Improving the checkout process

In order to make your online shop user-friendly, you have to focus on the improvement of the checkout process. According to numerous usability tests this is the spot where shoppers abandon their carts to never come back again. Although there are easy steps that may crucially cut your online shop cart abandonment index and make the checkout area more user-friendly for your customers.

Require no upfront registration

Many online shops requiring that users create an account to make their first purchase. Of course it’s necessary for companies to collect information about their customers, but many shoppers are discourage from having to register a new user ID just to make a purchase. How users see the registration Many shoppers see registration from a very different perspective.

  • They’re may be skeptic about providing personal information, especially to online shops with whom they don’t have a trusted relationship yet.
  • Shoppers come to your website with certain expectations created from previous experiences.
  • Shoppers are trying to avoid situations they feel might compromise their privacy.
  • They also shun anything they take as likely to land in junk email.
  • Many shoppers have difficulty remembering a huge number of ID/passwords combinations they already have and they’re disinclined to create one more.

Also you should let your shoppers to add and compare items in a shopping cart before processing to the checkout step.  If your website asks the customer to register before even adding items to the shopping cart, many of them will look elsewhere to shop.

Resume: provide customers an access to a full shopping cart view and let them complete the checkout step as a guest and sign up at the end. Also there is an important thing: let shoppers know how many steps the checkout process has. The registration should be optional. For example, Magento shopping cart offers this functionality by default, so you do not have to invest into ecommerce website development to allow your customers to purchase without registration.

Eliminate all distractions on checkout page

During the checkout process, the customer should concentrate only on completing the purchase. What do we mean by “distraction”: anything that distracts your shopper from committing the final step. This can be anything from calls to action that prompt shoppers to sign up for email newsletters and remind them to “like” your website on Facebook! None of distractions should be presented on the Shopping Cart page. A good example of “closed checkout” is Amazon. They want to make sure that once the shopper is ready to buy they focus only on that task. Anything that does not help you get to purchase is a distraction.

Add descriptions to form field labels

According to numerous usability testing (including mobile ecommerce usability) the vast majority of customers has trouble understanding different form fields labels. Sometime it may be critical when a shopper cannot make sense of a label for the required field which leads to shopping cart abandonment.  92% of over a hundred largest e-commerce websites in US have one or more “inadequate” form field descriptions on checkout page.

If the shopper doesn’t understand the label itself or is unsure of its meaning, an additional description can help. The most common offenders to cause confusion are technical jargon, abbreviations, and special site / industry features, for example:

Numeric dates – Europe and North America uses different date format, (DD-MM-YY vs MM-DD-YY)

Monetary amount – Accounting style vary from country to country as well, they can include decimal- and thousand-separators, which themselves can take multiple shapes (a dot, a comma, or a space)

Password – you should clearly state what are the password requirement: min. or max. number of charecters, numbers etc. Phone number – also does it have to include a country code, spaces or dashes etc.

Credit card number – do spaces should be added or not? Surprisingly many online shops will reject the card number if spaces are included even though this is how they are printed on most credit cards.

Credit card security code – keep in mind that security codes are printed in different places and in varying lengths depending on the card type.

Address line 1 and 2 – the question is does my apartment number and floor belong in address line 1 or 2? State clearly what both address lines should contain. Industry-specific values – do not expect your shoppers to be experts in your industry, they may not know what means: Issuring bank or Product SKU

Abbreviations – when the shopper is asked to enter data it’s not always clear if you should provide the abbreviation or full name.

There are a few common ways to add descriptions for form fields:

Inline descriptions – this type of description is permanently visible to the customer, it can be placed under each field with light grey color (or another color according to design), and should be very brief. Tooltips – sometimes it takes a form of a questions mark, clicking on it you see the text of the description, “learn more” icon. Especially useful if you want to explain in details. Dynamic descriptions – Twitter is a good example of such type of description. This is when you see the written text disappearing while typing in this field or appearing next to the field.

Contextual words like “continue, “proceed,” or “next” need clarification

Contextual words like “Continue” are ambiguous and tend to confuse customers. Depending on the customer’s state of mind, a button labelled “Continue” in a shopping cart could mean one of two things:

  • Continue shopping

Say, if the customer is also looking for a shirt to go with those jeans.

  • Continue to checkout

If the customer has all the products they need and just wants to pay. The person reacts depending on the state of mind – may cause confusion. The solution is fairly straight-forward, simply avoid using contextual words like “continue” in your links and buttons. Another example is “Back.” Back to the last page? Back to the search results? Where? And how about “Proceed”? These are all contextual words that change in meaning depending on the context (i.e. the page) and the customer’s state of mind. Instead, use words that aren’t open to interpretation, such as “Check out now” and “Shop more.”

Auto-detect a city and state immediately after ZIP code is provided or mock up of a country selector using autocomplete

Customers don’t like filling out form fields. This cause many customers to rush through the fields and as a consequence, they often misspelling things like their city or state. On the number of occasions shoppers do not notice the misspelling as a result orders are completed with a wrong address.

When implementing auto-detection be aware of the following:

  • Sometimes a ZIP code is applicable to a region or multiple cities, in these cases you add the relevant city suggestions to your city field and have the customer pick the correct one.
  • If your shopper has already provided a ZIP code in an earlier step, e.g. in a shipping calculator, automatically pre-fill the ZIP code in the current step.
  • You shouldn’t skip the city or state field from your form since people expect them to be there. You should just pre-fill them with the correct data after the ZIP code has been entered.
  • No system is perfect and ZIP codes do change, so always allow the customer to manually change the state and city you’ve chosen, for the rare cases where the system is wrong.

Use clear error indications

Make sure that error notifications on your website are easy for users to understand. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to make a purchase and not being able to figure out why. If this happens, your potential customer may give you a second shot and try again—but it’s unlikely they’ll try more than three times. So make your error messages clear. Say to your customer in clear, direct language what do they need to do. Make those messages easy to see by using red or highlighted yellow text to increase the error text’s visibility. Also, place the error message directly above or next to the specific item(s) that needs correction. There’s nothing worse than a blanket error message at the top of the page that leaves someone guessing.

Final cost

You should provide shipping and tax cost sooner, rather than later. Shoppers will hesitate to continue with the checkout process if they don’t how much it will cost to ship the item. If you provide a link from the Shopping Cart page to general shipping rates make sure the shopper does not have to leave the checkout process page. Usability tests show that shoppers would definitely abandon the website if they did not have the total cost of their purchase before being asked to provide their credit card information. Sites/companies also typically lose a lot of credibility when this occurs.