To minimise abandonment rates, a good checkout process should be able to deal smoothly with any unanswered questions before customers pay for their items.

I've been reading an article by Brendan Regan on the FutureNow blog, in which he looks at five questions that customers may have in their minds when they reach the shopping cart, though he is referring to the checkout process as a whole rather than just the shopping basket page.

These questions (setting aside delivery costs) are:

  • What alternative payment methods are offered?
  • Is the site safe and secure to buy from?
  • Why are you asking this information?
  • Do I need to register to purchase?
  • Can I review my order before purchase? 

Some of these questions should probably be answered before the checkout, as removing any doubts in customers minds should help them concentrate on the business of paying for items.

For instance, if a shopper comes to a website and doesn't have a credit or debit card to pay with, they will want to find out if PayPal or some other method (which may be an issue for many shoppers) is offered before spending time browsing and selecting products.

However, information and reassurance about this and the other issues can be provided during the checkout without providing too much of a distraction for shoppers.

Payment methods

This information is best conveyed to customers by listing logos at the bottom of every page on the site, or by providing a clear link so that customers can check for this when they first arrive at the site.

For those customers that still require this information on the basket page, TopShop provides a good example of how to do it, with symbols showing the various payment options:

Is the site secure?

There are plenty of factors before customers get to the checkout stage that will help them decide whether to trust a website with their money. As this survey suggests, the retailer's reputation, as well as the look of a site makes a big difference to purchase decisions.

Still, there are things that retailers should be doing during the checkout process to answer any lingering concerns over security. Simple logos should be enough to reassure most customers, with links to further information provided for those that need it.

Here, TopShop provides visual reassurance in the form of the Verisign logo, while further info is provided via a link at the bottom of the page:

TopShop security logo

Why do you need this information?

Some customers may wonder why email addresses and phone numbers are required, as well as any other information they my be asked to enter, though any unnecessary questions (date of birth etc) should be avoided to shorten the process.

In this example from Glasses Direct,an explanation is provided next to the email address and phone number boxes, explaining why they are needed and what they will be used for:

Glasses Direct checkout

Do I need to register?

While it may be wiser to avoid registration, or at least to make it voluntary, it should be made clear what is expected of users at this stage. If registration is optional, it should be explained that they can choose to set up an account later in the process if they want to.

If, as on, it is compulsory, then the reason for and benefits of registering should be laid out. It may also be an idea to mention special offers as an incentive also:

Can I review my order before purchase?

Before finally pressing the confirm button, some customers may just need to check their order to make sure that the items selected are correct and the price and delivery charges are what they expect to pay.

In the example below from Amazon, the progress indicator at the top makes it clear that there is one more step in the process before confirmation:

There are other ways to deal with this issue though, such as providing a reminder of the contents of the shopping basket and total charges throughout the process, as Quizclothing does.

Graham Charlton

Published 23 June, 2009 by Graham Charlton

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

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Comments (2)

Chris Rourke

Chris Rourke, Managing Director at User VisionSmall Business Multi-user

Good advice and I have seen most of these crop up as issues in usability tests for retail companies.  There are a couple others that are worth mentioning for building trust.

Especially for not well established brands the ‘Is this a real company?’ question needs to be answered proactively.  Although answering that is not specific to the checkout, the question is most pertinent then.  Typically users will start to wonder where the company is based and how they can contact them by phone and lack of availability of those is a showstopper for the more cautious and wise consumer.  Although it might be under the ‘contact us’ link in the footer people are often reluctant to click that if they are part way through a transaction (the fear of looking the data entered or place in the checkout comes in) so a safer bet is to provide at least a phone number consistently throughout.  Yes that leads to the classic conflict of a business goal (reduce the number of people calling us, they can complete everything online) and user goal (I’d like to be able to call them if I want to) but it is definitely reassuring.

Can I return this?’ is the other main question and there typically is an opportunity in the checkout to remind the customer that you have a returns policy or that it is easy to do.  Typically through a link (opening in a new window to not lose place in process) to the returns policies & procedures.

about 9 years ago


Ponle Holloway, Managing Consultant at Westrow Interactive

Another question to add to this list is, how long does shipping take? In most cases users want to know how long it will take to receive their stuff. Dorothy Perkins does an excellent job at providing this information during the checkout process.

about 9 years ago

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