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A Step-By-Step Guide to Optimizing Your Checkout Process

  • Conversion Rate Optimization

We’ve all experienced it: shopping cart abandonmentMore than 60% of all online shoppers (including myself) leave items in their cart only to forget about them and never complete their purchase.

There are many reasons why people abandon their cart, and while we’ll never know them all, we can make sure that they have less reasons to leave.

Users who exit your site during checkout, are further along your funnel than those who’ve only added items to their cart.

That means they’ve already decided they want to purchase your product and have taken the first step to complete their purchase—click the checkout button.

That’s why you must do everything in your power to eliminate any obstacles in your checkout process (also the ones you didn’t know you had).

In this post, I’ll show you how to optimize your checkout process for higher conversions in four simple steps using my real world examples from my favorite e-commerce companies.

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Step 1: Multipage or Single Page Checkout?

The key to an optimized checkout page is clarity.

There’s nothing worse than getting ready to purchase a pair of shoes you’ve had your eyes on for weeks, only to find a complicated checkout process that leaves you feeling confused.

Most online shoppers are regular people rather than tech savvy geniuses.

Thus, your checkout process needs to be as intuitive and simple as possible to increase conversions.

First, you need to consider the amount of clicks needed to get through your checkout.

Here, less is more.

Online shopping has skyrocketed in popularity due to its simplicity and speed.

Shoppers don’t have to wait in line, or spend hours going through racks of clothes to find the one item they need.

They just search for the item online, and in less than 10 minutes they have made a purchase that would have taken much longer offline.

Thus, your checkout process has to be as simple and time-efficient as possible.

The more clicks visitors have to go through, the longer your checkout process will feel, even though it might only take a minute.

This brings me to my next point: Multipage or single page checkout?

How many pages should your visitors go through to complete their purchase?

Multi-page Checkout

The multi page checkout (as the name implies) is a checkout process where visitors go through multiple pages to complete their order.

If you have a multi page checkout process, you should always use a progress indicator at the top of the page that shows visitors how far along they are in the process.

One study showed that, 20% of online shopping cart abandonment was due to long and confusing checkout processes.

A progress indicator can illustrate and simplify the process making the checkout process more surmountable and easier to complete.

West Elm has a multipage checkout process with a progress indicator:

The indicator highlights the step you’re at, and shows how many and which steps are left.

This gives visitors a great overview of the whole checkout process without frustrating them with unexpected steps.

However, if you have a lot of pages in your checkout, the progress indicator might scare visitors away.

As mentioned, online shopping must be quick and easy, and research by InSync found 10% of the average checkout abandonment rate is due to lengthy checkout processes with more than 5 steps.

My point: The progress indicator works well if you don’t have too many steps in your checkout progress.

So what’s the magic number?

The right number of pages depends on your business and audience.

Longer checkout processes are easier to manage (track dropoffs) and they typically seem more streamlined because each step is categorized and doesn’t have a huge amount of information on it.

Single Page Checkout

Single page checkouts work better for flash sales, tech savvy customers, frequent repeat purchases, and mobile shoppers because they offer a quick and easy checkout that doesn’t have to load multiple pages.

Here’s an example of a single page checkout from Brooks Brothers:

As you can see, all the steps are on the same page and all you have to do is scroll down, which makes this process perfect for mobile users.

The problem with one page checkouts, is that it can be difficult to fit all the information in one page without making it look cluttered and confusing.

Breaking the checkout process up, can help make the process seem more simple.

There’s no one size fits all with this one.

You need to test which option works best for your customers. Some businesses have more success with single page checkout, and others prefer the multi page checkout.

Step 2: Product Details

Once visitors arrive at your checkout, they should be presented with a summary of the products in their cart.

This summary should include images of each product along with potential customization options such as size, color, quantity to ensure the visitor that they’ve chosen the right product.

People don’t always click the right size, or maybe they decided to buy two instead of one, so make sure to include the option to change size and quantity with a simple click.

ASOS has simplified this with dropdown menus:

This way you won’t risk losing customers because they added the wrong size to their cart.

Upsell With Recommended Products

While I recommend you keep your checkout process as simple as possible, there’s nothing wrong with upselling.

By this, I mean recommending related products at the first step in your checkout process, and generate additional sales that way.

This is how Apple recommends related products in the first step of their checkout process:

They first present you with the item in your bag, and then they offer recommended products below.

Notice how the “Check Out” call-to-action button is a bright blue drawing attention, and the “Add To Bag” call-to-actions in the recommended section are white and less eye catching.

This ensures that the recommended products don’t take focus from the main purpose of the page (the checkout).

Also, the related products are relevant to the item in the cart which is an Apple pencil, and they offer accessories for that pencil, along with two sleeves for the iPad I’m buying the pencil for.

Some businesses have free shipping if you spend a certain amount, and if visitors are close to that amount but just under, they are more inclined to add one more item to their cart to get the free shipping.

This, of course, depends on your products and your audience. No one’s going to add a $500 bracelet to their cart if they’re buying a $200 watch.

Make sure your related products go well with the item already in the cart.

If you have a single page checkout, you shouldn’t have related items present, as this page is already packed with information, and visitors are looking to finish their purchase quickly.

Step 3: What to Include?

It can be difficult to figure out what to include in your checkout process, and many businesses tend to add too many things.

In fact, 50% of online retailers ask for the same information twice during checkout.

This does not only apply to the information you ask for, but also the amount of things you add to your checkout process.

Many of the things added to checkout processes are unnecessary and will only result in a higher drop off rate.

There are few things that should always be included and we’ll have a look at these now.

Security Seals

First, you should always include security seals.

With the vast amount of online shopping sites that exist today, it can be difficult for online shoppers to assess which sites are secure and which are not.

If your site doesn’t have any indications of it having secure payment that could potentially scare off customers.

Security seals exude trust, and ensures your visitors that it’s safe to pay on your website.

This is from the Brooks Brothers example:

Guest Checkout Option

You should always include a guest checkout option.

Some websites require a login to make a purchase, such as SSense:

This means that you must log in to an account or create an account to make a purchase.

This will scare off a lot of people who are just looking to make a quick purchase.

In fact, 30% of visitors will leave your checkout flow if they have to sign in or register.

While getting people’s information, such as their email address, before they make a purchase can be beneficial for your future marketing efforts, it shouldn’t prevent people from buying.

Nike offer a guest checkout option for people who don’t have an account, and don’t have the time or desire to create one:

By offering multiple checkout options, you’ll ensure that every visitor has a chance to make a purchase.

You can even follow Nike’s example and include a small checkbox where people can opt in for your newsletter or your loyalty club.

To encourage visitors to opt in, they’ve listed the benefits of their NIKE+ program:

You can also incorporate this checkbox within a later step in your checkout process.

We all know the importance of email marketing, and it’s a waste not to ask visitors for their email during checkout—just don’t make it a necessity.

One of my favorite examples of this is from Greenline:

I’ve used this example many times because it’s genius.

Greenline has included a small checkbox below the input fields that reads: Gummi Bears and great offers. Join our newsletter and get a small treat with your order.

And of course they’ve included an image of gummi bears to make visitors’ mouths water.

It’s super simple and it doesn’t take the focus off the main goal (purchase), but offers a small but delicious incentive to sign up for the newsletter.

Before and After Price on Discounted Items

Another thing that can make visitors more inclined to complete their purchase is to include before and after prices on discounted items.

This is an example from H&M:

The discounted price is in red, and then the original price is in black and striked through. This puts focus on the discounted price, and keeping the original price there emphasized how much money you save on the item.

Ensure that you do this with the total price as well if people have more items in their cart.

Exit-intent Popups

Lastly, you should try to catch your abandoning visitors before they leave your checkout flow.

Don’t include slide-ins or popups in your checkout process, as these can be a disturbance to people who are just looking to make a quick purchase.

However, you can add an exit-intent popup to catch those who are about to leave checkout.

Use this popup to try and convince your visitor to stay on the site, and finish their purchase.

The most used tactic is to offer a discount like Pippi does:

This way you’ll not only increase chances of people finishing their purchase, but you’ll also get an email address for your future email marketing.

Step 4: Payment and shipping

When it comes to payment and shipping—the more options you include, the better.

Other reasons people might be abandoning your checkout flow, is that they can’t pay with their preferred payment option, or you don’t offer shipping to their address or it’s too expensive.

I’m not telling you to offer free shipping, but you should always include multiple shipping options to accommodate all your potential customers.

Some people just want a day-to-day delivery and don’t care that they have to pay a little extra, while others want to cheapest delivery option and don’t mind the extra delivery time.

Further, the number of different payment options you offer can also have a large impact on your checkout abandonment rate.

You should include credit card logos in the beginning of your checkout flow.

This ensures visitors that they won’t have to go through the entire checkout process, only to find out that they can’t pay with their preferred payment.

ASOS shows their different payment options at the beginning of their checkout flow to illustrate the many payment options they offer.

If a visitor is further into the process, and cannot pay with their preferred option, they might be more inclined to pay with one of the other options.

This is again something you should test. Run different tests with and without the logos and see how big a difference in conversions they make.

Once people have completed their purchase, you shouldn’t forget to thank them.

Your thank you page is the page that sets the tone for your future customer relationship.

Don’t just say thank you. Get your customers to take action.

This could be sharing their purchase on social media, or giving you feedback on the checkout experience.

Your thank you page offers countless of opportunities for engagement and it would be a waste not to make use of this.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies?

Get access to our free CRO toolkit and skyrocket your organic traffic, on-page conversion rate and more (includes resources not found in the blog post).

Over to you

Optimizing your checkout process isn’t always easy as there are many different reasons why people abandon your site during checkout, and it might not be possible to identify all of them.

However, by eliminating some of these reasons, you’ll be able to reduce the percentage of abandoning visitors and increase revenue.

It’s the small things that count, and I hope that this article gave you some new insights and that you’re reading to start testing a few of them on your site.

Which of these strategies have you tried in your checkout optimization, and do you have any to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

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