Fed up of abandoned baskets? Well, perhaps these near-customers were fed up of your website checkout process. To improve yours and ensure you convert more customers, make sure you’re not making the mistakes highlighted in this article…

‘Unexpected item in bagging area’ – a bit silly really, when you consider the bagging areas of self-service checkouts were designed solely to expect items. The only time we really have ‘unexpected’ items added to what we’re trying to buy is when using online checkouts, and this is just one of the common qualms consumers claim can make them abandon a purchase altogether.

Your marketing team and website has already worked hard to get users to this point; don’t blow it all by having a checkout process which turns people off. Millions of online shopping baskets are abandoned every day, and it’s an action you should want to do all you can to prevent.

Here are some of the most common issues online shoppers have with checkouts, and a few tips from the experts on how to make sure you don’t fall at the final hurdle.

1.Checkouts with long forms over multiple pages

Look – do you want the customer to complete the order or not? Some online checkouts are far longer than they need to be, and this is down to a lack of consideration for user experience.

Don’t make it difficult and time consuming to buy from you – make it pleasurable and easy. Having a ‘stage guide’ running along the top of your checkout so customers can see how long the process will take is a great way to set expectations.   

Dave Colgate, SEO Specialist:

Dave

“My number one tip to improve your checkout is to try making a purchase on your own site. I’m amazed how many retailers haven’t got a clear understanding of their own checkout process because they’ve never actually been through it.

“Checkouts should act as catalysts for rapid purchase in the most painless way possible. There are some awesome tips on doing this here.”

Steve Masters, Services Director:

Steve“The less fields and words, the better. A post code tool for an address look-up speeds up the form-filling process. Don’t clutter the form with third party opt outs, survey questions or other non-essential items.”

 

 Coralie Wood, PPC Specialist:

Coralie“What’s my ideal online checkout? The absolute minimum required! For two reasons: time and security.

“Once a decision is made to purchase something the customer wants to be able to get it as soon as possible. This doesn’t just mean quick delivery times but also the process they have to go to actually order the item. Making your forms short and succinct will likely increase your conversion rate and make customers much happier.”

2. Asking for too many ‘required’ details

As tempting as it is to try and collect as much customer data as you can, it’s not worth it at the expense of conversions. Stick to the essential info you need for the purchase, not what data you deem essential for your future marketing campaigns.

Coralie Wood, PPC Specialist:

CoralieThe security element again comes back to the data you are asking the customer to share. If the perception is that you want to know every little detail about the customer, they’ll likely become suspicious of why you want to know this information. Customers are very aware of the impact of data sharing/selling, and actively seek out ways to avoid this happening. Asking questions that a customer deems unnecessary will drag your conversion rate down.”

Dave Colgate, SEO Specialist:

Dave

“If a customer wants to spend their money, let them; don’t distract them by asking for unnecessary information once they’ve made that commitment to follow the checkout process!”


Steve Masters, Services Director:

Steve“The most important aspect for me is simplicity. The more I have to read in the checkout process, the more scope there is for me making a mistake. They need my name, address and email. If the form can ask for that in as few fields as possible, great.”

 

3. Being forced to create an account

If people truly love and trust your brand, they’ll sign-up and become a registered user of your website. Until that becomes the case, though, you need to prove yourself as a retailer. Forcing every single customer who wants to buy from you to create an account seems a bit selfish; sure, as marketers you’ll get a ton of useful data you can use in the future, but you might lose custom too.

Dave Colgate, SEO Specialist:

Dave

“By forcing users to do something they don’t necessarily want to do you’ll decrease your conversion rates. By offering a fast checkout process using a ‘guest’ format, you’re making the route to purchase as simple, fast and painless as possible. This gets you revenue faster, gets the customer’s product purchased faster. A quality buying experience may encourage them to return and start an account regardless.”

Alex De Sousa, Website Developer:

Alex

“Don’t lose the customer by forcing them to sign-up, and don’t assume your website is special. It takes customers five seconds to find your site, then maybe a minute for them to add a few items, and they can leave if they can’t be bothered to sign up. In fact, they’ve probably done the same thing in four other tabs for four different websites, so they can compare prices.”

 Coralie Wood, PPC Specialist:

Coralie

As more and more internet security concerns are raised, customers are much stricter on the data they are making available to companies. Offering a guest checkout makes the customer feel like they are still in control of the situation and they aren’t being forced into anything. Allowing the customer this control and security can result in more repeat purchases and, if the service is good, can build trust leading to them saving details on a later purchase.”

Sarah Howard, Head of Content:

Sarah

“If I’m in a rush, I don’t want to fill in forms and have to tick boxes, as I might not want to buy anything else from you in the future. A guest checkout is good for user experience, doesn’t slow people down, and is likely to reduce cart abandonment rates. However, as a marketer I can see the benefit of collecting customer information; providing data to be used for personalised marketing.

“A happy compromise is keeping checkout pages to a minimum. Create a single page that captures everything needed, asking customers at the end of the transaction if they’d like their details to be kept for the next time they visit. That sounds less of a commitment than registering.”

Steve Masters, Services Director:

Steve “Does a supermarket force you to register before you can buy food?  No.”

 

 

4. Being told suddenly that an item has become unavailable

There’s nothing worse than thinking you have something in the bag (perhaps a much-sought after Christmas present), only to find out that you don’t. Being told suddenly that an item has become unavailable when you’re mid-way through the checkout process can be brutal, but in actual fact – unless you have the budget for real-time stock availabilities – it’s often unavoidable, and actually the best possible thing your company can do to remain honest and transparent.

Alex De Sousa, Website Developer:

Alex

This isn’t really a checkout issue – it’s absolutely the right thing for a website to do when a product has become unavailable. Instead, the emphasis shifts back to your business to keep the right stock levels. However, there is a way to salvage this unfortunate situation. You could suggest similar products that might be of interest, perhaps discounted by about 5% or 10% to make it tempting. Alternatively, offer a higher discount code to be used another time – such as 20 per cent off.”

Wez Maynard, Head of Design:

Wez

“There’s not a lot you can do if two visitors are trying to buy the one remaining item they’re both after. Once a page has loaded, the information is up-to-date – so it’s not really your website’s fault if an item suddenly becomes unavailable once one of those visitors buys the item in question.

“You could argue that it’s much better happening this way when compared to the alternative; where a site would let you buy the item before sending you an email some time later saying it was out of stock. Real time stock availabilities are a solution to this particular issue – but the cost of implementation can be very high.”

5. The website freezing near the end of a long checkout process

If the last point on this list isn’t a website issue, then this one definitely is. If you want your business to perform well, you need to provide customers with a well-performing site.

Alex De Sousa, Website Developer:

Alex

“Generally, if it’s not a bug on your website causing it to crash, then it’s probably performance related. Dump your cheap shared hosting and buy a VPN hosting package. Ask your developers to improve caching on your site to better handle traffic loads.”

 

6. Checkouts which automatically select the most expensive delivery option

It’s just a bit cheeky really, isn’t it? In a way, brands are taking advantage of panic-shoppers and those simply ordering in a hurry by automatically selecting the most expensive delivery option. Customers ordering in bulk may not notice the additional delivery costs at first, but rest assured that when they realise they’ve been duped, they probably won’t come back to you.

Dave Colgate, SEO Specialist:

Dave

“Based on experience, suddenly adding expensive, involuntary add-ons isn’t going to encourage increases in conversion rates. I would recommend having a standard delivery available, displayed separately and allow the customer to choose from other options on checkout. This way, the buyer knows that their product is going to cost X amount plus X amount for the most basic form of delivery.”

Steve Masters, Services Director:

Steve

“In a recent survey we carried out, consumers said they are most concerned about price. I would advise retailers to choose the most cost effective option by default and allow customers to choose a more expensive option. I like the way Amazon does it.”

 

7. Having stuff added to my order

This is even cheekier than the expensive delivery! Most retail websites should be trying to upsell to customers – both for your customer’s benefit and for your bottom line. But gingerly adding products to an order without shouting about it? That’s a big checkout no no.

Dave Colgate, SEO Specialist:

Dave

“At particular touch points where the buyer may be making decisions, offer additional products but don’t force it. Simple suggestions can go a long way and you can ‘sweeten’ the deal by offering the upsell at a discount rate or perhaps with another one-off, limited time benefit. Some great places to do this are during the checkout before they purchase, from within their basket view and at the bottom of product pages.”

 Steve Masters, Services Director:

Steve“As a customer I don’t mind suggested additional products, as long as they really are complementary or they offer me a deal. Other than that, they are clutter on the page and the slow down my experience. If the product suggestions enhance the experience and don’t complicate it, I have no problem with it.”

 Sarah Howard, Head of Content:

Sarah

“Adding to orders is an immediate turn off – especially if the most expensive shipping option is automatically chosen too. This creates more work for the customer, who needs to untick or remove options.

“Upselling could be encouraged by suggesting accompanying items on product pages or providing a special discount for first time purchasers. Additionally, regular customers could be provided with exclusive discount codes.”

 Wez Maynard, Head of Design:

Wez

“You should look at the orders themselves. What items are often purchased together? Picture frames and piano wire, for example. Then when the higher ticket item is added to the basket, the lower value item can be displayed in an ‘items we thought you might like/need’ section on the basket check-out page. The key to hitting upsell gold is making sure the item in question is relevant and modestly priced (in comparison with the related item they have added to their basket).”

Related reading

Want more info on how to improve your checkout? Then check out:

Lessons from six retailers on how to reduce cart abandonment.