Checkout abandonment is inevitable on ecommerce sites as the plain truth is that some people simply aren’t ready to make a purchase.

However there are certain steps that sites can implement to limit the number of customers that dropout during the checkout phase.

The basic aim is to make it as simple as possible for your customers to hand over their cash, which means limiting the amount of form filling and offering shortcuts wherever possible.

With this in mind, here are seven user shortcuts that will help to reduce checkout abandonment

Allow guest registration

Asking new customers to create an account is an obvious cause of checkout abandonment as nobody wants to waste time filling in forms when all they’re trying to do is buy a pair of shoes.

However forcing registration is attractive for retailers for two reasons:

  • It means you collect lots of lovely customer data.
  • Storing card details makes repeat purchases easier so customers are more likely to make impulse buys in future.

Ideally retailers should bite the bullet and allow customers to make a quick, anonymous purchase using a guest checkout, but there are also tactics that can be used to get customers to register without even realising it.

ASOS managed to halve its abandonment rate at the checkout stage overnight simply by removing any mention of registering.

All new customers are still forced to register an account, but ASOS sneakily asks you to provide a password as part of the standard checkout requirements such as contact name and email address.

Postcode lookup tool

Typing in your address isn’t the most arduous task in the world, but even that process can be shortened using a postcode lookup tool.

It means that customers need only enter one field of information before selecting their address from a list of options.

But retailers should also spell out the exact format they require from customers (i.e. does it need a space, capital letters, etc) to avoid the dreaded error message.

Similarly, they should anticipate common user errors, such as using zero instead of the letter ‘O’, or the number ‘1’ instead of the letter ‘i’ and vice versa.

In the case of Belron, Craig Sullivan found that this was causing 2.5% of customers to abandon. To solve the problem, Belron’s forms now anticipates these errors so that users continue through the form, not even knowing they had made a mistake.

Assume same address for billing and delivery

A decent proportion of customers will have their purchases delivered to their home address, so they don’t want to waste time entering the same information twice for billing and delivery.

To avoid this frustration sites should allow users to enter their address once then tick a box to use the same information for both delivery and billing.

Let people use the back button

During the checkout process users often want to go back to check their details or find some information, and I would predict that a majority of people want to complete this action using the back button on their browser.

But some sites can’t cope with this and display an error message or delete the data you’ve previously entered, which is a huge barrier to purchase and will undoubtedly cause some basket abandonment.

Short forms

Not so much a user shortcut as a design feature, but limiting the amount of form filling is vital for making the checkout process more convenient for your customers.

Topshop does a great job of keeping form filling to minimum – the guest checkout consists of just two pages and all it requires is an address, payment, and ‘confirmation details’, which is another sneaky way of forcing you to register an account.

Alternative payments

And by alternative payments I basically mean PayPal, although there are a few other options such as store cards.

PayPal allows customers to make a payment just by entering a username and password, rather than finding their card and typing in all the required details.

Similarly, not all consumers use credit or debit cards so you need to allow people to pay by whatever means they’re most comfortable with or have access to.

Stats published last year showed that alternative payment methods were used in 11% of online purchases in the UK, and e-business consultant Dan Barker recently found that adding PayPal and advertising it prominently prior to checkout increased new customer purchases on one website by 14%.

ASOS, New Look and Topshop all accept PayPal, while H&M offers a range of different options including instalments or a monthly invoice. 

Store card details for repeat purchases

Most major retailers now offer to store card details, which is a great way of encouraging repeat purchases.

Consumers are used to storing their card details thanks to Amazon’s ‘1-Click’ payment system, so it’s not surprising that other brands such as Tesco, John Lewis, ASOS and Debenhams have followed suit.

It means that shoppers can make a purchase simply by entering the three-digit security code on the back of the card, which massively shortens the checkout process.