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Checkout abandonment continues to be a major topic in ecommerce, and one which retailers have plenty of options to deal with. 

According to stats from Salecycle, checkout abandonment rates in Q2 2013 averaged 75.5% across all industry verticals.

One way to reduce abandonment rates is to enclose the checkout process, and remove distractions that may form a barrier to purchase. Here's why...

What is an enclosed checkout process?

An enclosed checkout is one which is stripped down compared to the rest of the site, which is usually achieved by removing the main navigation menus. 

According to Dr Mike Baxter in our Checkout Optimization guide

In place of the header should be a company logo in the top left of the page – this can be linked to the home page as the only 'escape route' remaining out of checkout, or simply left as an image.

Here's the basket page from John Lewis, with all of the navigation options on view: 

As we continue into the checkout proper, these options are removed, and the page is stripped down with few distractions. 

People may still need information. so sites should provide links to information about delivery, returns policies, contact options, and privacy and security.

Ideally, these links should be displayed in a pop up layer or lightbox over the checkout page so that customers can view the information without being taken out of the process. 

I should add that it's important to provide a route out of the checkout for those customers that need it, otherwise they'll resort to the back button.

Some may want to check their basket contents, or may have decided to buy something else at the same time (which makes the John Lewis 'continue shopping' link a good idea. 

Reasons for enclosing the checkout

This is the thinking behind enclosing checkouts...

  • By removing navigational elements, unnecessary distractions are no longer visible. This allows the shopper to focus purely on entering the details necessary to complete their purchase. 
  • Thanks to the removal of these distractions, information which gives the visitor confidence in their purchase is more prominent.
  • With the main navigation removed, it is clearer to visitors where they are within the checkout process and how many steps they have left to complete their purchase. 
  • Apart from the homepage or continue shopping links, customers can only head in one direction, towards the payment and order confirmation page. 

Examples, good and bad

Let's start with a checkout that hasn't been enclosed, from Boots

While some elements of checkout best practice are on show, such as displaying checkout steps and security logos, the overall look is poor. 

By retaining the top navigation and footer links, Boots is taking the customer's attention away from what should be the main focus - completing their details for the purchase. Indeed the address form fields and calls to action are less visible than many other elements on the page. 

Now a better example, from Fallen Hero. This is enclosed to the max: 

You could even argue it's too sparse since, aside from the logo link to the homepage, there are no links, meaning no info on security or delivery for one. 

This example from House of Fraser gets it about right. Distractions are removed, and adding the live chat option is a great move, allowing customers to have any last minute questions answered. 

However, the 'help' link takes you away from the checkout, and pressing the back button to return to the payment page produces an error page in Chrome. 

Mulberry has a well enclosed checkout, with a useful link to customer services and a prominent contact number. 

It also opens links in a lightbox so that customers can view information without leaving the process, while retaining a link back to the basket page for those that need it. 

In summary

There are a number of different approaches, but the general idea of removing distractions is sound and has been proven to increase conversion rates.

Of course, the best implementation is something to be arrived at through testing different versions until you find the most effective one. 

What do you think? Have you implemented this on your site? Which is the most effective version for you? Let me know below...  

Graham Charlton

Published 16 January, 2014 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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Shopelt

Great article! as an e-commerce site this is a eye opener.

we have been working extremely hard to provide a an enclosed check out system. everything that needs to be filled is in one page- where at the end you the only option is to "Place Order"

we also provide a phone number to our CS service as well as a chat option where a window just pops up instead of taking you to another page.

we have been doing extremely well and are very proud of we have accomplished.

thank you for this post you point out some excellent examples!

almost 3 years ago

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Jacquelyn

I find a key reason I put things into shopping carts is so that I can learn the total cost: cost+tax+shipping... I may or may not have actual intent to purchase but rather I am flirting with it and there is no other way to truly know final cost.

How many others are doing similar concepts and thus being wrongly counted as being "abandoned" and skewing the stats? This in not really "abandonment" (which implys intent to buy but not following through) but is more akin to picking up & looking at the price-tag in a bricks & morter?

I'd think this ability to know "final cost" before putting it in a shopping cart is something that should be addressed at an industry level... thus removing one item that I suspect contributes to a very high skew of "abandonment" rates.

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Jacquelyn I agree, and a recent survey found that 53% had abandoned baskets due to high delivery charges.

The bottom line is that customers should not have to wait until checkout to find out the total costs. This should be made clear on product pages, or the cart/basket page at the latest.

http://econsultancy.com/blog/63717-why-is-checkout-abandonment-still-linked-to-nasty-delivery-surprises

almost 3 years ago

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James Whitman, Business Analyst at Unstated

@Graham Totally agree with this point, if you're finding you have to enter a checkout just to find out what the final cost of your order has been, the website has failed to provide you with sufficient information to complete your order.

If you need to know what amount to take out by taking away the people who enter the checkout to know the final cost of the order, you need to address the problem of why are customers even doing that.

almost 3 years ago

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Hero Grigoraki, ecommerce & digital marketing specialist at independent

Depends on what you deem a distraction. Having no ability to interact with the site can be equally detrimental, especially for customers who are not just yet at purchase mode, even if they are at checkout.

Perhaps a better approach is a next page analysis from each checkout step, showing whether the customers actually get "distracted" from completing the purchase or if they simply exit the site itself. In the latter case, it doesn't matter whether you have an enclosed checkout or if you turn it into a christmas tree, the abandonment reasons are elsewhere.

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Hero Yes, and ideally sites would deal with any customer issues such as delivery charges / times before they get to checkout.

Even then, some customers will still have concerns or will want to leave so i like the approach of sites like House of Fraser which offers live chat, or John Lewis providing a 'continue shopping' link.

On the other hand, Fallen Hero's checkout is perhaps too enclosed.

almost 3 years ago

Philip Docherty

Philip Docherty, Marketing Executive at SaleCycle

Brilliant article Graham!

The checkout process can be a daunting and frustrating place for many shoppers, especially when they find out about the scandalous shipping costs... Get's me every time!

As On-Site Remarketing specialists, SaleCycle can now eliminate some of these distractions by using our clever little code to closely monitor customer behavior looking both at idle time on the page and those who might be lost or looking to leave the website entirely.

For more information regarding On-Site Remarketing, visit:

http://www.salecycle.com/on-site-remarketing/

Also If you have a spare 5 minutes read our "Why People Abandon their Shopping Cart" blog, just like Graham's piece we have highlighted the main reasons why people abandon.

http://www.salecycle.com/5-reasons-people-abandon-shopping-cart/

almost 3 years ago

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Steven Macdonald

Great article, Graham!

While this is a great test for e-commerce, we're currently running an enclosed lead-gen form A/B test for SuperOffice.com (A B2B site) where the navigation menu has been completely removed on the variation of the form page.

It's still early in the test but we're currently seeing 52% more people convert when the nav. menu has been removed compared to the original that has the the nav. menu.

almost 3 years ago

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