In light of that, I’m going to cover 12 ways I believe ecommerce sites can increase the chances of customers seeing a purchase through to the end.
1. Simplify your forms
This sounds extremely obvious but it’s amazing how many sites seem to want to make you jump through hoops just to give them your money.
Nobody likes filling in forms, so make them as painless as possible and avoid asking annoying questions about whether third-party companies can send them marketing guff they’ll never read.
For more on this, read 21 first class examples of effective web form design.
2. Shorten the checkout process
If your checkout process requires the user to load eight different pages in a row, you’re likely to lose them by the fifth. If you’re lucky.
I covered AO.com in a recent post and noted that its checkout page, while four stages long, is confined to a single page.
Clicking ‘Scroll to next step’ jumps you down to the next section rather than having to wait for a whole new page to load.
3. Use progress indicators
It’s important to let people know where they are in the checkout process and how long they’ve got left.
You can use a progress bar like in the picture below to illustrate this, or simply say something along the lines of: ‘Step X of Y’.
4. Be up-front about delivery charges (or any other charges)
Nothing saps a person’s trust in your checkout process than going all the way through the end only to be stung by previously hidden charges.
If you charge for delivery, some kind of tax, or anything else, tell people early on in the checkout process so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to continue.
If people get to the card details stage and suddenly the price has gone up, there’s a good chance they’ll be annoyed enough to leave without paying.
For more on this, read 12 excellent ways to present ecommerce shipping information.
5. Be persistent with the basket summary
Ultimately you want to avoid people leaving the checkout process in order to find out the contents of their basket, so provide this information clearly throughout the process.
6. Don’t force people to register before they pay
Personally this is an instant red flag for me, unless your site happens to be the only place on the internet where I can get that particular product. Which is extremely unlikely.
Yes, it’s good to get people’s details and encourage them to sign up to your newsletter. But don’t make them fill out an incredibly irritating form just before they’re about to give you their money.
7. Include a clear call to action at every stage of the checkout process
Everyone needs a bit of encouragement from time to time. Make sure you include a clear call to action between every stage of the process between the basket and the payment page.
Try to avoid ambiguous phrases like the one below. If people aren’t 100% sure what is actually going to happen after they click, they might just not bother.
8. Reassure people
It took years before I could convince my parents they could safely buy things online without fear of their bank accounts being immediately emptied the following day and their identities being stolen and sold to terrorists.
Not everyone is as cautious online as my parents, but some are. Put their minds at rest by illustrating how safe the process is.
You can also include customer testimonials to help reassure people at the critical payment stage.
9. Display contact details clearly
I’m impatient. If I have a single issue during a checkout process I’m gone. But there are better people than me out there who, when presented with a problem, are happy to talk it out with somebody before giving up altogether.
Make it easy for those people by providing clearly displayed contact details throughout the process. Preferably a phone number, although a decent live chat is also a nice touch.
10. Remove distractions
Humans are fickle creatures, and the internet is packed with plenty of shiny things to drag our attention from one direction to the next.
But when you have your customer ‘in the zone’, card in hand, ready to give you their money, the last thing you want to show them is a shiny thing.
Your checkout page should be free from anything that might distract people from the ultimate goal: getting them to click pay.
11. Reduce load times
This is a technical point and one that should apply to all areas of your site, but it goes without saying that if people have to wait too long for the next page to load they may get frustrated and abandon their basket.
Similarly, long pauses after pressing the ‘buy’ button are a cardinal sin of the highest order.
12. Send follow-up emails
Everything I’ve mentioned so far happens before the person has actually abandoned (or not abandoned) their basket.
But if you want to encourage them back after they’ve left, basket abandonment emails can be one of the most effective ways to do that.