May 2, 2023

How to Optimize Your Ecommerce Checkout Flow [Examples + 5 Best Practices]

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The smallest change to your ecommerce checkout flow can have a big impact on the bottom line. With shoppers abandoning carts at high rates, it’s critical to create a smooth ecommerce checkout flow that makes the shopping experience friction-free. In 2021, the average cart abandonment rate was a whopping 71.15%. Well over half of ecommerce […]

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Kaitlyn Ambrose

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The smallest change to your ecommerce checkout flow can have a big impact on the bottom line.

With shoppers abandoning carts at high rates, it’s critical to create a smooth ecommerce checkout flow that makes the shopping experience friction-free.

In 2021, the average cart abandonment rate was a whopping 71.15%. Well over half of ecommerce shoppers aren’t completing purchases.

What’s more, almost 20% of shoppers cite a too-long or complex checkout process as their top reason for abandoning a cart.

But how do you know if your checkout isn’t working? Where should you start to identify issues or potential optimizations?

Today, you’ll get tons of inspiration on how to create a high-converting checkout experience, plus see examples of how real, aspirational ecommerce brands are making this happen.

Let’s get to it. Or, skip through to the section you want:

First up: What is an ecommerce checkout flow?

Whether you call it a checkout flow or a checkout process, it’s all the same. A checkout flow refers to all the individual steps involved for a customer on your online storefront to purchase their items successfully.

These steps include the moment customers initiate a checkout (usually by clicking “checkout” after viewing their cart) all the way through to order confirmation, like this example from TULA Skincare:

Credit: TULA Skincare

The average checkout flow may seem pretty straightforward, but things can get complex quickly if you try to pack in too many steps. Oppositely, you could be leaving money on the table if you aren’t optimizing your checkout flow and just going with the defaults.

How can you tell if your checkout flow isn’t working?

Aside from a high cart abandonment rate (anything meeting or exceeding the 71% average is considered pretty high), there are several factors that could be throwing a wrench in your checkout flow.

Let’s look at some of the biggest reasons for underperformance:

  • Hidden fees or charges: 48% of shoppers cite extra costs or hidden fees as the primary reason for leaving their cart without purchasing. While this may not be intentional, shoppers really don’t like unaccounted-for costs upon checkout. Seeing a totally different price to consider adds friction at a key decision point. It’s best to communicate their grand total (shipping, taxes, other fees, plus product pricing) in a clear way during the checkout process—or ideally even earlier where you can. We’ll get into this more later!
  • Limited payment options: While only 9% of shoppers cite limited payment options as their main reason for cart abandonment, it’s still a factor to consider. Figure out which payment methods are most popular with your target customer—be it digital wallets, Shop Pay, or a good ol’ credit card and ensure these are offered on your site. This happens to be a core consideration for when you expand into international markets too.
  • Too many steps: A complicated checkout process is sure to frustrate customers and prevent them from completing their purchase. This often means too many steps, modules, or micro-interactions to navigate to during checkout and not being able to double-check what’s in a cart until later in the flow. Transparency and simplicity help here.
  • Slow site performance and page load times: Speed isn’t just for browsing. Your shoppers want to checkout as quickly (and as easily) as possible. A slow checkout experience can come across as a nuisance (not worth the goods in the cart), or untrustworthy and unreliable. You need to strive for a checkout that loads as quickly as it took your visitor to want the new bow tie for their chihuahua!

Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways to improve your ecommerce checkout flow and leave a positive impression.

Let’s take a closer look at a few.

#cta-paragraph-pb#See checkout customizations from real Shopify merchants to help you create the best checkout experience.

How to create a high-converting ecommerce checkout user flow

Before you start optimizing your checkout, it helps to know what makes one high-converting. This will also help you figure out where to start optimizing.

Take a look at your existing checkout process and evaluate for:

Make it Simple

A simple checkout process is a winning one; if shoppers can’t figure out how to purchase (or worse…they can’t figure out if they’ve purchased), this will harm your bottom line.

Simplicity in a checkout flow looks like this example from luxury candle company, P.F. Candle Co.:

Credit: PF Candle Co

This part of the checkout flow (after hitting “checkout”) takes customers to a fairly standard or recognizable Shopify checkout screen where visitors can enter their shipping address and email—or have the option to use an express payment method.

Shoppers also get a clear view of what’s in their cart, the price, and that shipping will be calculated in the next step in the process.

So, what’s the big takeaway here?

Don’t over-complicate it! Remember, even as you scale, your customers recognize the standard ecommerce checkout. A standard Shopify checkout that works as expected is always preferred to one with tons of bells and whistles that are difficult to navigate.

You can certainly add your branding on top of the default look, but these are the minimum viable fields and information you should strive to include.

Convey checkout is secure

The risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches has ecommerce shoppers extra cautious about where they enter sensitive information like payment details.

In fact, about half of all American adults have encountered a fraudulent charge on a credit card—about 127 million people.

That said, it’s important to ensure (and visually communicate!) that your entire shopping experience is secure, not just parts of it.

There are the standard security signals like payment logos, reCAPTCHA, and encrypting your site with SSL certificates that not only protect shoppers but put them at ease during checkout.

And for Shopify users, sites are backed by reputable content delivery networks (CDNs) Fastly and Cloudflare to further protect your site (and customers) from DDoS attacks.

This checkout from Brilliant Earth includes security signals like credit card logos from reputable companies, payment options, a “secure and encrypted” icon at the top of the page, and even a customer service chatbot or helpline to call if needed.

But your scaling brand can take security a step further by adding a cookie compliance banner that gives customers control over tracking consent.

Taking care of small details like this (care for their data and information) reinforces to customers you are on top of their shopping preferences and safety. It conveys legitimacy.

Bonus points for adding on-brand copy to your cookie policy or privacy notice, like this example from dairy-free ice cream brand NadaMoo:

Credit: Nada Moo

Shopify includes detailed instructions on how to add a cookie compliance banner to your site.

Ensure it loads fast

Last but not least, optimize your checkout flow to be speedy.

Speed, in this case, refers to two things: the actual page-to-page load time around your checkout and the number of steps in your checkout process.

This example from leading nutrition brand 5 Star Nutrition is a great example of this in the wild. 5 Star Nutrition’s Shogun Frontend-powered site offers shoppers a near-instant click-through experience, making it even faster to complete their purchase.

When you click “proceed to checkout” after viewing the cart, the actual checkout flow loads wildly fast. This load speed feels instant and is more likely to ensure visitors complete their purchase.

The breakneck speed in this case is thanks to the site being a progressive web app (PWA). Meaning the whole site operates more like a native app—and it loads selectively (allowing for this incredible speed).

Credit: 5 Star Nutrition

Overall, ecommerce sites with fast checkout flows see about 8.6% more conversions than sites with multi-step checkout flows. Securing nearly 10% more conversions is definitely worth investigating how fast your flow is from start to finish and whether technology behind your site could help speed things up!

Credit: Think with Google

#cta-visual-pb#Build a better Shopify storeMake your store look and feel as unique as your brand by customizing with the best page builder for Shopify.Start building for free


3 Best checkout flow design examples

Checkout flows are part of your entire shopping experience and should be as thoughtful as the design of the rest of your ecommerce site.

Let’s cover a few examples from real brands in depth.

Drunk Elephant

Skincare brand Drunk Elephant offers a bright, colorful shopping experience that communicates their ethos. The cart design is well-branded with Drunk Elephant’s signature colorful palette and typeface, while remaining simple.

As shoppers prepare to start the checkout flow and view their cart, they have the option to add a complimentary sample (or a few) to their order.

What’s great about this checkout flow?

  • Drunk Elephant makes this step easy with a pop-up window within the cart (no navigating to a separate page) to browse sample options and add them to their order:

Credit: Drunk Elephant
  • Once someone selects free samples, their cart automatically/instantly updates to reflect the added products (speed and performance are key here).
  • When ready to purchase, you can easily trigger the checkout flow by hitting the “secure checkout” button. Notice that the button copy reinforces the reliability of Drunk Elephant as a legitimate brand (security).

Adding extra steps like this at checkout could be risky, but Drunk Elephant simplifies this value-add with its easy-to-follow design.

Further, the Live Chat function on the site is prominent here at checkout in case anything doesn’t work as expected or questions come up last minute for shoppers.

Better Booch

Premium single-batch kombucha brand Better Booch’s ecommerce experience is—to put it simply—delightful. And it’s got an optimized checkout flow to match.

What’s great about this checkout flow?

  • As shoppers add items to their cart, a slide-out cart window appears on the current screen. No need for customers to navigate to a completely separate window to see/confirm they’ve added something:

Fun bubble animations appear when a customer’s cart pops up—a nice branded touch! Credit: Better Booch

This drawer-style cart window is excellent because it creates an uninterrupted shopping experience.

The cart slides out onto the current page users are on, which makes the experience feel seamless and simple. Customers can X-out of their cart and can pick up where they left off.

  • While drawer-style carts have become a bit of standard practice, this cart from Better Booch is uniquely customized to match their vibrant brand and insert a bit of delight with those animated bubbles. Tools like Slide Cart and Quick Mini Cart make it easy to add carts like this to your site.
  • No UX breadcrumbs are needed to get back to the page, and customers can initiate their checkout flow from any page on the site.
    • When customers start to checkout, they’re taken to a secure checkout page complete with payment options and a clear view of what’s in the cart.
Credit: Better Booch

Experiences like these make shopping much smoother. That, coupled with simple yet on-brand subtle animations, visuals, and colors, make this a winning checkout flow.


Non-toxic ceramic cookware brand Caraway knocks their online shopping experience out of the park with their cart functionality.

What’s great about this checkout flow?

  • Caraway also uses a drawer-style cart, only they take things a step further. When the cart is in view, Caraway shoppers not only see the products they’ve added, but they can “complete” their kitchen by adding other products…all from the cart. Choose from recommended products (and even your desired color!) all from the cart window.
Credit: Caraway
  • Caraway also includes additional detail within the cart—like if a user has qualified for free shipping or if a pan rack is included. These are questions customers likely have, so answering these upfront in the checkout slider makes for an elevated, thoughtful experience more likely to seal the deal.

5 Best practices for optimizing your ecommerce checkout flow

Remember, like other areas of your site, optimizing your checkout flow isn’t a one-and-done process. It’ll likely require you to test out different features or versions of your flow to see what works best for your shoppers and your team.

This list of best practices is a great place to start. Let’s jump in!

1. Audit the fields in your checkout flow carefully (aim for 8 max)

You already know the importance of keeping your checkout flow short and sweet. But despite this, the average checkout is 5.2 steps and contains 11.8 fields.

Other research from Baymard Institute found that, while the number of steps at checkout is key, it’s even more critical to focus on the amount of effort customers must put in at each step. The more effort they have to give, the less likely they’ll complete the flow.

At a minimum, you should aim to include just eight fields in your ecommerce checkout.

The best way to approach this is to see what fields you can reduce or combine rather than what you should eliminate altogether.

  • For example, instead of including a “First Name” and “Last Name” fields, you could combine those to say “Full Name” like Etsy:
Credit: Etsy

Or, you could condense the address fields by removing the “Address Line 2” field that commonly appears in checkout flows (if the fulfillment process allows).

Simple fixes like these can speed up the process and reduce the amount of effort needed to checkout.

2. Enable auto-populating customer data

An easy way to add speed to your checkout flow? Reduce friction by auto-populating customer data with Google Autocomplete for Shopify.

This feature makes it easy for customers to fill in their information quickly, which is especially useful for on-the-go shoppers or those who make repeat purchases, as P.F. Candle Co. does:

Credit: PF Candle Co

To enable this feature:

  • Navigate to your checkout settings (Setting > Checkout)
  • Locate the Order processing section
  • Check the box to enable
  • Save

This speeds up the effort required at this step and mitigates possible typos or invalid shipping addresses.

3. Offer guest checkout

Forcing visitors to create an account with you before they can make a purchase is a surefire way to lose out on revenue that you otherwise would have earned.

Specifically, nearly 30% of abandonment is due to visitors not wanting to create an account—which is the biggest cause of abandonments, next to the cost of shipping and other fees being too high.

Credit: TULA Skincare

For example, prestige skincare brand, TULA Skincare, defaults to guest checkout but offers the chance to log in before proceeding with the checkout process.

#cta-visual-pb#Build a better Shopify storeMake your store look and feel as unique as your brand by customizing with the best page builder for Shopify.Start building for free


4. Consider real-time mobile data entry

Your checkout flow must be optimized for mobile commerce, but what can you do beyond making sure your site renders correctly on smaller screens?

Eliminate annoying pop-up error messages on mobile with real-time validation.

Re-typing data again and again at checkout creates friction and frustrates shoppers.

Instead, consider adding real-time data validation over pop-up error messages. This makes it easy for shoppers to see which fields are incorrect (right away) instead of having to X-out of a pop-up and having to re-enter all their data again after submission.

Credit: UX Planet

5. Make cart items easily visible the entire time (consider a drop-down menu)

When customers initiate checkout, the last thing you want is for them to navigate away. If customers have questions about their order—like if they added the right product to their cart—but have to go back to a separate cart page to verify, this adds friction.

Instead, add a drop-down menu for customers to check on their order without leaving the checkout process:

Credit: The Feed

This example from nutrition marketplace The Feed shows how simple it is for shoppers to verify the items in their cart quickly using a drop-down menu.

Related: Improve Your Ecommerce Site Speed With These 8 Advanced Fixes

Optimizing for a high-converting checkout flow

There are a lot of moving parts with an ecommerce website, but make sure you pay close attention to your checkout flow.

Think of it as your brand’s “closer.” If it’s causing friction for your customers and they’re bouncing because of it…it’s not working.

Consider what’ll improve your customers’ experience on your site, and make adjustments accordingly.


#cta-visual-pb#Build a better Shopify storeMake your store look and feel as unique as your brand by customizing with the best page builder for Shopify.Start building for free

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