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68% of shopping carts are abandoned, according to figures from Baynard, so how can retailers bring this number down? 

Last week, we released our E-commerce Best Practice Compendium, which contains more than 170 tips on improving usability and conversions. 

To accompany the report, I've already looked at site search and navigation and product pages, now it's the turn of the checkout process. 

Here are ten ways to reduce checkout abandonment. There are many more, so please add your comments below... 

Trust

Trust is all important. Before customers enter their payment details, they need to be sure they can trust the retailer. 

There are a number of ways to engender this trust. Much will be down to the overall impression they gain from the site, and this can happen before customers reach the checkout process. 

Still some customers may need reassurance, which is where trustmarks come in. 

I would argue that factors such as the overall user experience, the reputation of the brand, recommendations from friends etc, have more power to engender trust than security logos, but they may be valuable to some shoppers, and perhaps for lesser-known brands. 

There is also the question which trustmarks to use. People may have heard of Verisgin, McAfee etc, but will they recognise others? 

Don't be tripped up by postcodes

There are a number of potential pitfalls here, and possibly the most stupid is shown in this example from Tesco Clothing: 

 

Tesco insists on a space in the middle of the postcode, and that they are entered in capitals. This is unnecessarily strict, and it doesn't even advise customers of its 'rules' before they type in their postcode. I imagine this produces lots of error messages. 

Another, more subtle error is that of customers entering zero instead of the letter 'O', or the number '1' instead of the letter 'i' and vice versa. 

The bottom line is: the fewer error messages customers see, the more likely they are to complete the purchase. 

Update: March 2013 - Venda and Tesco have improved the validation on the postcode field and this is no longer an issue.

Alternative payment methods

According to WorldPay stats, alternative payments account for 22% of global e-commerce transactions, worth a total of €165bn. Therefore, it makes sense to offer different payment methods and appeal to as many potential customers as possible. 

Enclose the checkout

The idea behind enclosing the checkout is to remove features such as navigation bars and search boxes, which may distract customers from the task in hand: completing the purchase. 

For example, Paperchase has left its navigation options active during checkout and this, along with a rather jivey background, could provide distractions for shoppers. 

Make it easy for customers to make adjustments

Inline form validation

Web forms are a pain, and errors make it even worse. You may spend time filling in details and click to head for the next page, only to be held up by errors. Annoying. 

A better solution is inline validation which, in the below example from Twitter (taken from the excellent Smashing Magazine) shows a green tick or a red cross as customers are entering details: 

Think mobile

The checkout process can be a barrier to purchase for mobile customers. With the growth in mobile commerce, retailers like Cath Kidston which don't have optimised sites will lose potential sales. 

An optimised mobile site is great, but particular attention should be paid to the checkout process to make it as easy as possible for smartphone users. 

Not forcing customers to register, keeping form filling to a minimum, and providing shortcuts such as postcode lookup tools all help. 

For example, Laura Ashley's new mobile site follows best practice by keeping form filling to a minimum. You only have to enter your name, address, phone number, email address and password before moving onto payment:

                 

Laura Ashley further simplifies the process by using a postcode lookup tool and allowing customers to use the same address for billing and delivery.

Add reminders of price and delivery charges

This allows customers to quickly check on the contents of their shopping carts and the total charges before they complete the checkout, removing any concerns about costs. 

Make it easy for customers to alter order details

A customer may be on the point of purchase before realising that they have make a mistake with their delivery address, or they would like to add something else to their basket. 

In this example from House of Fraser, there are links to previous stages in the checkout, which allow customers to head back and make adjustments. 

This works for address details, but if you decide to go back and add other items to your shopping basket, you're forced to enter your email and address details all over again, which is frustrating. 

Show a progress indicator

At every stage during checkout, 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, which shows the stages within the checkout process and also highlights the customer's current location. 

It can also double as a way to navigate back to previous stages and amend details, as in the last tip. 

Flexible and clear delivery options

In this ASOS example from Paul Rouke's excellent guest post on persuasive checkout design, ASOS presents delivery options as radio buttons. 

ASOS delivery options

This makes it easier to view and choose than alternative display options such as drop-downs.

In addition, seeing the choices next to each other also makes it easy for compare the options and charges, while timescales are clearly communicated. 

Graham Charlton

Published 4 December, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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James Clarke

It's surprising how bad some of the mobile payment forms still are especially considering the incredible amount of money consumers are spending via their mobiles.

These are some of the better examples but retailers are missing out on sales because of a lack of usability here.

over 3 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

I think being upfront about the shipping costs can go a long way. I know that as a customer I hate watching the price jump $30 last minute because of shipping costs. If I had known that before I made it to the last step I might not be as surprised and annoyed.

over 3 years ago

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Simon Fell

This is a really helpful article, I have bookmarked it for the next time we are designing an online shop. That opening statistic of 68% of shopping carts not being completed is really bad news for eveybody including the customers who have wasted their own time and given up in frustation.

over 3 years ago

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Rosie

This is a really helpful article, I especially agree with reminding customers of costs and postage.

over 3 years ago

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Dominic Rowe

Fantastic article really well laid out and concise, highlights exactly the reasons that clients bounce or abandon shopping carts - still amazed to see how little effort large and small companies go to to perfect the perfect user experience... I mean its not like tesco in shop check out is difficult -
youtube.com/watch?v=3Sk7cOqB9Dk

If you have any interest in re capturing a higher % of the abandoned customers let me know our product can drive 3 times the conversion rates on abandoned carts - major revenue opportunity for your clients let alone increased conversions.

over 3 years ago

Jordan McClements

Jordan McClements, Owner at PPCNI.com

I can confirm that the user experience on Tesco web sites *sucks*. I honestly do not know how they make so much money (maybe they won't once people stop shopping off-line so much).

over 3 years ago

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Kevin Gavine

Thanks Graham! The use of visuals is really appreciated. I compared your list to our checkout and there are a couple items we can address. Unfortunately we are unable to provide the multiple shipping options that ASOS does.

over 3 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

Perhaps the biggest thing you can do to reduce checkout abandonment is to not precede it with a compulsory registration step. If you must create an account for your customers, do it as a by-product of them placing an order on your web site rather than a prerequisite to entering the checkout process.

Psychological tricks can also help make your checkout process more effective. Create a sense of urgency to compel customers to buy or risk missing out (e.g. via time limited savings/offers or by highlighting limited stock availability). Think carefully about how and where you present and allow promo/voucher codes to be entered. Potential customers spotting such fields might be tempted to leave your site in search of a code they can enter to get a discount.

over 3 years ago

David Farrell-Shaw

David Farrell-Shaw, Digital Marketing at Ilpyondanshim

Excellent article, the Tesco site has always annoyed me and it is amazing the number of 'big' sites that don't use validated forms.

over 3 years ago

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scott bintz

great stuff. The more clear and painless as possible is the way to go. We are thinking of moving away from the enclosed checkout as it could feel like you are being locked in. But we are still researching this one and will take your ideas into consideration.

over 3 years ago

Panos Ladas

Panos Ladas, Digital Marketing Manager at Piece of Cake

Exactly how to do it! (Also nice note from Albie Attias!)

over 3 years ago

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Wency Crawford

I'm planning to start an online store and this information is very helpful to make it successful. Thanks a lot for sharing these tips!

over 3 years ago

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Mark

I think trust building is such an important part of ecommerce sites, not only is it likley to increase profit, but also see a return and loyalty with customers. For me this all starts with the right shopping cart software.

over 3 years ago

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