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Recent figures indicate that around half of all potential customers bail out  during the checkout process.

While there are several reasons for this, including uncontrollable ones like users checking delivery charges or comparison shopping, usabilty problems at the checkout are also partly to blame.

We list ten ways to make the checkout process smoother and reduce abandonment after the jump:

  • Use as few pages as possible
    Customers will become impatient if there are too many steps to go through to complete a purchase, so keep the number of pages to a minimum. However, for the sake of usability, it’s important not to condense the process too much. Most people will expect a five or six step process.
  • Indicate progress through the checkout
    Showing the customer where they are in the process and how many more steps are required will prevent them from becoming too impatient. A bar indicating progress like the one below is a good way of doing this.

 

  • Enclose the process
    Removing the navigation bar and links to any other part of the site will cut out potential distractions.

    Any necessary information, such as terms and conditions and FAQs, should ideally be displayed in a pop-up window which returns the customer to the checkout page when closed.

    Play.com is an example of a site that has nearly managed to enclose the process, but there are still a few links away from the checkout form – click on ‘any questions?’, terms and conditions, or the helpdesk links and these can take you out of the process.

 

  • Don’t ask for unnecessary information from shoppers
    While there is a temptation to get some extra customer details for marketing purposes while they are filling in the form, as customers may resent having to answer irrelevant questions, and ditch the process.
  • Don’t make registration compulsory
    Some people might not want to create a new account; they may think that this will make the process longer, so let people make a purchase without registration if that’s what they want. The Cotswold Company’s recently redesigned site provides a good example of this:

  • Give customers the option of PayPal
    A lot of e-commerce sites don’t offer this option to customers, but some, such as Harrods and Dell give customers this option. This may be preferable to customers with security concerns who may prefer not to use their credit / debit cards, or for those without cards. This could be a good way to increase conversions.
  • Offer estimates of delivery times
    Giving customers an indication of when their order will be shipped out is essential, and may be a big factor in the purchase decision. Amazon does a good job of this, as well as giving customers options:

As well as providing the shipping date, and estimated delivery time may be useful, and will prevent customers becoming too impatient. This, provided by grokdotcom, is an excellent example. 

  • Display signs of server security
    You don’t want to give customers any doubts about the security of your website and the payment process, so display third party verification logos and links to information on what they mean,  https on url, make sure you have a visible address bar and status bar, and show security icons on transaction pages.

  • Make data entry logical
    There are several things when inputting address/card information that could frustrate customers so much that they abandon the checkout process. Removing as many sources of friction as possible will help reduce abandonment.

    This includes automatically populating the delivery address section with the address given by customers when adding billing information.

    In addition, letting customers navigate back and forth through the stages of the checkout process without losing all the information they have inputted will remove one source of frustration.

  • Prominent phone number / contact details
    This is crucial for engendering trust in the purchase process, as many customers would be reluctant to buy from a website that lacks contact details.

    This is basic stuff, but many online retailers in the UK are not doing this - a recent survey found that 60% of UK online retailers provided no telephone number on their website, 43% displayed no business address, while 39% had no contact email address.

Related stories:
House of Fraser - a user experience review
Warning: I can't find your checkout!

Related research:
Online Retail 2007: Checkout Special

Graham Charlton

Published 10 October, 2007 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

Comments (3)

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Clare Burns, Head Of Marketing at Thomas Cook

In regards to 'enclose the process' I agree with this point up to the part about using pop up's for t's and c's etc.

What about pop-up blockers... surely this would not work?

almost 9 years ago

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Neil @ Web Spiders

Great article! We (Web Spiders) exhibited at eCommerce expo last week and were pleased by the interest in our one page shopping check out but surprised that more people weren't already adopting or considering this.

Link to blog below of Web Spiders at eCommerce expo
http://blogs.webspiders.com/

almost 9 years ago

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Nolan Capps

I am a Realtor and found this site very helpful
Thanks Nolan Capps

over 8 years ago

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