What makes an excellent checkout process on an ecommerce site? 

Here, with the help of suggestions from Twitter, I’ve compiled a list of 11 checkouts which constitute examples of best practice in this area. 

What makes a great checkout?

This is a topic more suited for a long report (like this one) but we can sum up some key features which i think are common to good practice (in no particular order).

  1. Speed. Pauses after pressing the buy/confirm payment button are the worst. Delays in loading before that may be enough to damage customer confidence in the whole payment process.
  2. No forced registration. Of course, encouraging customers to register is a good idea, but not at the cost of losing potential sales. It’s a proven barrier to conversions.
  3. Security reassurance. There’s doubt around which trustmarks to use, and whether the information they convey is actually understood by the customer, but it seems they do have an effect during checkout.
  4. Easy form filling. People hate forms, so making it painless as possible is the name of the game. Don’t ask for too much, avoid obvious pitfalls, and make sure your error messages are clear.
  5. Progress indicators. The customer should know where they are in the process and what else needs to be done to complete the purchase.  One way to achieve this is to have a progress bar across the top of each checkout page.
  6. Persistent basket summary. Remind users of the contents of their baskets and the total cost of the order so they don’t have to leave the checkout for this information.
  7. Remove distractions. Enclosing the checkout ensures that shoppers are focused on the task in hand and not likely to be taken out of the checkout by links.

With these features and others in mind, I’ve been looking at the checkouts suggested on Twitter, in answer to a question on Twitter.

The answers were:

  • Ebuyer
  • Wiggle
  • ASOS
  • Sodastream
  • AO
  • Amazon
  • Fallen Hero
  • Hunter

I’ve also looked at the Baymard report on checkout performance, and picked out the top three it named.

These were:

  • Crate and Barrell
  • Symantec
  • AutoZone

So let’s have a look at them…

Ebuyer

This checkout fails on point two, with new customers having to sign up before checkout.

Which means I have this unnecessary step to go through when I could just be starting to checkout. And the site wants my date of birth.

It’s not going well so far for this checkout. The next thing is that it wants my phone number, yet doesn’t indicate that this is a required field.

Aside from these issues, it’s a clear enclosed checkout with security reassurances, a range of payment options, and clear progress indicators. Sadly, the extra step from the forced registrations lets the site down.

Wiggle

Wiggle sells cycling gear, which I didn’t know before. Nice registration page, in that it doesn’t make you create an account there and then, but gives you the option of doing so later in the process. Nice.

The checkout is well designed in general, with a persistent basket and summary of costs, well presented delivery options, and is enclosed with just a few links for help and contact details.

Live chat within checkout is also a nice touch, though it was offline when I tested it.

ASOS

We’ve covered ASOS a fair amount here, and our deputy editor David Moth likes to buy colourful trousers from there, so we know it works well.

In fact, we have an article on persuasive checkout best practice from ASOS which explains how removing the barrier to checkout that is registration reduced its checkout abandonment rate by 50%.  

This is the page in question:

And the previous version:

Aside from a spruced up design, nothing else changed. Customers still entered the same address and payment details and ended up registering.

The simple fact that ASOS has not even mentioned registration or account creation has made all the difference.

Sodastream

I can see why this checkout was recommended. From the basket page you go straight here, no registration worries at all.

On top of that, we have an enclosed checkout, security logos, persistent basket summary and clear steps towards payment.

The address entry is interesting too. I’ve become accustomed to entering house number and postcode, but this site guesses your address as you start to type the first line.

None of these suggestions are my address, and it took a few more letters to find it.

I’m not convinced it beats postcode + house number but, as James Gurd points out in this article on postcode entry, it matches how people think about their addresses.

AO.com

AO uses a one-page checkout, and shoppers are essentially ushered straight into the process, with the basket and first checkout page being one and the same.

No registration required here, and no barriers to getting on with the payment.

It’s hard to find fault with this checkout. Form filling is easy, with shortcuts used where possible.

The calendar tool is great, while little touches such as the illustration showing the CV2 code help shoppers through the process.

Amazon

Amazon’s checkout is easy, especially for logged in users. Almost too easy at times.

Part of the secret is the sheer number of registered users that Amazon has, with saved card and address details which make reordering a breeze.

For new customers, it’s not the best ever. Certainly, some of the other checkouts here are easier.

It tricks you slightly too, offering the option of creating a password later for new users, then sending them straight to this registration page.

Other than that, the checkout works well enough, and I like the reassurance it offers in telling customers they’ll have a chance to review the order before it’s final.

Fallen Hero

We recently reviewed this site and its use of responsive design, which has generated a 143% sales uplift from tablets alone.

With no registration, customers are sent straight into the checkout process, which contains clean pages, simple forms and no unnecessary distractions.

Hunter

An elegant checkout with clean form design and very little distraction for shoppers.

It’s almost fully enclosed, with a link back to the shopping bag for those that need it. Sites shouldn’t ‘trap’ customers in the checkout, just reduce unnecessary distraction.

I like the prominent message about calling customer service for help with an order, but alternatives such as FAQs and perhaps live chat would also help.

Crate and Barrel

This is Baynard’s number one choice, though the review was from 2012 and perhaps others have improved in this time.

The first checkout page is excellent, with a clear guest checkout option, security reassurances, links to checkout FAQs and a contact number.

I also like the act that it asks for feedback about the process. I’d be interested to know how useful this information is.

The shipping options are nice and clear, and I like the estimated arrival dates which are shown next to each shipping method.

The order summary is useful, but a reminder of which item I actually ordered might be more useful.

Overall though, I can see why the checkout was highly rated, as it is hard to fault the design, form filling, and presentation of information.

Symantec

No messing about here. Straight from cart into a one page checkout. The form works well enough, though I think the font size for the explanatory text is too small.

AutoZone

The design may look a little dated compared to some other examples, but it’s the functionality that’s all important here.

I’d perhaps consider making the checkout call to action a little bigger, but the form works well.

This is a useful feature. I’ve clumsily entered the address of our New York office, but the site has spotted this and has suggested a better alternative.

It’s clever, as it avoids potential delivery problems which, though the customer’s fault in this case, would perhaps end up being blamed on the retailer.

It’s a good order summary page, with all necessary information presented, form fields like security codes explained, and a summary of the order.

I’d be inclined to change fonts and text sizes for greater readability, but the essentials in this checkout work well.

In summary

Are these 11 of the best ecommerce checkouts? I’ll leave that for the reader to decide, but I think there are some excellent examples here.

10 of them, with the exception of ebuyer, don’t insist that users register before checkout, which is an essential feature these days.

I like the approaches of sites such as Fallen Hero, which send customers straight into the checkout to begin entering address and payment details, though I do think customers should be given the clear option of creating an account at some point in the process.

Registration has benefits for customers as well as retailers, allowing them to avoid re-entering address and (for many sites) payment details for future purchases, which is great for retention.

What do you think? Do these checkouts represent current best practice? Do you have better examples? Let me know below… 

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