Online customers these days are savvy. We can pretty much shop with our eyes closed and know what to expect once we get those products into our cart. We’re happy to pull out the credit card and go through checkout. Done deal.
So, why do some companies still struggle to provide a good checkout experience? Why make it harder than it needs to be? Years of online transactions and many studies of online shopping behavior have established a pattern for checkout that customers expect. A marketing team should guide you to developing, monitoring, and tweaking a checkout flow that converts. Here’s what to look for.
What customers expect in the online purchase process
Customers expect the following elements within the purchase process:
- Shopping Cart
After spending some time browsing the site and adding items into a cart, customers expect to see a cart. Not only does the cart show what they’ve selected and allow them to add/remove/update items, but it also provides the ability to enter checkout.
- Shipping Information
Where will the purchased items be sent, what are the costs and options for delivery, and how long will it take?
- Payment Information
How does the customer want to pay and where does this person live? For convenience, is the billing address the same as the shipping address?
- Order Review
One final check for accuracy before completing the order.
Confirm that the purchase is complete and send them that long awaited followup email so they can track their purchase and get back in touch with you if needed.
These elements are expected and seemingly fairly straightforward, right? Oddly enough, there is a lot of room for interpretation within these steps, and it’s in these grey areas where brands get lost. When that happens, their customers tire and drop the cart mid-purchase. This is where an experienced eComm marketer can come into play and define success for your business.
Complete a checkout experience self-audit
Completing self-audit arms you with the details prior to engaging a marketing firm. This puts you in a position of power, knowing where your gaps are before you begin the evaluation process to take on a third-party partner.
Step through the process yourself, from start to finish. If you have multiple checkout experiences — a few examples being checkouts for physical items that require shipping versus digital items that do not — make sure you go through them all. Any variation of the purchase flow that customers will experience, you should too.
While performing the self-audit, keep your customers in mind and put yourself in their shoes. Go into it with an open attitude and a critical eye. Remember, if you come across any little details that don’t seem right to you, are annoying or difficult to complete, your customers will most likely be feeling the same.
Below are some additional questions and tips to ask yourself:
Do you force account creation?
Traffic drops off when customers are forced to set up an account and commit, especially if purchasing from your store for the first time. Give your visitor’s the option to checkout as a guest. While marketable data is great to gather from your customers, a sale is better than nothing at all. Repeat customers will likely create an account eventually to speed up checkout and review past orders.
Is your checkout optimized for mobile users?
For many, mobile devices are the point of least resistance for online shopping. A huge segment of customers will make purchases solely on these devices alone. While most online stores these days will offer a mobile-friendly interface, optimizations can always be made.
Just think of how YOU use your mobile device. Do you use one hand or two? Do you position icons on your home screen to make them easier to access? Research shows most people browse with one hand, moreover, people are shopping with one thumb! Make sure all essential options and buttons are within a thumbs reach and not awkward to access.
Are you setting expectations for customers?
Tell your customer where they are as they move through the checkout experience and how much longer they’ll be committing to in this checkout experience. Show the steps and their current position, especially if checkout is spread across multiple pages. The design of this element is key and an experienced marketing team can easily guide this feature.
Is critical purchase information being displayed as soon as possible?
As early as you can in the checkout process, ideally even on or before the cart, show your customers as much information as possible about their upcoming purchase. The more they know, the more likely it is that they’ll continue through to checkout. At the soonest point possible, show them:
- Promo Codes
- Shipping costs and shipping ETA’s
- Available payment options
- Security of site clearly displayed
Are shipping costs and timelines shown upfront?
Continuing on with the previous tip, did you know that shipping costs are the most common reason for a shopper to abandon their cart? While everyone expects to pay taxes, the cost of shipping is an unknown that must be handled carefully. Whenever possible, tell customers before they load the cart what they should expect for shipping. Do you offer free shipping? Is shipping charged at a flat-rate? Can you pre-calculate shipping costs based on the users location? Customers will be happiest when they know exactly what they will be paying BEFORE giving you their information.
One more point on shipping, customers LOVE free shipping. This can’t be understated. Consider marking up your products to include shipping costs, allowing you to then advertise “FREE SHIPPING” on every product page. If you can’t do free shipping for everything, consider a policy of free shipping once an order meets a certain total value.
Payments, are your customers aware of their options?
Simply showing payment choices using well known brand logos carries a perception of built-in security and consumer confidence. Display these logos!
When the customer gets to the point of checkout where they need to submit payment information, a visual “lock” symbol near the payment options goes a long way in providing confidence. This iconic confirmation shows your customer that your company cares about a secure checkout.
Is your site’s URL secure?
Also along the lines of security though not specific to checkout, savvy customers want to know that your site’s URL is secure before they will submit any information or payment to you. They will be looking for HTTPS at the beginning of your url, not HTTP. Web browsers help users recognize the good from the bad by automatically displaying a “not secure” message in the browsers address bar. A simple SSL certificate is all you need to be secure here.
A simple SSL certificate is all you need to be secure here. But if your website has several subdomains pointing to a main domain then, a wildcard SSL certificate would be an ideal purchase. It secures subdomains along with the main domain. All subdomains will have the same level of encryption.
Do your checkout forms auto-fill?
I hate to say it, but shoppers are rather lazy. Technology is meant to make life easier, right? Help your customers out and auto-fill form fields wherever you can. Some tips to do this are:
- Save logged in customer information to use for faster checkout later.
- Offer a simple checkbox to use the same address as shipping for billing.
- Only show the fields you need. If you don’t need shipping information, don’t ask for it.
Why should you listen?
After 22 years in eCommerce development, Acro Media has served clients across many verticals and regions. The way to get ahead in eCommerce is simple, you follow the rules. Your customers expect a specific set of guide rails presented in their shopping experience; don’t take liberties with them. If a customer finds the checkout experience to be “too unique”, they’ll drop out of your flow and head over to Amazon where they have been trained to shop quickly.
Make decisions based on tracking, data, user behaviour and industry expert advice.
This article originally appeared in the HawkeMedia blog and has been published here with permission.