How to Optimize Your Checkout Page

Complete Guide on Process and Abandonment

If a customer abandons their cart and with that their intent to purchase from you – it will likely happen on your checkout page.

There is no way around it: if your checkout is not properly tailored to your target audience, you can lose the bulk of even the most ready-to-buy shoppers. A simple bug can push people away with money in their hands.

To avoid losing sales, we created this comprehensive guide for you on how your checkout process should look like. If you read it thoroughly, you will have ideas on what might be wrong and how to improve your checkout process.

We are going to tell you about one-page and one-click checkout, the reasons for cart abandonment and even tell you about the one security badge you should definitely display.

Shall we dive in?

The Basic Checkout Process

A checkout in its pure form is a fairly simple process: it is the series of steps the user has to take to order a product or a service on an online store. It looks like this:

  • Fill out the shipping information.
  • Choose the preferred shipping method.
  • Choose the preferred payment method.
  • Preview the order.
  • Confirm the order.

This seems pretty straightforward. So why do customers abandon their cart due to complicated checkout? How can you simply a straightforward process? Where could the possible pitfalls be?

There are actually a great number of factors at play here. The process itself is standard but can be influenced by previous communication with the user, the overall customer experience, UX of your online store, the credibility of your business, the effectiveness of how you communicate certain vital information, and so on.

For example, preferred payments methods for your shoppers can greatly vary based on your target market. In the United States, a credit card is by far the most popular option, preferred by 55% of online customers, while in India on average 60% of customers prefer cash on delivery.

Consequently, you have to make sure to offer the right payment method if you don’t want to lose potential customers. And this is just one tiny (albeit very important) detail.

In this article, we have gathered and looked into every possible factor that might influence your checkout process’ effectiveness, complete with advice on how to create the best possible customer experience in your store.

Checkout Page Optimization Strategies

Design & Layout

Be Mobile-Friendly

This should go without saying, but it is still important to include. Even if your site is mobile-friendly out-of-the-box, make sure with thorough testing that the checkout can be easily navigated and all important information can be found and understood easily.

Besides making your mobile checkout simple and streamlined you should also think about user behavior.

Mobile conversion rates are still lower than desktop conversion rates, in part because customers are often using their mobiles to browse products but would rather complete their purchase on desktop.

So on your mobile checkout page, it makes sense to include a “save for later” option. This way the customer can just save their cart and finish the process later, helping retention.

You should also try to minimize the work the user has to do before completing the process. For mobile, this not only means a short process but also the ability to tap instead of type. If you offer multiple options (e.g. delivery options) allow users to tap the option rather than having a keyboard pop up on the screen.

Indicate progress

If your checkout has multiple pages (more on one-page checkout later) you should include some visual cues to indicate exactly where the user currently is in the process.

This can be as simple as displaying a progress bar. The goal is to let the shopper know exactly how many more steps are left in the checkout process, so they aren’t faced with unpleasant surprises.

Studies show that the longer your checkout process is (the more clicks that are needed and more pages are included) the higher your cart abandonment rate is going to be. By constantly showing the user where they are you can lower this rate.

Clear and well-placed Call to Actions (CTA)

In your check out the “next step” buttons are the CTAs, and should always stand out and have a very clear function.

If you have additional options because, -for example, you allow users to return to shopping, make the button different to separate it.

Make sure that the shopper always has a button insight that can take them to the next or previous step of the process. The user should have buttons visible at all times, maybe as a hovering object or by including a button at the top.

This way if they scroll back up to check the information they don’t have to scroll down again, removing friction from the process.

Include easily accessible information

Your design should be as simple as possible, yet should include the important information that is needed to help guide the shopper – which seems like a tough dilemma.

One solution is to include most of the information with info buttons or icons (think about the small grey icons next to form fields for example with small “i” in a circle). This way it is right there, the user can access it with a simple hover but it won’t overstuff your checkout pages.

Information can be included for every field this way if you want, showing examples how your customer should fill it in, telling them why you need that specific piece of information, how you are going to handle it and so on.

Organize your checkout with design

In some cases, checkout pages can be unintentionally confusing. Some stores, for example, show relevant products to the users during the checkout to increase the order value – which can be confusing if you arrive at the cart review page and aren’t able to decipher what is actually in your cart or just a suggestion.

Make sure that on your checkout pages the most important information is always quick and easy to identify. If you have a form or show the cart, group the relevant stuff together, give it a different background or put it in a box. Make it stand out.

Keep it simple

Some stores like to display relevant offers on their checkout pages to increase average order value or testimonials to strengthen their credibility. While they can be effective methods, they shouldn’t be done during the checkout process.

The one goal of checkout is to close the deal, to get that conversion.

You can include testimonials on the product pages, social sharing options on the thank you page or upsell in the follow-up email, but keep things focused during the checkout.

If you distract the customer, the process will take longer and be more complicated. Focus your efforts on converting the customer, because after the first conversion it is always easier to bring the shopper back to buy more. But if you lose them the first time, it is likely they won’t return.

Minimize the header and footer

In your store, the header and footer might contain offers and options that make it easier for the customer to find products or learn about your company. At the checkout, all these become irrelevant as they already have a clear buying intention.

On the checkout page(s) the header and footer should be much simpler, or removed entirely. Just keep the design and other elements that maintains message match and brand recognition.

If you keep them, include links to vital information like your privacy policy, shipping and returns policy, terms and conditions, and signals that help with building trust (secure payment gateway, one-sentence testimonials, logos of well-known previous clients and customers etc.).

Simplify your forms

Thanks to the Baymard Institute we know that an average checkout flow contains 14.88 form fields. This might not seem like a lot, considering the amount of information they have to provide in order checkout without error.

But at the same time, the second most common reason for cart abandonment is too long or complicated checkout process. This has a lot to do with the number of forms (especially on mobile).

You can consider your checkout page as a kind of landing page. HubSpot analyzed over 40,000 landing page forms and found that the number of fields had a clear impact on conversion rate. 2-5 fields converted very well but after that, the rate starts to drop.

Eloqua arrived at a similar result after looking at 1,500 landing pages: the more fields, the lower the conversion rate. (This data is from 2011, but basically, all studies arrived at the same conclusion. JotForm in 2018 for example.)

You have to learn how to collect a sufficient amount of data while still providing a good user experience. If your product is not something that requires significant investment (and I am not talking about money here but emotional investment, like imagining owning and using the product and solving their problems with it, or going through a complex process of designing their own product) on the part of the buyer, you should only ask for the most basic information. According to Baymard Institute, you can usually remove 20-60% of your fields.

Use an exit pop-up

It makes sense to try and immediately turn around those who want to leave your site – and it is extremely easy to do that. You only need to add a pop-up that appears when someone wants to close the window, actived by tracking their movements.

Of course, you should come up with something that can be truly tempting to stay for but you don’t lose too much on it. Usually, a very simple offer like a 10% discount or free shipping can convince many of your potential customers to turn around. AVON was able to reduce their cart abandonment rate by a whopping 16.5% by using an exit pop-up.

Be sure to make this offer a time-limited one to create urgency: the vustomer can only get that specific offer if they act on it right away. It also makes sense to exclude anyone who acted on your exit pop-up offer from further similar offers for a time, this way they can’t exploit the system and go for a discount automatically.

Optimizing Order Details & Information

Product details

One of the most important steps in every checkout process is where you show the customer their cart with the product details included to give them a chance to review their order before placing it. This is vital to make the customer feels secure about what they are doing.

In the cart, you should include the most important information so they can really make sure they have the right product, for example:

  • A picture of the product.
  • Basic details (size, color, type etc.)
  • Price of the individual product.
  • Quantity.
  • A short summary if necessary.

Info on shipping methods

Give the customer detailed information on all the shipping methods you offer. If this overcrowds the page use info buttons as we have suggested.

It also makes sense to include this information before the customer enters their shipping address to avoid any surprises.

Extra costs

If there are any extra costs like shipping or VAT the checkout page is certainly not the place to first introduce this information on.

Make sure that you have all the information clearly communicated on product pages and in your cart so the customer won’t suddenly be faced with a price higher than before they started the checkout.

If you target foreign markets, make sure you have an integration that can recognize the location of the customer so you can display the right currency for them. Never create extra work like converting currencies, and if you must, do it yourself for the customer.

Knowing where your customer is from can also help if you don’t offer a flat rate ir free shipping, as you can automatically calculate the shipping cost right away with the right integration.

Modifying the order

Give the customer the ability to not only review but if they desire, modify their order. Ideally, they should be able to look at their cart before continuing and modify the quantity of certain products or remove them from the cart if they wish.

Payment and shipping

Shipping options

Always make sure to offer at least a handful of different shipping options based on the preferences of your target market. (If you are curious about your options regarding shipping, read our detailed article about shipping costs and providers.)

Studies show that offering same-day delivery can greatly increase your conversions: customers are even willing to pay more if they can get their items delivered as fast as possible. You can also offer “regular” shipping methods that usually take 3-7 days, and if you have a brick-and-mortar store or warehouse, the option of in-store pickup for locals.

Payment options

Always do your market research before launching a store and planning your customer journey. In every country and in many cases even in different areas, the preferred payment methods can greatly vary as we have already mentioned. Pay attention to this and offer the most popular options to your customers.

Rewards and special offers

If you have special offers, you should communicate these throughout your site, but you can also remind your customers of them at the checkout. Where the customer can check their cart and you show the price for each item, you can also show the amount of money they saved.

And if you have a loyalty program, you could also show your customers how many points or what rewards they are going to receive after they place the order, encouraging them to close the deal.

Get the contact information early on

We know that it is not a good idea to require your customer to create an account if they want to shop: to increase conversion you have to make it possible to check out as a guest.

But even for a guest checkout, they have to provide basic information – and it might be a good idea to ask for one specific one as early as you can: the email address.

How you ask matters: emphasize the advantages, tell your potential customer that providing their address makes it possible to send them information about their orders (like confirmation and delivery status emails).

If you have the address you have a greater chance to run cart abandonment campaigns that can bring back customers who did not proceed to the end of the checkout. (And if you use advanced software you can also track customer behavior more efficiently like this.)

Credibility

Always include visual cues about the options you offer. This can lend you credibility in the cases of both shipping and payment and make recognition and selection easier for the user, thus providing a better experience.

If you have partnerships with a number of shipping services, put their logo right beside the shipping options. The same with payments: include the PayPal logo, the VISA logo and so on.

And also include other logos you might have, like certifications to communicate to the user that they are indeed buying something from a reliable source, not some shady business.

These are usually the elements that get noticed when they are missing. If you have a look at the checkout pages of major online retailers, you will always find these logos, and while you might pay little attention to them, as an experienced online shopper you might very well notice if they are missing for some reason.

But what are the most effective of these “trust seals”? Luckily the Baymard Institute already has the answers. Perceived security has a lot to do with design (like making the fields where they enter their credit card information a bit different than from those where they, for example, enter their shipping address). But the seals also have a great role.

The one that gives the best sense of trust, according to a 2016 study is Norton’s SSL seal, followed by the Google Trusted Store seal. But other SSL seals didn’t perform so well – in fact, a homemade, completely fake SSL seal created solely for the study outperformed them all except Norton.

So if you can leverage brand recognition, do so, and if you feel like you need some extra feeling of security, you can design your checkout to provide it as long as you don’t lie. Padlock icons are usually very effective if included in the right places like card number and security page fields.

What is Single-Page Checkout?

Checking out should be as simple as possible for your customer, and have already shared some tips on how you can streamline the design, layout, and steps to achieve this. But this also applies to the entire checkout process. Do you know how many clicks your customer has to make, how many individual pages they have to go through before they reach the thank you page?

Multi-Step Checkout

This is the type you can find on most online stores: the steps can be found on different pages and you have to click on a “continue” button 4-5 times before you arrive at the end. On each page, you can see only the most relevant information so your attention can be closely guided. However, in some cases, a checkout like this is neither convenient nor necessary.

One-Step Checkout

The more simplified version is the one-page checkout, where all the information and steps are displayed on one simple page as the name suggests. Fewer clicks and pages make the checkout easier, but in some cases, it is not a practical approach and most merchants don’t use it. Their use has greatly decreased over the last decade.

One-Click Checkout

If you want a truly one-click checkout, there are certain conditions you have to meet, and because of this, it is very different from a one-page checkout. In this case, the customer doesn’t have to provide any information because it is pulled from a database – from Amazon’s or Apple’s for example.

Which one should you use?

This depends on a lot of factors including the behavior and preferences of your audience and the characteristics of the product you sell.

A multi-step checkout can be equipped with a better layout and it is better in terms of analytics as you can clearly see at which steps customers are dropping out of the process. You can in many cases collect customer data (mainly contact info) more efficiently, for example, if providing an email address is the first step as we have discussed above.

At the same time, it takes more time and works to complete so there is a chance that your cart abandonment rate will be higher.

A one-step checkout, on the other hand, requires less work on the part of the customer and appears to be a simpler concept (it may be just as complex, but with less actual steps taking place.)

Also, a one-page checkout may be slower to load and it is easier for the customer to get lost if its a longer format, instead of tracking their progress with some cues like a progress bar.

A one-click option is even simpler of course, but it requires the previous creation of an account which can alienate many customers. But if you are targeting customer groups with already existing accounts, your conversion rates can certainly be increased.

Offering Apple Pay or Google Pay mobile payment options are also good options and are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.

Checkout statistics

Site Loading Speed

Site loading speed is one of the most important factors you should consider – and not just because Google officially announced in July 2018 mobile page speed as a ranking factor. According to data collected by Vouchercloud, 57% of online consumers will leave a site if it doesn’t load in under 3 seconds – and 80% of them are never going to return to your site.

According to Pingdom the current average load time of a webpage is 3.21 seconds. They measure a little lower bounce rate, but the fact remains: after passing the 2-second benchmark set by Google as early as 2015, bounce rates start to skyrocket.

This is a factor that belongs to the realm of technical SEO.

You have to make sure that your site loads fast in all cases, especially on mobile.

However, your checkout pages should always be no-indexed so that they don’t show up in the search results of Google. Therefore if they are slower to load in theory that doesn’t affect your rankings directly.

But it will certainly affect your cart abandonment rate. You can’t block the senses of your customers like you block a crawler.

Product imagery and videos

Also according to Vouchercloud, 92.6% of people cite visuals as a top influencing factor affecting a purchase decision. It is one thing to have high-quality product photos, videos or even interactive displays on product pages, but you should also use this in your checkout process.

Including an image of all the products in the cart on the final review page reaffirms the decision and makes it less likely that the customer abandons their cart.

This is also a useful trick if you send out cart abandonment emails: always include at least one image of a product from their cart.

Videos are traditionally very effective in the decision-making process, in the THINK cluster according to intent-based segmentation. But those who reach checkout are already in the DO cluster, they have a strong purchase intent and a video would only distract their attention at this point.

So yes: absolutely do use videos on product pages and landing pages, but not in the checkout process itself.

Reviews, social proof, scarcity

85% of customers read online reviews. And what is even more interesting, 79% trust them as much as a personal recommendation.

It’s your checkout process you have to be very careful not to include too much irrelevant information. A testimonial would only be distracting, but if you have short product summaries included on the order review page, you might as well try to put very short reviews in there.

Ratings are also effective: displaying those five stars beside the name of the product, or going one step further and writing something along the lines of: “4.9 / 5 based on 15,545 orders”. Of course, you should use real numbers here, so if you don’t have real useful data, don’t do this.

This serves as social proof. And you can also go one step further, indicating somewhere that there is just a finite amount of this product left in your inventory (“13 available” for example) to invoke the power of scarcity. Even as a little side note, it can push the customer towards conversion.

Cart and Checkout Abandonment Statistics

Over the years the average cart abandonment rate slowly but steadily grew. From an average of 66.22% in 2012 to 74.1% in 2017. SaleCycle most recently estimated that the 2018 Q3 abandonment rate across all industries was 76.9%.

Whatever the exact number currently is, one thing is certain: three out of four customers who add to a cart will abandon it before purchasing anything.

It is important to note that cart abandonment and checkout abandonment are two separate concepts. The first one can happen anywhere on your site, but a checkout abandonment happens when the checkout process has already started, therefore it indicates that the reason is somewhere in there.

Coupons and Deals

Online shoppers usually love coupons – and this is especially true in the US. 57.5% of US adult internet users will redeem a digital coupon either online or offline. And to redeem it offline is much simpler.

This of course in itself doesn’t necessarily help with the checkout process itself, but it provides you with an effective tool to reduce checkout abandonment. But how?

Simple: set an exit pop-up in which you give the user who would be leaving the process and offer them a small discount or something special in exchange for completing the purchase. If you give a discount, make it a small one and communicate that this is a one-time chance.

Don’t let your users abuse the process by learning how they can get a discount by pretending to abandon their cart.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a discount: you can offer free shipping for example. 59% consider shipping cost as an important factor in making a purchase and is also a significant factor when choosing between different stores.

Payment and security

We have mentioned logos, seals, and badges that should be displayed on your checkout pages. Security concerns are among the most commonly cited reasons for cart abandonment. Some surveys conclude that as much as 61% of shoppers have already abandoned their cart at least once because a trust seal was missing on the site they were browsing.

According to Vouchercloud, 80% of shoppers feel safer if they see trustworthy card logos prominently displayed. An Econsultancy/Toluna survey further confirmed the power of seals and badges: 48% of respondents said they help them decide whether to trust a website or not, coming in as the primary factor in the study.

Reasons for cart abandonment

Why do people abandon their carts? You can find numerous studies on this subject and most of them will tell you the same things. Here are the top reasons that directly concern your checkout process:

  • Unexpected costs: most customers leave without making a purchase but after starting checkout because they are met with costs that have not been communicated before on the product pages or in the cart. Make sure your checkout process doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises in store for your customer.
  • Required signup: make it possible for your customers to buy things from you as a guest. You can ask them for registration later: there is no reason to bother them with it right at the very first purchase. It is even harmful.
  • Too complicated or lengthy checkout: see the section on multiple-step, one-page, and one-click checkout. Know your audience: there is no reason for a 6-step checkout or including a 15-field form if you are selling mugs, but it can be absolutely necessary if you are selling luxury items or a high-ticket service.
  • Security concerns: include all the security badges, seals and stamps, use the proper icons (like the padlock) in the proper places and even design your checkout differently at places (e.g. where you ask for the credit card information). Make your customer feel secure, make sure that they believe your store is a legitimate business and not some shady phishing venture.
  • Bugs on the site: a single bug in the checkout process will melt away any trust and feeling of security you so tirelessly built with your customer.
  • Not enough payment options: always do market research and include all the payment options, all the gateways your target audience requires. A few integrations and partnerships can easily solve the problem of your customers turning away.

Conclusion

The checkout process is probably the most important part of your site to close sales. It really doesn’t matter how many visitors or leads your SEO and content marketing, social strategy, or PPC bring to your site if you can’t close sales.

Closing depends on how well you built the process. An out-of-the-box solution may seem tempting, but there are a number of factors that will influence your conversion rate profoundly. It may be a small thing like not including a payment option or forgetting a security seal that can lose you double-digit percentages of potential sales.

By following the advice from this article, your cart abandonment rates will drop. Save this guide and return to it from time to time. Pay attention to all of your data and use it to fine-tune your checkout process with best practices from this article.

If you are uncertain about what may be wrong, throw us an email and we will be glad to help in skyrocketing the conversion rate of your store!

Alex Schreck
eCommerce Solution Specialist

Alex is an eCommerce Solution Specialist with a deep understanding of the overall operations of an eCommerce business. By putting a great emphasis on optimizing business and eCommerce, he helps web stores align business goals with functionality and recommends the most effective options to meet objectives, while avoiding unnecessary customization and costs. Alex loves working out and watching sports.