considered to be necessary by the customer. Analytics information is key here, as you can only begin to improve your process if you understand what is faulty in the first place. This can easily be done by installing an analytics plugin like the one found at monsterinsights.com to get all the stats you need on how your website is performing and what users are doing.

Look at how the user journey goes on your website from deciding you want to purchase a product in the catalogue through to ordering it and paying for it. Are there any screens or steps involved in your current process that could be combined? Do you ask for things that the customer may not feel are intrinsic to placing an order during the checkout process? For example do you try and encourage them to look at other products or sign up for mailing lists or other perks at a point in the process where this isn’t necessarily logical? Your process should be likened to paying for something in a shop. Being asked too many questions or kept waiting while things are processed or explained to you during this part of the shopping experience can be just as annoying online as at a physical checkout you have waited in line for.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t suggest other products or encourage people to join your marketing lists but consider doing this while they are browsing the catalogue, when they are looking at their shopping cart prior to checking out, or after they have placed the order so that it doesn’t get in the way of them making a seamless purchase.

Allow Fast Registration

Another thing you can do to facilitate your customers’ journey through your checkout process is to allow them to register very quickly with your website. This will allow them to make repeat purchases with just a few clicks as their address, payment details, and other records will be saved with their user profile. Of course, the registration process itself also needs to be very streamlined in order for people to take the time to do this when making their first purchase. Offering them the facility to create an account using the details they have already entered for this first purchase is the simplest way. If you encourage people to create an account right at the start of their journey of purchase, you will generally find less of them take up the offer.

Another way of handling this is to encourage people to sign up with an incomplete account – for instance just with their email address or Facebook profile to use your site, and then allow them to add things like mailing address and payment details later when they want to make an actual purchase. Allowing for registration definitely encourages return visits as people will know that they can make purchases very swiftly without having to track down all of their payment information to make a new transaction.

Save Shopping Carts

Another thing that can make using your checkout process easier is the ability to save things to shopping carts or wish lists. This not only allows you to regain customers who may drop out of the checkout process for technical reasons on their end, but also means that customers can effectively save items they want to purchase at a later date knowing that they will be able to buy them quickly and easily just by logging back into your site.

Of course, this is another facility that you can only really make available to registered customers so again, the registration process should be as simple and fast as possible.

Do Not Ask for More Data Than You Need

When you are processing an order, be careful about which fields on the form you make mandatory. The mandatory fields should only be the bare minimum information you need in order to complete a purchase and send out the product. Some sites fall down here by making things like a mobile telephone number mandatory when there is no reason to do this, or by making it mandatory to fill out things like surveys regarding where they heard about the company.

While it can be useful to a business to obtain this information, if they are off-putting to customers because they can’t complete their purchase without giving that information, they can do more harm than good. A phone number can be a surprising obstacle for a lot of people, especially if they are making the purchase on your mobile site and don’t want to leave the browser to check what their own phone number is to enter on your form. Other people are simply security conscious and don’t like having to give out information they don’t think a business needs in order to serve them.

Avoid Over-Validating Forms

As another point about forms, while it is good to have some field validation, for example to check that email addresses are valid, when this is applied too rigidly it can make it difficult for people to successfully enter things like zip codes and telephone numbers in a way the system will accept. The only way to check that you’re not making too many demands with your form validation is by getting some users to test the experience of using it.

If you invest in software that’s primary purpose is to reduce cart abandonment, you can make use of it’s A/B testing feature. An example of this can be seen through OptinMonster which allows you to test different content/layouts to see what brings in the most conversions.

Put Options That Add Costs Early in the Process – Before Checkout if Possible

Another reason why customers sometimes drop out before completing payment is that the added costs like tax and shipping make the purchase seem a lot more expensive before payment than it did when they viewed the price of the product alone on the catalogue. It is therefore important to make any additional costs apparent to the user as early in the process as possible.

If you have a choice of shipping options with some of them costing a premium, such as next day delivery, it can be a good idea to make it clear in your catalogue what levels of additional cost will be associated with choosing your shipping options.

As you can see there are some small details that many people may well overlook when designing their store’s processes, but which can actually lead to more customers failing to complete their transactions. The importance of testing your user experience cannot be understated, and even if you are running a small e-commerce business from home, you should still be getting people to try and comment on your checkout process so that you can make it as comfortable for your users as possible.

Tom Parillo

Tom Parillo

I am interested in all things technology, especially automation, robotics and tech that helps change how society will live in the future.