In traditional retailing, customers rarely abandon their shopping carts. They may take one or two items out at the last minute, but you don’t see many full shopping carts just sitting in the aisles. Online retailers, on the other hand, estimate that 30 to 35 percent of shoppers leave their shopping carts behind.
A well-designed checkout process can reduce these abandonment rates significantly. This article offers some suggestions.
Streamline the checkout process
Online shoppers want instant gratification, so make the ordering process as smooth as possible:
- Use a consistent design. Don’t throw something totally new at your customers—keep the design and functionality of the checkout process consistent with the rest of your site.
- Don’t require registration. Make registration optional.
- Eliminate unnecessary steps and clearly indicate at each step where the customer is in the ordering process. People like to know when the end is in sight.
- Don’t force shoppers to enter their address twice, such as a billing and a shipping address, if those addresses are the same.
To see a well-designed checkout process in action, visit Amazon.com or LL Bean. At Amazon.com, a first-time buyer can order an item without registering in about eight simple steps.
Nothing sends a shopper running for the exits faster than a nasty surprise late in the checkout process. From beginning to end, keep the shopper well-informed:
- Post the estimated shipping charge in your listing or on the product description page.
- Display the estimated delivery time in your listing or on the product description page. Amazon.com does an excellent job of this. When a product is in-stock, a message appears saying something like, “Get it by December 15th, 2014 if you order now.”
- Display a running total of the order, including shipping charges at every step in the checkout process.
- Highlight any inventory issues—for example, in-stock or out-of-stock.
- Highlight any ordering deadlines for holidays.
- Add any customer satisfaction guarantee you offer prominently on each page of the ordering process.
Offer multiple payment options
Not everyone has a PayPal account. To appeal to the greatest number of shoppers, offer multiple payment options:
- Visa, MasterCard, and American Express
- Checks and money orders
- Gift certificates
Advertise your webstore’s security
Shoppers are hyper-aware of identity theft and online fraud, so they’re likely to shy away from any store they don’t completely trust. Throughout your site and especially in the checkout process, advertise any security measures you have in place, such as a secure server. If your business is a member of the Better Business Bureau or has a secure site certification, display the fact prominently.
Offer multiple ship-to options
If your store carries products commonly purchased as gifts, implement a shopping cart feature that enables the shopper to ship selected items from the shopping cart to different recipients with a single payment. Clearly describe how any gift receipts will be handled.
Enable customers to remove items from the shopping cart
When shoppers can’t easily remove an item from their shopping cart, they feel trapped. Instead of canceling the order and starting over, they may simply leave. During each step in the ordering process, allow customers to remove items from the shopping cart or change quantities.
When shoppers add products to their cart, they’re very close to actually purchasing those products. Don’t blow the sale by creating a confusing and convoluted checkout process. Do everything you can to earn customer trust and make the checkout process as hassle-free as possible.
Don't be discouraged if you notice people abandoning their shopping carts. Even if you follow all these guidelines, some people will still never go through with a transaction. Bottom line: keep your customers informed throughout the whole shopping process. Be aware of, and respond to their needs. They're coming to your store because they're expecting a smooth and easy transaction. If you provide them with one, you can expect to see their shopping carts move through checkout.