Every business, marketer, advertiser aims for better conversions; it could be more sales, more leads, more page views or increased traffic on a landing page. But for an ecommerce company, improving their conversion rate can be achieved by optimizing product pages , designing effective landing pages, reducing their shopping cart abandonment rate and finally, optimizing the checkout process. So, let’s now move on to the holy grail of checkout optimization.
Popular Checkout Flow Process
It takes 5 to 8 clicks for most of the popular ecommerce sites (excluding clicks required in form fields) to complete the checkout process, and that excludes the clicks required to fill up the forms. The default checkout flow process involves these steps:-
Shopper selects a particular product, specifies its size, quantity and color, registration, billing, delivery & payment option, confirmation. Besides a popular trend these days is to add a “Continue to Shop” option and offer a guest account to make the checkout quick & simple.
A cumbersome checkout flow can turn off your potential customer who is all set to make a transaction, but is disappointed with your checkout page interface. So, its very important to optimize your checkout flow.
Without a further ado, here are the best practices to follow for a userfriendly checkout flow.
Display Clear and Progressive Process Indicator
Don’t leave your customer clueless. Let the users know how many steps are involved in your checkout process. This gives them a clear view of the whole process and the time it will take them to submit the order. The progress bar indicator will show them the stage of transaction they are in and the next steps to follow. This gives the user a sense of control and leaves less chance to abandon the checkout process in between.
Make Registration Optional
Give your customers the liberty to decide upon registration by making it optional. People don’t always like to share their personal information unless they recognize your site. So its not always a good idea to make the registration mandatory. Also, at times, your customer might find it frustrating to fill in a long form and is forced to abandon his shopping cart. Let them make the transaction as a guest to gain his trust. This will help you in achieving higher rate of conversion. Baymard stats shows that 24% of ecommerce customers abandoned their shopping carts when asked to register an account to purchase.
While offering a guest checkout is one of the best practices to increase conversion, not all the industry leaders follow this. For the ecommerce giant Amazon, it’s mandatory for every customer to register with the site first to complete a transaction.
Tip: In fact, the best solution here is to inform your customers about the advantages of registering to make a purchase. Registered users need not fill a lot of information as compared to the guest user. Instead, you can encourage them to register an account rather than forcing it on them.
Create Compact Forms with Minimum and Only Relevant Fields
People don’t like to give or better say type a lot of information while making an online purchase, they prefer to share bare minimum information. Most of the big sites have the address or registration forms with minimum number of fields, in fact this is true for all kind of landing page designs. If you ask for less information they will purchase more and this is a fact. Also it serves your business purpose completely.
Avoid Asking the Same Information Repeatedly
“It’s not rocket science: the fewer questions you ask, the greater your form-fill rate will be.”
It’s a fact that the more efforts customers have to put in when shopping online, the less likely they are to be a loyal customer. To turn online shopping into a delightful experience, most of the good online retailing sites adopt many tactics. For example, in the purchase process after asking the billing address they give an option to just check mark a box if shipping address is the same as of the billing one. This almost halves the effort in filling up the address form.
Also, ecommerce companies should be vary of what information they should ask from their customer and what they can do without. Asking for unnecessary information can be seen as an invasion of privacy by the customers.
Include Trust Factors
Ecommerce is a virtual business. There is no brick and mortar shop in the first place to visit later with any kind of complain or grievances to be addressed. So, it becomes difficult for the customers to establish their trust on online sites. All the online frauds and data leak news negatively hits the customers’ confidence which directly affects ecommerce conversions. It’s extremely important to inject a sense of security among the customers to deal with the ‘legitimate fears’ related to the online transactions. To help the customer overcome their hesitation and complete the transaction with confidence the ecommerce companies display the security icons on the transaction and payment pages.
For example, VeriSign Trust Seal is widely used as an online trust signal. Also the assurance texts like “100% secure shopping” shopping work well in building customer’s confidence.
Display the Complete Payment Summary Without Any Hidden Cost
As per the studies, “Hidden delivery costs are the number one reason for online shoppers to abandon a purchase”. Mostly people shop online for two reasons, first being the ease of shopping and secondly to get the best possible deal for a particular purchase. But there are retailers who charge an additional fee at the end of the transaction. This is a huge let down for the customers and is one of the reasons for shopping cart abandonment.
The online retailers should better show the complete payment summary clearly on the check out page with all the breakdowns, including the shipping charges, import or other taxes etc.
Have a Clear Shipping and Return Policy
A study conducted by Econsultancy reveals, “the biggest disconnect between retailers and consumers to be in clearly displaying returns policies.” 88% customers point this to be a vital factor for the completion of a transaction along with the shipping costs. Almost 92% of the consumers point this to be a vital factor for the successful checkout process. Most of the big online retailers clearly mention the shipping cost and taxes in their payment summary clearly. This really helps them to convert more.
Keep a Functional ‘Back’ Button
Many a times, the customer feels like going back to the previous page to check or confirm something or the other while going through the checkout process. But, whenever they click on the back button they get to see an error page or an error message and, in most cases, they have to start the whole process from the very beginning. This is quite a frustrating experience.
But it is very natural from a customers’ point of view that they want to recheck the order details or address provided by them. If this process becomes cumbersome customers are very much likely to leave the transaction incomplete. There should be a ‘Back’ button on the checkout page and it should be functional at all times.
Give Maximum Payment Options
You should always provide as many payment options as possible. Apart from the card payment options, integrating payments through Paypal, and other popular payment methods like, Cash on Delivery works as a very good motivator for the completion of the check out process.
Key Differentiators of Popular Ecommerce Companies
The average conversion rate for the ecommerce businesses varies between 2-3%, whereas there are few online retailers who have managed to achieve the conversion rate as high as up to 10%. For example, Amazon, WallMart, Dell, Apple, Zappos etc. are the big names who have easily managed to convert more consumers into customers. Though these brands aren’t following a distinctly different process, but their unique and specific focus has made all the difference.
Here are some meaningful ways to improve your checkout conversions.
More and More Focus on Upselling
The top ecommerce sites have also shown a tendency towards inducing the customers more towards upselling. Most of the sites like Macy’s, Amazon, Best Buy every one gives the option to “Continue Shopping.” Not only that, they also put this important CTA button even before check out. And to make sure this doesn’t distracts customers from checking out straight away, the button is designed to be subtle in comparison to the more prominent Checkout button.
Making Registration a Value Added Process
Apart from Amazon, registration is optional for most of the top grossing ecommerce sites. Sites like Sears, WallMart and even Amazon have attached a tangible value to registration. They have outlined the benefits of getting registered to encourage more and more customers to create an account prior to the purchase.
Last but not the least, it’s very important to do A/B testing to see what drives the conversions for you. So, test, test & test. “President Obama raised an additional $60 million, using A/B Testing.”
To start with, there are a few elements which every ecommerce business should test including, form’s length, call-to-action buttons, single page vs. multi-step checkout. There is often not a big problem, but too many small problems which are ruining your conversions. Don’t you agree? We would love to hear from you.