10 Best Practices to Improve Your Ecommerce Checkout

It’s not enough in 2019 to have good products and a decent website. Customers expect more. In fact, 26% of customers say they will find another company to buy from if they have one bad experience with a brand and 92% say they will stop shopping at a company after three bad experiences.

Your site experience starts with your marketing efforts and continues through your eCommerce checkout process. Even if your customers find the right products and decide to buy, a bad checkout will drive them away. If you haven’t audited your checkout process recently, it is time to review a few best practices to ease the customer experience.    

Shopping Cart Abandonment vs. Checkout Abandonment

It’s not uncommon to lump your entire eCommerce checkout process into one department. Most people focus on the shopping cart abandonment aspect when they consider checkout abandonment. However, there are certain nuances to be aware of.

  • The cart process refers to the addition of items during the shopping experience and the decision to complete said purchase.
  • The checkout process refers to when a customer actually pays for their products.

Shopping cart abandonment is a conversion problem. Customers bounce because of myriad factors. They aren’t happy with the price, the shipping cost surprises them, or they think they can find the products elsewhere for a better deal.

Conversely, checkout abandonment is a development problem. Customers leave because they can’t process their payments or they grow so frustrated with the payment process they avoid your site in the future.

A Poor Checkout Experience Hurts Your Ecommerce Efforts

You may not realize the full impact that your checkout experience has on your business, especially if your abandon cart rates are improving and your sales are growing. However, you could have long-term problems with retention and brand loyalty if customers remember your checkout experience negatively.

When a customer has a poor checkout experience, especially when they can buy the products or book services elsewhere, they will go out of their way to avoid your business in the future. Not only are you losing out on their sales, but you are also driving up your marketing costs having to lure new customers to replace them. As Constant Contact reports:

  • Existing customers are easier to sell to. They have an average 65% chance of converting compared to a 13% chance for new customers.
  • Existing customers spend more. They add more items to their carts and are open to impulse buys because they trust your brand.
  • Existing customers cost less. It costs five times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer.

Your poor checkout process will be reflected in your retention rates and ROI as your sales plateau and your marketing costs increase. Even if you have high-quality products and a strong website, your checkout process could drive people away. 

10 Ecommerce Checkout Best Practices to Improve Your Site

Once you take a hard look at your eCommerce checkout process, you can start to notice the challenges your customers face and bumps in the road that could prevent them from completing their purchases. Here are 10 best practices to kick off your evaluation so you can decide how to improve your eCommerce site.

1. Avoid Surprise Costs and Fees

Your customer has already agreed to pay for a set number of products for a set cost. Do not surprise them with extra taxes, fees, and shipping costs. This will make them reconsider and even bounce.

If possible, include these costs in the cart so your customer sees the estimated total and decides to pay that amount before they checkout.

While PetSmart means well, customers can’t estimate the shipping costs until they add their contact information and shipping address. The PetSmart checkout process would be more effective if they provided an estimate and had to change it instead of refusing to tell people how much shipping costs until they were on step three out of six.

2. Simplify Your Fields

Your customers don’t want to spend all day making a purchase. Actually paying is the least fun part of shopping. Try to minimize the number of fields and how many pages your customers have to sort through. The top companies have switched to a single-page checkout so shoppers can see exactly how far they have to go until the process is done.

Etsy is as simple as it gets in the checkout process. Customers know they only have to fill out two pages: the shipping and the payment. Anything else is optional.

3. Autofill Where You Can

Simple forms and autofill go hand-in-hand. If your forms are simple and you aren’t asking for anything outlandish, then Google and Bing autofill should be able to complete the vast majority of your forms. This means the payment process will last just a few minutes, giving your customers less time to change their minds.

While the Sunglass Hut checkout process isn’t the easiest, autofill certainly speeds up the process. You can fill out the payment information in just a few clicks so your shades are on the way.

4. Offer Multiple Payment Options

The more flexible your payment options, the better. Limiting your customers to a few credit card choices will annoy shoppers who already have one card ready or want to earn points, miles, or cash back with their desired card. Adding services like Paypal also makes it easy for customers to checkout with just a few clicks.

Not only does Barnes&Noble show the estimated shipping before you get to the cart, it shows how customers can check out with PayPal and Masterpass.

5. Ask for Payment Information Last

The actual credit card payment is the final hurdle for conversion and is also the part that will make customers reconsider their purchase. Place this section last to maximize conversions. Your customers will have already invested enough time and energy shopping and filling out other fields that they will push forward to complete the purchase.

The theme park Busch Gardens is another eCommerce checkout example that needs work. Not only are there an excessive amount of steps, but they ask who the card belongs to after customers review their orders. The website asks customers to add more information even though they think they are already done.

6. Instill Confidence in Your Site Security

If you have certifications from the Better Business Bureau and other organizations that validate you as a business, display them in your checkout process. Almost 70 percent of customers have serious concerns about how companies handle their data. If customers don’t trust your website, they aren’t going to buy from you.

You can’t get any clearer about safety and security than Ace Hardware. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the words “Secure Checkout.” 

7. Make Customer Service Contact Information Clear

If your customers can’t figure out your checkout process, give them an opportunity to connect with you. The last thing you want is for customers to bounce because they can’t navigate your site and don’t know how to reach you.

Clearly display your customer service number and email, or offer to chat with customers about their purchases. You will notice a significant drop in checkout abandon rates if customers can ask for help when they need it.

Look at Bass Pro Shops to see how they emphasize customer service. Almost their entire footer is customer care-focused. 

8. Showcase Your Return Policy

Along with your customer service information, display your return policy. This will clear up any ambiguity for when customers can return products and how, and it will also build trust with them. There is less risk involved with buying a product if your customers can return it, making them more confident and likely to complete the purchase.

Expedia checks most of these boxes. It instills trust by boasting reviews by feefo and clearly states the hotel cancellation policy multiple times on the site, comforting customers who may need to change their plans.

9. Test and Field Button Placement

You might think you have the best placement and web design on the web, but your buttons could be throwing people off. Test your buttons on various devices and invest in tools that review the customer experience. Small choices, like placing the Complete Purchase button below the fold or confusing gift card with promo code fields could frustrate shoppers.  

Total Wine exemplifies exactly how subjective the eCommerce checkout design process is. While the design is clean, some customers might associate the bar above the checkout button as a page stop, leaving them confused and wondering how to complete the purchase.

totalwine ecommerce checkout

10. Remove Distractions

Use your cart to cross-sell customers and convince them to buy additional items or increase their purchase with upsells. The shopping cart process is ideal for getting people to buy more. However, the goal of the eCommerce checkout process is to get customers to convert.

Look for checkout designs that are clean and simple so customers don’t have any distractions pulling their attention away.  

The entire Kilwin’s site is built on simplicity, but their checkout process, in particular, is clean and simple. Plus, you can complete the purchase in one page.

Let Us Evaluate Your Ecommerce Checkout Process

Every website has its strengths and weaknesses. What your checkout process does well another brand might struggle with. If you want objective advice on what your eCommerce site is doing well and where it needs work, sign up for our Free 25-Point User Experience Audit. We can review your site performance and focus on the checkout process to improve your customer experience and bring people back.