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An effective, user-friendly mobile checkout requires a fine balance, as retailers need to present all the necessary information to encourage a sale without cluttering the pages and making them difficult to navigate.
In my experience the best mobile checkouts tend to be those that have stripped out any unnecessary information and data fields so customers can make a purchase as quickly as possible.
In the early days of m-commerce retailers presented mobile users with a version of their desktop checkout, so fields were too small and CTAs were difficult to click.
Times have thankfully changed, but I thought it would be interesting to see how the top US retailers have designed their mobile checkouts to see how user-friendly they are.
Here’s a quick recap of the criteria I evaluated using my Android smartphone...
- Registration before checkout
Making customers register before checkout is a proven barrier to purchase. This is widely understood for desktop sites, and many now have guest checkout options instead.
However, this best practice hasn't always transferred to mobile sites. Just seven of the retailers with mobile sites have made registration optional, though this is up from five last year.
- Form filling
Filling in checkout forms and entering payment details can be a fiddly process on a mobile phone. Speed is vital, and anything that makes the process quicker will mean more sales.
Mobile conversion rates are much lower than those on tablets and desktop sites, and smoother checkouts are one way to improve them.
Form filling should be kept to a minimum, as should page loads within the checkout process. Also, by adding shortcuts like postcode lookup and pre-populating billing addresses, you can speed it up.
- Contact details and security reassurances
Some people are still wary of the security of mobile transactions, so offering trustmarks and reassuring signs like clear contact numbers can help.
Also, if a customer gets stuck trying to make a purchase, a clear contact number may just save the sale.
- Alternative payments
Even with the smoothest checkout process, entering credit or debit card details can be a pain. Offering alternatives like PayPal can mean a faster process (generally just entering an email and password) and may also ease consumers' security worries.
With these criteria in mind, I've looked at 20 top retailers to see how they handle mobile checkout:
Amazon is one of the few retailers that can break some best practice rules without forcing customers to abandon the purchase.
However it’s interesting to note that Amazon doesn’t offer a guest checkout and although it uses big, user-friendly CTAs at the shopping cart it then reverts to fiddly buttons and small text links at the checkout.
The layout of the different screens is then inconsistent in terms of the size of the text fields and Amazon doesn’t offer any user shortcuts.
Presumably very few people will actually have to go through this process as most will already have an Amazon account, but it’s surprising that Amazon doesn’t have a shorter, more user-friendly mobile checkout.
Staples allows customers to use a guest checkout, but then tries to convince you to register in order to ‘save time next time’. As a result the first form is quite long, but then there are only two forms overall.
Other issues include the fact that the text fields and CTAs are small so some users may find them difficult to press, and that it doesn’t accept alternative payment options.
Overall the design could be simplified as the pages currently include a huge amount of text that makes them feel extremely cluttered.
Incredibly Apple still doesn’t have a mobile site.
Walmart has an extremely user-friendly mobile checkout, offering guest checkout and using massive fields and CTAs.
Though there are a number of forms to fill in they are all quite short and uncluttered, so the process doesn’t feel arduous.
Office Depot gives you the option of using PayPal checkout, guest checkout or logging in.
The text fields and CTAs are also a decent size, though the best feature is that the guest checkout has been condensed into a single form.
It only requires the card details, address, phone number and an email address before you can confirm the payment. This makes the process feel extremely short and should help reduce the amount of dropouts.
As with Office Depot, Sears gives you the option of using PayPal or its normal checkout, although the CTAs are both incredibly small.
It also gives a guest checkout option and is one of the few retailers to give a progress indicator so users know how steps are left in the checkout process.
The forms are a decent size as well, although I feel the CTAs could be bigger.
Best Buy has one of the finest mobile checkouts on this list. The large text fields and CTAs mean it’s easy to navigate, and it has a progress bar so users know how many steps are left.
It also allows guest checkout and has stripped out any unnecessary information so the pages are uncluttered. The one minor downside is that Best Buy doesn’t accept alternative payments.
OfficeMax scores points for allowing guest checkout and having a progress indicator, however it is another retailer that suffers from having small text fields and CTAs.
On the plus side, there is a click-to-call button at the bottom of the screen, even though it is quite small.
Though CDW Corp has a mobile site you can’t make a purchase unless you have previously registered an account through its desktop site...
Newegg is one of the few retailers on this list to offer a prominent security reassurance on its checkout CTA, and it also accepts both PayPal and Google checkout.
The checkout process is short and there are just a few forms to fill in, however all customers are forced to create an account.
In general the brands on this list have done an excellent job of designing user-friendly mobile checkouts, with Apple being the only brand that doesn’t even have a mobile optimised site.
CDW Corp also prevents new customers from making a purchase on mobile unless they have previously registered an account through its desktop site, which seems a bizarre decision.
Six of the retailers offer a guest checkout, while only Amazon and Newegg force new customers to register an account.
Those that allow guest registration have noticeably faster checkout processes, with Best Buy offering the slickest user experience in my opinion.
Sites that offer alternative payments are in the minority, with only Office Depot, Sears and Newegg accepting PayPal. Newegg is the only retailer that accepts Google checkout as well.
In general though, most of the retailers have done a good job of designing usable mobile checkouts and I still find it baffling that Apple has refrained from creating a mobile optimised site.