Improving Your Checkout Process

Improving Your Checkout Process


Is your checkout process costing you customers?

The way your website funnels your customers through the checkout process may be turning them away. As an online retailer you need to keep a close eye on users who exit mid checkout. This veers a bit off my usual email-focused topics, however I do have some good tips for email below!

I’ve worked with ecommerce sites that had some of the most complicated checkout processes I’ve ever seen. Some had as few as two conversions per week. Most of the time, if the checkout process was over three pages, shortening it boosted conversions immensely. Several years ago a client asked me to critique their checkout process, as I walked through the process like a customer would, I found that they had a twelve step checkout process.

You read that right, twelve steps.

After some reworking, we moved the checkout process down to 1 step. It was a simple one page checkout page that incorporated the up sells that were needed from the previous site. They went from 2 conversions a week, to over 300.

That isn’t the typical conversion rate boost I see. However, based on the traffic, we expected results like that for an improved page. So, how can you improve your checkout process?

Number of steps

As referenced above. How many steps is your checkout process? If it’s any longer than three, you can condense items. A three step checkout process normally doesn’t dissuade users. Look at what pages can be combined, or removed all together. Billing and Shipping information are able to live on one page. Don’t spend page and pages offering additional items to your customers. Make it a sleek widget that lives on the side if you need to offer up sells, complementary items, or accessories.

Checkout abandonment campaigns

Add a widget on your shopping cart that offers a 5% coupon code if a user puts in their email address. This serves two purposes, 1 you got an email sign up, 2 this allows you to tie their shopping cart ID to their email address. If they don’t go through with the purchase, you can send the customer reminders that they left items in their cart. And, if needed, you can follow up with more inviting coupons.

The Dirty Dozen

Don’t know what’s wrong with your website? Ask your customers. Or, the demographic that would be your customers. Sit in a coffee shop and ask the opinion of strangers on your website. Do not ask your friends, or your family — likely their opinions will be skewed.

Not sure what to ask them? Come up with a few products that you think would be easy to find on your website. Print them up on a sheet of paper, and ask the person who is testing your site to find those products. They may search the site in a way that you don’t expect. If they’re willing, watch them go through all the steps of the checkout process to purchase these products.

After they’ve gone through the checkout process, ask if there’s anything they saw that would have hindered them from completing a purchase if they’d gone to this website on their own. Ask about red flags, things they did and didn’t like. Then, also ask them their favorite website to do online shopping.

Live Help

Add live help, or live chat to your checkout page. This will allow your customers to communicate any problems that they are encountering on the page as they happen. Sometimes, older browsers, plugins, etc cause weird errors to arise. Your customers may see an error on the page that you don’t.

Payment methods

Are you missing a payment method that your customers might want? If someone is new to your website they may not be comfortable using their credit card or debit card. However, if they have a history with paypal that might be the level of protection that would turn them into a customer. There are a wealth of payment options out there, be sure to include any of the ones that your customers might need.

What are your users seeing?

Have you checked your site in the major browsers that your customers use? If you aren’t sure how to find that information, it’s available inside Google Analytics within the Audience tab. Navigate to Audience > Technology > Browser & OS. This will give you a good idea the browsers/screen resolutions your customers are viewing your site with. There you can add a secondary dimension to back up the data your seeing. Is your page depth much lower on certain browsers? If so, it might be because your pages are broken in that browser.

Another way to compare this data is by bounce rate or exit rate. For bounce rate, from your audience overview panel click on browser. Then click on view full report.

For your exit page report navigate down to behavior, click on exit pages, then add a secondary dimension for the browser.

These should give you a good idea if there are any red flags about current browsers, or broken pages on your site.

You should also check to see if your SSL certificate is functioning properly. If your SSL is warning your customers that the site isn’t secure, very few purchases will come through at that point.

Test, Test, Test — Then test some more

If your cart software allows, A/B test your checkout process. Try changing the page structure, try shortening steps. On a page that customers usually abandon, add live chat, or add different trust factors.

If the page your users typically abandon is the page where they’re told the total with the cost of shipping added — you might want to try free shipping, or lower your free shipping threshold. Then add a notice to the page ‘You’re only X dollars away from free shipping’. Many ecommerce platforms will allow you to list ‘recommended’ items on this page that would match the purchase.

If there aren’t things within the checkout process that you can test, make the process as simple and short as possible. Add anything you can that would add to your trust level. A seal for a third party that verifies your site’s security, a BBB logo if you’re accredited, etc.

Who’s doing it right?

Sometimes these comparisons aren’t fair. Amazon could add a twelve step checkout process and probably not hurt their conversions as much as it would hurt on your website. Very strong brands can get away with more complicated checkout processes.

But, continuing using Amazon as the example — their checkout process is very streamlined and simple. After they have your information you can buy quite a few things with one click.

Ebay also has a very simple and streamlined checkout process.

What will you notice about the big ecommerce brands? Every page is there for a reason. They don’t need to spend ten pages on up sells.

The main thing that’s frustrating to customers is page after page in a checkout process for no good reason. Billing and shipping information should be on one page. Try to keep gift info on the shipping page (if you have that). You shouldn’t spend more than one page trying to up sell your customers on other items.

 note: Some of the graphics used on this page were designed with elements from

Improving Your Checkout Process
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Improving Your Checkout Process
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