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How to improve website conversions – Part 4: Smooth Checkout Process

In this, the final article of our series on improving conversion rates for e-commerce sites, we look at how to create a smooth checkout process. It's the final hurdle to get over and not always that straightforward. Knowing how to smoothly get money from the customer in exchange for the provision of your product or service comes with its challenges. Firstly, let's really empathise with a consumer for a moment. Imagine that you have walked into a high street shop, found an item to buy and are ready to exchange your hard earned money for it. What happens when the following scenarios occur?

  1. The till / cash register breaks
  2. The chip and pin machine doesn’t accept your card
  3. You have been told that you can't have the product because it is out of stock
  4. You are asked to fill out a form
  5. No one is there to help you answer a question you have
  6. You have to wait in line for ages
  7. You have been told that there's an additional cost you didn't realise
  8. You keep getting asked if you want other products which aren't relevant to you

If you were this customer, you quite possibly might have lost patience, left this shop and gone somewhere else on the high street, if you have time.

Switching to an online checkout process...

If you're shopping online, going somewhere else is far easier and quicker. We have so much choice that it only takes one bad experience for us to lost trust, quit our buying process and never return.

So the final process for a customer should be quick, efficient and bug free. There should not be barriers for the customer to slow them down and to rethink the products they have bought. We want to give you some tips to ensure that the checkout process of your store is the same.

Tips for designing an optimal checkout process

  1. Ensure the website is working efficiently, test it out yourself regularly
  2. Make sure you keep your stock up to date. Don't frustrate customers by telling them too late that the product is no longer available.
  3. Avoid getting customers to sign up to an account as soon as they choose the product, let them get to check out and are 100% happy, ask them to create an account afterwards.
  4. Allow the customer to change products or quantity at the end of the process, they have the right to. In other words, ensure the basket is easy to edit. Something Amazon does quite well.
  5. Ensure there are pictures and descriptions of the product, so the customer can review it efficiently and move on.
  6. Provide them with an indication of the stages that they will have to follow, maybe using a bar showing progress.
  7. Ensure all parties are aware of what payment options can be used before checking out. In some cases a client would come back if he or she is aware, rather than going through the bad experience and never coming back.
  8. When in doubt, over communicate. Once a customer has paid, ensure they know what will happen next. Give them a clear information and a call to action that invites them to, for example: create an account (if checked out as guest), check out social feeds, read testimonials etc.
  9. Ensure delivery options, timings and prices are clearly communicated from the start.

Simply put, the website checkout process is supposed to be quick and should not complicated. For example, today, even on TFL, they use contactless cards, Banks created their own contactless cards making the process easier and quicker. The same contactless cards can be used for orders under £20 in most stores, saving time that would have been previously spent waiting to type in a pin.

Let's look at some examples:

Example: Apple

Apple.com check out example - with guest checkout
Apple.com check out example - with guest checkout

Apple has a very well-designed checkout page doing full justice to the brand. The good use of white-space places full emphasis on call-to-action buttons. By providing a guest check out option to its users, the company avoids basket abandonment occurring when users are forced to register before checking out. The down-side of this option is that no information will be saved regarding the customer’s shopping information for future transactions. But if that is not a problem for your customers, this option can be profitable. CRM systems like ours solve this problem by the way. Regardless of whether they have checked out as a guest or through an existing customer account we unify their data so we have a full history of each customer's orders.

Example: Bellroy

Bellroy checkout example - all in one page
Bellroy checkout example - all in one page

Bellroy created a one-step checkout process, requiring only the most relevant information like delivery address and payment details to be entered on a single page. This technique avoids confusing shoppers and saves time. Also, studies show that one page Ecommerce checkout pages have higher conversions than two page checkout; the moment you introduce another page to the process you add risk - what if the page doesn't load properly?

Example: Nixon

Nixon one page checkout example
Nixon one page checkout example

Nixon’s multi-step checkout process (which all happens within a single page URL by the way, so avoids the risk of loading a new page each time) includes a progress bar at the top of the page to inform shoppers about how many steps are involved in the process. It makes it easier for customers to understand the number of actions remaining before checking out. The page also incorporates shipping policy, return policy, product warranty details and privacy notice to reinforce customers’ trust.

For more examples,check out this great article from econsultancy

If you've missed out on any of the other blogs in our series then you can find links to them below:

Part 1 - First impressions

Part 2 - Product Photography

Part 3 - Effective Product Descriptions

photo credit: hippo via photopin(license)