On any desktop e-commerce website, the checkout process needs to be as smooth as possible to maximise conversions. This is even more vital on so mobile sites.

When users are buying from a small screen device with variable connection quality, a long or complex checkout process will deter customers from making a purchase.

Here are a few tips on mobile commerce checkouts, along with some examples of how it should be done…  

Design a proper mobile checkout

This is the first step to take if retailers are serious about driving sales via mobile. Even with some otherwise impressive mobile commerce websites or apps, customers are directed to the checkout from the main website. 

For example, on the Oasis iPhone app, the checkout looks like this on your mobile screen: 

Navigating this checkout, entering your address information and credit card number will be a tough job, even on a decent wi-fi connection; on a 3G connection of variable quality, it could be a nightmare. 

I’ve been told that conversion rates from mobile commerce apps with checkouts like this are pretty poor, while this article reports that conversion rates for mobile users on web checkouts are 70-80% lower than on desktop sites.  

It’s easy to see why, and it may even be a better idea to provide a contact number for customers to complete the purchase, rather than forcing such a poor user experience on them. 

If retailers are serious about driving sales from mobile commerce apps and websites, then a properly designed mobile optimised checkout is a must. 

Compare the Oasis example above with the checkout on the Barnes & Noble iPhone app: 

Shoppers can negotiate the checkout on this app without having to zoom in and out to read and understand the different form fields, and the whole process is much faster as a result, even more so if you are already registered with the site. 

Don’t make registration compulsory

Compulsory registration is a barrier to purchase anyway, but an absolute no-no on a mobile site, since every extra form field to fill in means more pain for the customer. 

Again, Barnes & Noble provides an excellent example, with a guest checkout that also provides the option of registration during checkout: 

Provide a progress indicator

Customers like to know how many stages are left in the checkout process, and this information should also be displayed during mobile checkouts. It can also be used as a way for users to skip back in case they need to alter anything. 

Here’s an example from the Yoox.com mobile site: 

Keep form filling to a minimum

However well optimised, the more fields there are for a user to fill in, the more likely they are to abandon the process. Mobile checkouts should only ask what is absolutely necessary to complete the purchase. 

Provide shortcuts for customers

Little things like using the billing address as the delivery address will make the checkout process more palatable for mobile users, and using a postcode lookup tool will save a bit more typing. 

Keep page sizes to a minimum

The more elements on a page, the longer it will take to load, and the more likely it is that customers will abandon the checkout process in frustration. The Net A Porter app provides an excellent example of this, with streamlined pages which load reasonably quickly, even on a decent 3G connection. 

Provide faster checkout for registered users

The payment process is one of the biggest obstacle to success in mobile commerce, so the easier this can be made for customers, the more likely they are to buy. 

Allowing customers to use the delivery and payment details that they have already registered on the desktop site can make mobile checkout as smooth as possible and will increase the number of repeat purchases. 

Show a clear contact number during checkout

Since customers are using their phones anyway, it’s easy enough for them to make a call, so providing a clear contact number during checkout could just save a few lost sales. 

M&S does provide a contact number on every page of its mobile checkout process, but it is at the bottom of the page where it is easily missed. 

Provide security reassurances

Some customers may be a little wary about buying via mobile at first, so some reassurances about the security of the transaction may help to ease these concerns. 

Provide alternative payment options

Reducing the hassle of making payments is key to the success of any mobile commerce site, and as well as making card payments as smooth as they can be, alternative methods could also be provided. 

These alternatives include PayPal mobile checkout, click to call, so users can select products on the mobile site and call up to complete the transaction. Another method is cash on delivery, though I have only seen this on the Yoox mobile site.