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Over a third of shoppers increased the amount of online shopping they did over the last year, so it is more important than ever for retailers to provide an outstanding ecommerce experience.

When an online shopper clicks ‘checkout’ they generally have the intention to buy, yet drop-off rates at this final stage can be high with three in five abandoning their baskets.

Consumers aren’t afraid to go elsewhere if they encounter issues at any stage in the checkout process though, so it’s vital for retailers to get it right.

The checkout process offers a unique opportunity to add value and build brand advocacy, yet many retailers are underperforming in this area and seriously impacting their revenues. So where are they going wrong?

We recently conducted detailed research looking at today’s digital high street to find out, consulting 1,000 consumers about their attitudes and personal experiences before benchmarking these findings against the performance of the UK’s top 25 retailers.

Optimising the checkout process

The most important thing for consumers when it comes to online checkout is to see clearly defined shipping costs (92%), but the average retailer score in our study was only 75%. Hidden delivery costs are the number one reason for online shoppers to abandon a purchase, so transparency is key.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, nine out of ten consumers said that free shipping is a priority, and one in three online shoppers go as far as to say it is ‘vital’.

Only one in five of the leading UK retailers that we assessed offered free shipping, proving that even top retailers are struggling to meet consumer expectations here.

Complementary delivery and returns can be a great way of building brand advocacy, whilst unclear or high charges can be a significant barrier to online sales, so it is an investment worth considering. 

Our research revealed the biggest disconnect between retailers and consumers to be in clearly displaying returns policies. The vast majority (88%) of consumers said this was important or vital, but only one in ten retailers show this information during checkout. 

Overall, a quick and efficient checkout process is also very important to online shoppers, but many of the retailers that we assessed fell short here with cumbersome processes.

As the second most common reason for abandoned purchases, this really is an issue that retailers should be looking to remedy by streamlining the number of steps and removing compulsory registration, for example.

Who does it best?

Amazon is a great example of a painless purchase process, scoring top marks for speedy checkout (including a ‘one-click ordering’ option), free shipping, support for multiple payment options, and a clearly displayed returns policy. 

What can we learn?

We’ve put together five top tips to help retailers offer an exceptional checkout experience:

  1. Make registration optional. Give your customers the option to checkout as a guest, saving them valuable time and removing any barriers to making that sale (often the first). You still gain their basic information and profile that you can use to lure them back.
  2. Provide a progress indicator. Let your shoppers know how long the journey will take by giving them an indication of how many steps they need to complete and where they are in the process.
  3. Give options to leave and return. This allows shoppers to save their basket for later, so they can return to purchase items when it’s more convenient. Combining this with an email to remind them what’s in their basket could be a great way to get them to complete the sale.
  4. Consider the whole multichannel sales journey. Your customers move from web to app, to in-store, to social media, to review sites without a second thought. Their final purchase channel isn’t always the same as where they first encountered your products.

    Make sure your customers have a seamless checkout experience on any device, keeping consistent with your core site.

  5. Promote social connections. While sharing and customer reviews are key objectives, they’re not the only way to benefit from social connections. Simply showing that your visitors’ connections have bought from you can deliver the levels of trust needed to make a sale.

By improving the buying experience, retailers of all sizes can add value, either through cross- and up-sell mechanisms or by building brand advocacy, to ultimately maximise their final conversion rate.

Maria Wasing

Published 11 January, 2013 by Maria Wasing

Maria Wasing is VP of Marketing Europe at EPiServer and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

24 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Nick Stamoulis

I know that as a customer I always want to know the shipping costs upfront. It's such a simple thing to point out early in the process so I don't get through 90% of the checkout process and decide to jump ship. Free shipping is always great, but if I have to pay just let me know ahead of time!

almost 4 years ago

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