Your checkout is one of the most important sections of your store, and the easiest to screw up. Every customer of yours that wants to purchase something will pass through it, making it one of the most-visited pages on stores with a lot of products (your customers’ visits will be distributed over your products, but will all funnel into the checkout).
This is part one of a two-part series on checkout conversion optimization. We’ll define “checkout” as the purchasing procedure from shopping cart until purchase confirmation.
Both our posts in this series are based on either content from other websites or own experience. In the second part of this series we’ll provide an overview of the sources we’ve used.
This post will focus on the general structure of your checkout and the shopping cart.
GENERAL CHECKOUT STRUCTURE
1 – Make the checkout completely linear, there should be one way forward and one way back. For Magento checkouts, we advise to remove the “ship to multiple addresses” options as this is highly confusing for customers to use and is a separately structure checkout process apart from the default Magento checkout.
2 – Make registration optional. This one is very important and has been shown to increase checkout conversion as much as 30%! The easiest way might be what GetElastic calls the “Amazon” way: letting the user input an e-mail address field and showing a radio button choice to let the customer choose if he wants to supply a password or not.
3 – Keep unnessary elements off your checkout pages. Things like your category navigation, sidebar blocks containing best sellers, etc. Everything not relating to checking out is a candidate for removal from your checkout pages.
4 – Show ways to contact you prominently. This gives the customer confidence you’re real and that you can be easily reached when there are problems.
5 – Communicate progress. In each step of the checkout process, clearly let your customer know which steps are done and how to return to those previous steps. Also show which step they are at now and what steps are yet to come.
6 – Show one to three trusted logos prominently. Overdoing this may seem like you’re trying to hard, but just showing a clear SSL padlock or some well-known logos for payment methods can communicate to your customers you’re trustworthy.
7 – Provide a clear way to view your terms and conditions. Most customers will not even read these but when T&C’s are nowhere to be found, this can give customers the impression you’re hiding something.
8 – Design the checkout process and your site well. An site that looks good is known to be considered more usable than a messy / ugly website. See the esthetic-usability effect.
9 – Never take the user out of the checkout process. Once inside your purchase funnel, they should not have to deal with anything else anymore. There’s a high risk of cart and checkout abandonment if your customers need to go back to other sections of your website, for instance to log in.
1 – Do not show an input field for coupon codes. Hide the input behind a link that says something like “Do you have a coupon? Click here”. Showing an input field for coupons can confuse your customers and can also lead them to go coupon-code browsing to see if they can find some generally applicable discount code for your store. Worst case, they won’t come back from their coupon browsing… Another good measure to take is to not name it a “coupon” or “discount”. Instead, name it a “gift code” or “promotional code”.
2 – Make sure that cart contents can be easily modified. Allow customers to remove products from the cart and to change things like product options or quantities easily. Magento stores have an “update cart” button by default. This is an unfriendly mechanism for updating the cart, a good deal of customers expect that their cart is updated when they change the quantities, without having to “apply” the changes somehow.
3 – Provide photos, information and a link back to the products inside the cart. Having a photo and description inside the cart ensures your customer that it’s the right product that is being ordered. The link back to the product is so your customer doesn’t have to search for it when he wants to read more details before purchasing.
Our next post in this series will discuss best practices for capturing user info during the checkout: registration / guest checkout forms, billing address, payment information etc, form layout, etc.