With the holiday shopping season fast approaching – in fact, it’s already here – it’s important to ensure the checkout process of your e-commerce shopping cart is working like a well-oiled machine.  There’s nothing more disappointing than having you analytics data show you customers have filled their carts with a multitude of your products, then disappeared without purchasing.  Why is that you may ask? Well, obviously without a full analysis it’s difficult to say. However, there are some things to make sure you’re doing on your site to move the process along in an easy and seamless fashion.  We’ve listed a few of the many things you can do for starters:

  1. Include a Progress Indicator

    From a customer perspective, it’s always good to know how far I’ve come in the checkout process, and how much I have left to do.  Some of the most successful ones appear to be either running the indicator across the top of the page or accordion-style.

  2. Offer Guest Checkout

    One of the top reasons people abandon shopping carts is because they don’t want to register with the website.  They are either worried about getting too many emails, or they just don’t want to draw out the purchase process.  In any case, offer the option to checkout as a guest.  By all means, show them the benefits of why registering would be better, but give them the choice.

  3. Provide Shipping Costs Early in the Process

    After all the hard work of selecting and adding items to their shopping cart, customers get very annoyed when they find out that shipping costs are too high.  Give your customers an estimate on shipping costs early in the shopping process.  Do you offer a flat rate on orders over a certain amount? Do you keep a running total of how much is in their cart (a mini cart or persistent summary) and let them know if they add another $5.25 they will qualify for free shipping?  Big shipping totals at the end of the whole process only serve to frustrate buyers and increase your abandonment rates.

  4. Inline Error Handling on Forms

    Make sure you have some method of error handling on your forms.  It’s easy to type in 9 digits instead of 10 for a phone number with area code.  The best way of helping people figure out what needs to be corrected is to highlight the error AND let them know right away, not after they’ve filled everything out and hit the submit button. Worst of all, don’t just have a non-specific message “there is an error in one of the fields”.

  5. Add Pictures in the Cart

    It seems like such a small thing, but it’s been shown that adding a product thumbnail image can help conversion rates by as much as 10%!  It reminds people of what they’re about to purchase and allows them to easily click back to edit their selection.

  6. Zip Codes vs. Postal Codes

    If you live in Canada and shop at U.S. websites it can be particularly frustrating when shopping carts ask for a 5 digit zip code and don’t accept our 6 digit postal codes.  (And vice-versa if you live in the U.S. and are shopping at a Canadian site.) If you can’t enter your address to ship your products to, there is no way you’re going to make the sale.  When setting up your forms to capture addresses, if you ship internationally start with selecting the Country, then in the backend the shopping cart system should load the appropriate information, i.e. provinces versus states, postal codes versus zip codes, etc. While you’re at it ensure that the tabbing order is correct. If someone is tabbing through the fields, they should be able to do this in a logical and consistent order.

  7. Add Reinforcement Trust Messaging

    Customers want to know that their information will be kept private and secure.  There’s always some apprehension when giving your credit card number out on the internet, especially if the site doesn’t look professional, or you’ve never heard of the company before.  Always include information to reassure customers that you have a secure checkout process and that their credit card information and personal details will not be compromised. Zappos does it well with their Shop with Confidence section – shopping on Zappos.com is “safe and guaranteed”. They provide a link to “how we protect your personal data”. And also include a lock icon, better business bureau icon and other trusted sources.

  8. Provide Multiple Payment Options

    A lot of people only have one credit card.  If all they have is Visa and you don’t accept it, they’re going to find another company that will.  Make sure you provide multiple payment options, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, American Express, etc.

  9. Offer Option to Call or Chat

    Believe it or not, some people don’t have email addresses.  And some people who do have email addresses, still don’t feel comfortable entering their credit card information online. Maybe they have a question related to their purchase.   Don’t shut these customers out. Give them an easy way to contact you, right away, while they’re ready to make the purchase.  Provide your phone number (and make sure someone’s there to answer the call), and/or online chat to complete the order.

  10. Clear Call to Actions (CTA’s)

    Make it easy for your customers to get through the checkout process quickly.  Clear calls-to-action are important to keep the momentum going so your customers can complete the purchase.  Minimize any distractions and make your call to action buttons obvious.  Keep the next buttons, the edit cart buttons, etc. a consistent size, colour and in a consistent place from page to page.  If your page is long, have the main call to action buttons at the top and at the bottom of the form.  To see if your call to action button is obvious enough, try standing 10 or 15 feet away from your monitor. Does it stand out?

  11. Bonus Tip: Exit Survey

    One other tip to finding out why customers abandon their carts – just ask them! Set up an exit survey that’s triggered when someone leaves items in their cart but doesn’t follow through with the purchase.  Give them just three or four options to choose from and leave the fifth open one for them to submit their own comment.  Once you’ve collected several submissions, you’ll most likely start to see a pattern emerging and that will be a good indication of what should be looked at more closely and incorporated into your site.

These 11 items only scratch the surface of what you can do to optimize your checkout process. Many of them, however, are easy to fix and can make a significant difference in decreasing your shopping cart abandonment rates. Make sure you have someone with analytics experience looking at your checkout conversion funnel to see where the drop-offs are occurring and walk through the entire process from the eyes of your customers.


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