20 Ways to Optimize Your Checkout Flow

May 19, 2020
Adam Ritchie

20 Ways to Optimize Your Checkout Flow

May 19, 2020
Adam Ritchie
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You’d think that once you get someone all the way through your sales funnel to the point where they’re adding items to their cart, you’ll likely be able to convert them into a customer. 

But actually, the average cart abandonment rate is 69.57%. Most of the time, people who add items to their cart don’t bother to check out. 

This is due to a number of factors. The biggest cause of abandoned carts is somewhat outside your control — people will often add items to their cart without any intention of buying them as a way to see what the final price will be while comparison shopping. 

There are other causes of cart abandonment that are within your control, though. For example, according to a survey of over 4,500 shoppers, 21% of cart abandonments are due to the checkout process being too long and complicated. 

With the tips listed below, you’ll be able to improve your checkout flow, reduce your cart abandonment rate and ultimately make more money from your online store. 

1. Remove Distractions

For most areas of your site, there are multiple positive outcomes in terms of customer behavior. For example, after they land on a product page, the visitor will ideally click on the Add to Cart button — but it also helps your business if they click on other links in your navigation menu to browse more products, learn more about your store, etc. 

Your checkout page is not like that. Here, there’s only one action you want the visitor to take: complete their order instead of backing out. 

To keep visitors focused, you should remove the secondary elements that appear on most of your other pages, including your header, footer, sidebar and main navigation links. 

2. Reduce the Number of Fields 

The average checkout flow has 14.88 form fields, which in most cases is far more than necessary. 

The easier it is to check out, the more likely it is that the customer will do so. The following methods will help you get rid of unnecessary fields and encourage visitors to stay in the checkout flow:

  • Use one field for the customer’s full name instead of separate fields for their first and last names.
  • Auto-fill the city and region based on postal code.
  • Have the billing address selected as the shipping address by default.

3. Emphasize the Checkout Button

In order to draw the customer’s eye to the final checkout button, make the button large compared to other elements on the page. Also, use a color for the button that contrasts with the background of the page. 

Image source: Best Buy

This way there’s no guesswork for how shoppers can complete their purchase. 

4. Ask for Payment Info Last

Visitors tend to be more reluctant to give out their credit card numbers than other pieces of information about themselves — 17% of abandonments are due to the visitor not trusting the site with their credit card information.

If a potential customer’s payment info is the first thing you ask for, you just might scare them away. But if you build some trust by getting their name, phone number and other less sensitive pieces of information before asking for their payment info, they’ll be more comfortable with giving it to you. 

5. Set The Payment Info Section Apart

A Baymard Institute study found that, with a few simple design tricks, you can make visitors perceive your store as much more secure. 

For example, using a border, shading, different background color and other styling techniques to separate your payment info section from the rest of your checkout page gives people the impression that their financial information will be better protected. 

Image source: Baymard Institute

This isn’t true, of course — no part of a given page is more secure than any other part of the same page — but the way it makes visitors feel will lead to more sales anyway.

6. Add Trust Seals 

We told you not to put any unnecessary, potentially distracting elements on your checkout page earlier, but there are exceptions to every rule. 

A lock icon that confirms you have an SSL certificate and other icons showing that your site is trustworthy (Norton Secured, BBB Accredited Business, etc.) will help put the minds of your customers at ease. 

7. Keep it on Your Domain 

Another reason to have an SSL certificate is that it allows you to keep the checkout flow entirely on your domain. 

Many stores direct customers to an outside checkout provider because, instead of purchasing an SSL, they’re sharing an SSL with others through a third party. The friction from this disruption often results in lost sales. An SSL certificate is also good for SEO, and 85% of visitors won’t even continue to browse a site after they see that it’s not secure.

8. Add Social Proof

Here’s another exception to the “no distractions” rule — by adding the average star rating of your products and showing that they’re rated highly by previous customers, you can help convince visitors that they’re making a smart, well-informed choice by completing their order. 

9. Show Stock Levels

The current stock level for each item in the customer’s cart is another element worth displaying. It adds a sense of urgency.

Image source: Amazon

If the stock is running low, that will motivate the customer to make their purchase immediately.

10. Add a Progress Indicator

As the customer moves through the shipping to billing to payment stages of checkout, there should be a visual indication of where they are in the process.

Image source: Etsy 

If your process is short and fast (as it should be), this will encourage the customer to keep filling in their information.

11. Display Customer Support Options

As the customer gets closer to parting with some of their money, they may start to have some second thoughts. Indeed, they may find that they have a question they’d like answered before they commit to a purchase. 

Including your customer support information on your checkout page will help get those questions answered quickly. And ideally, your site will have a live chat feature that allows you to address their concerns in real-time. 

12. Don’t Forget the Mobile Experience

These days, when someone’s browsing the internet they’re more likely to be doing so on a smartphone or tablet than a desktop or laptop. Your checkout page absolutely must be responsive, which means that it automatically adjusts to the type of device and size of screen that’s being used by the visitor. 

13. Allow Guest Checkout

Forcing visitors to create an account before they can make a purchase is a surefire way to lose out on revenue that you otherwise would have earned. Specifically, 28% of abandonments are due to visitors not wanting to create an account — this is the biggest cause of abandonments next to the cost of shipping and other fees being too high.

Image source: Macy’s

It’s clear that many people just aren’t going to bother with the time it takes to complete that process, even if you do offer special discounts and other perks. So, allow them to check out with a minimal amount of personal information if they want.

14. Allow Registration with a Social Account

While it’s important to allow guest checkout, you should still encourage visitors to create their own accounts. This will provide you with more information about your customers and therefore make future marketing campaigns more effective. 

One solution is to allow visitors to create an account by simply logging in to their existing account on a social network such as Facebook or Twitter. This is much easier than creating an account from scratch, and there are many apps available that you can use to quickly add this feature to your store. 

15. Store Customer Info 

When a previous customer returns to your store to make another purchase, they shouldn’t need to enter all their information again. You can reduce friction by keeping this data stored and ready for re-use. 

16. Real-Time Field Validation

If a customer fills out all the fields on a page only to get blocked from advancing because of an error, they may get so frustrated that they just back out. Alerting the customer to data entry errors as soon as they’re made will help prevent that from happening. 

17. One-Page Checkout

Requiring customers to jump to a new page for each stage of your checkout flow prolongs the process and leads to potential customers bouncing. Instead, you should use a more streamlined layout that allows customers to enter all their information and hit the final checkout button on the same page. 

18. Persistent Cart

This feature is another reaction to the popularity of mobile devices — with persistent cart, the items that a customer adds to their cart on one device will still be there when they visit your store on another device. This prevents customers from forgetting about items they were once planning on ordering. 

19. Exit Intent Popups

Exit intent popups are able to detect when the customer is about to leave your page, and they can be set up to offer a special discount as a last-ditch effort to change their mind. As with the other tools mentioned above, there are many apps available that make it easy to add this feature to your site.

Image source: PayKickstart

You’d be surprised at the difference just one app can make — for example, the rafting tour company Wild Water Adventures was able to increase sales by $61,000 by simply adding an exit intent popup feature to their site.

20. Test, Measure and Improve

Finally, what works for one business won’t necessarily work for another. There’s no way to really know if any of the techniques in this guide will work for you until you actually try them out. 

With an A/B testing tool, you can show the original version of your checkout page to one group of visitors, a version with changes to the rest of your visitors and then compare their performance over the same period of time. That way, you can objectively determine whether the version with changes is improving performance or not.

Remember, with the average cart abandonment rate being as high as 70%, there’s a lot of room for improvement here. Just knocking a few points off the abandonment rate of your store has the potential to significantly increase your revenue.

Adam Ritchie

Adam Ritchie is a writer based in Silver Spring, Maryland. He writes about ecommerce trends and best practices for Shogun. His previous clients include Groupon, Clutch and New Theory.