No element of your e-commerce store is as important as the checkout. You can use every trick in the book to encourage shoppers to add items to their carts, but unless you get your checkout right, you are going to be losing sales.
A successful checkout involves providing the customers with what they want (the customer is always right, remember?) This will create a better buying experience for them, improving your reputation and brand image. And, of course, it will also improve your chances of converting more visitors.
1. Shoppers Want to Know Exactly Where They Are in the Buying Process
When people buy your products, they want to know how soon they will get from adding their item to the cart to receiving their confirmation.
So show them.
A simple progress bar will show your customers how many stages are left before they complete their purchase, and you can indicate this in a progress bar along the top, like this one at the Parker website:
This is especially important if you have quite a few stages. Your customers may get disheartened by so many new steps if they don’t know if more are coming. When what they thought was only going to take a few seconds turns into many minutes, they may become frustrated, and you risk them abandoning the whole process. If they know that they are on the penultimate step, they are far more likely to continue with the process.
2. Shoppers Want Speed
It’s a basic requirement from all internet users on any website. No one wants to wait around for pages to load, and this is especially true when making a purchase. When a shopper has just made the decision to buy, don’t lose them by slowing down the experience. This starts with a slick website design, where the pages load in an instant (never underestimate how impatient people are when they are buying something).
But also, make the process as quick as possible. For example, why have seven stages in your checkout when you could have three? If the shopper is an existing customer, make sure you have their address and card details all ready to go so they don’t have to fill them in again. If they are new, provide them with a guest checkout facility to speed up the process even more, like Staples does in its store:
Or let them sign in with Facebook rather than their username and password, which they may have forgotten.
If you have a number of shipping options, update the price automatically when they change their shipping method rather than having them refresh the page manually. Speed matters, so constantly look for ways to speed up the process without losing anything along the way.
3. Shoppers Want an Easy Experience
As well as speeding up the checkout, make it as easy as you possibly can for people to make a purchase. Your customers will thank you for it. There are many elements involved in this. For example, provide shoppers with the ability to edit items in their basket without having to go back to the store, which keeps them moving forward.
Provide shoppers with numerous payment options. Sometimes people will not want to use a credit card, and they may prefer to use the money in their PayPal accounts. You’ll only be hurting your sales if you don’t provide more options.
Show shoppers thumbnails of their purchases so they can see exactly what they have bought. Some people will make mistakes, and they will have something they did not want, so let them get rid of items with a click. If they have to go back to find out what they put into their carts, they may not complete the purchase.
Make it straightforward. The design and the color scheme should help here, so use a clear button to move them onto the next stage and, eventually, to confirm the purchase. Don’t make them have to look for it.
You can also help by providing them with suggestions for other purchases, whether cross-selling or upselling. They both have obvious advantages to you, and they can also be very useful for customers. HomeDepot does this as soon as you add an item to your cart:
Take advantage of the moment when your shoppers are in buying mode—a good suggestion right now could add up to more sales.
4. Shoppers Want Security
Shoppers want to know that they are safe when they shop in your store. The simplest way to do that is to clearly display your security seals, which shoppers can see at every stage in the process without having to look for them. Zappos does this by displaying security symbols right at the start of the process and including a link to its ‘Safe Shopping Guarantee’:
This is all about creating a relaxed environment for your customers where they know they won’t have to worry about security problems.
The design also inspires trust. A dated website design could imply that site security is not up to scratch. So make sure the whole design creates the impression of a site that takes is security seriously.
Turn Your Checkout into a Great Experience
Customers want all of these elements, and there really is nothing preventing you from providing them with what they want. Use them all, and when you think you’ve cracked it, go through the checkout again and improve it some more. Get other people to go through it. What do they dislike about it? What would stop them making a purchase?
Even better, test your checkout to find out what works best. Use your analytics to find out where the friction is occurring. If lots of shoppers are leaving at one particular stage, this is a sign that something is wrong. As you test, you may find out new things that surprise you, new ways to improve the experience, so keep on updating it. Ultimately, make the experience better for your customers—and better for your sales.