How To Make Your Online Checkout More User Friendly

Have you ever gone shopping for a couple items, only to find the checkout lines too long or slow, so you drop your items and leave the store? I have, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It may not happen all that frequently at a brick and mortar, but it does online. A lot.

Getting shoppers in the door from search engines is the easy part. Getting them to buy from your online store is the difficult part.

How to prevent shopping cart abandonment on e-commerce sites

Shopping cart dropout rates are a problem many online retailers have to overcome. Every day customers who appear to be ready to make a purchase abandon their carts before completing the online transaction. This happens for a number of reasons. Even the visitor may not be sure why, only that he didn’t want the products after all.

However, while cart abandonment may be par for the course with online shopping, there are things an e-commerce site can do to reduce the root causes of this action.

Make It Easy To View Items In The Cart

Your main navigation should always have a clear and obvious link that allows visitors to view items in their cart. You cannot rely on “view cart” buttons in your product pages alone.

Many visitors may be shopping around category pages without any direct links to their shopping cart. Adding a “view cart” link into your main navigation ensures visitors can easily begin the checkout process, regardless of where they are in the site.

Simplify Changing & Updating Cart Items

When a visitor is viewing the items in her cart, there is often a desire to remove products, increase or reduce desired quantity, change color, size or other options. All of these options should be available right there in the cart, rather than forcing the shopper back to the product page.

Keep Advertising & Up-Selling To A Minimum

Your shopping cart is no place for an ad! But it’s not a bad place for small up-sell opportunities. If an item requires additional products to make it functionable, up-sells are important.

If there are just some additional accessories you want to sell, you can do so, provided it doesn’t interfere with the conversion process. Rule of thumb: When checking out, the fewer distractions the better.

Highlight Security Features

Shoppers are very concerned about the security of their personal information. Be sure to implement and highlight security features such as privacy policies, site security, BBB (and similar organization) memberships, as well as return/refund policies. All of these provide signals of trust that visitors calculate into the checkout decision-making process.

Optional Storing Of Personal Information

You should never keep shopper’s personal information (such as credit card numbers, addresses, etc.) unless specifically requested by the shopper or as part of an account he or she chooses to create.

It’s also important not to force shoppers to create an account just to make a purchase. Make this entirely optional and put that option at the end of your checkout process.

Answer Shipping & Other Questions Upfront

If visitors have questions about shipping, returns, warranty, orders or other questions, they’ll want these answers before they complete their purchase. Providing these answers, or at least provide a link to where the answers can be found, will prevent visitors from leaving the cart to search out that information on your site – and perhaps never return to the cart to finish the purchase.

Provide International Shipping Compatibility

If you ship internationally, you must make sure your information forms support international addresses and phone numbers. Many US websites use forms that collection information using the American standards. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for those with international addresses and numbers. Ensure your form has international compatibility if you want that business.

Provide An Order Progress Update

In some cases, the checkout process requires multiple steps. The fewer steps your checkout form has, the lower your abandonment rates will be. So, one step is always best. However, if you can’t get around it, be sure to include a progress indicator that gives visitors an idea of what step they are on and how many more to go.

Along those lines, it’s a good idea to keep visitors informed of progress of the completed order. Be sure to send out emails that let them know when items are shipping, along with how they can track the package.

No purchase is complete until it’s complete. Shoppers may be ready to buy, but sometimes even the smallest roadblock can derail them from the process. The last thing you want to do is to give them an opportunity to back out because they just don’t “feel right” about the purchase. A well-designed shopping cart page can help ensure these shoppers feel safe and have everything they need to feel good about their decision.

Image credit: elnur / 123RF Stock Photo

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | Search & Usability


About The Author: is president of Pole Position Marketing, a leading online marketing strategy company established in 1998 and currently based in Canton, Ohio.

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  • Matt Pritchard

    Good article, Stoney. It’s a nice nice recap of some fundamental checkout optimization strategies. You make one point that I would question: that conversion declines as the number of steps increases. I think conversion declines can be correlated to increased form fields in a checkout flow – the more data you require your customer to input, the more abandonment you will see. But I think the number of steps (pages) in which you collect those data points is less relevant. If I’m capturing 20 fields of data from a customer, I don’t think it necessarily matters if I do that in a single-page checkout flow or a multi-page checkout flow, assuming the later is within reason. A while back, I read some research (sorry, no reference) that some customers preferred a multi-step approach, because they felt it did a better job guiding them through the transaction. Other customers were indifferent. I think the key is optimizing total data points being captured, more so than the number of steps used to capture that data.


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