Building a Better E-Commerce Checkout

June 30, 2016         By: Erika Napoletano

“How do I get more people clicking BUY?”

It’s a question that can frequently pop up for online merchants when monthly sales figures roll in. But it’s often not the “add to cart” phase that’s the problem, but what comes after. Here’s a look at how online retailers can ensure a seamless e-commerce checkout experience for customers as a way to help prevent cart abandonment.

 Online Merchant Challenges

According to the Baymard Institute, a leading e-commerce research firm, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate in 2015 is 68.5 percent, which takes into account more than 30 individual studies.[1] This means that about three in four consumers don’t actually complete their e-commerce purchase once they’ve added items to their online cart.

So, what is the top-rated complaint for leaving items in the online cart? According to Business Insider, unexpected shipping costs are the top complaint among consumers when they abandon their online shopping card, followed by their desire to simply research the final costs of a purchase, not being ready to purchase, and order total not qualifying for free shipping. Other complaints include a long-lead shipping time, consumers avoiding online account registration, and their preferred payment option not being available.

“These insights are proof that, when merchants are looking at their e-commerce platform, it’s important to consider how it delivers a seamless, simple, and even personalized experience for their customers,” said Amy Parsons, Vice President of Global Commerce at Discover. “Just as when designing an in-store experience, merchants should design their online shopping and checkout process to be quick and easy, which increases the odds that customers will complete their purchase and come back for more.”

While the experience is different between shopping in-store and online, retailers should still consider how to create similarities across these channels, such as ensuring the simplest checkout process possible when shopping online – as simple as the in-store checkout is.

Here are some best practices for ensuring a smooth, enjoyable online checkout process that online shoppers would be grateful for:

  • Continue to portray trust: Once the checkout button is clicked, it’s the online merchant’s responsibility to be trustworthy, answer questions, and not introduce any friction into the buying process. Meaning, each step of the checkout process should be visually and verbally simple. According to Statista, 56 percent of online shoppers cite unexpected costs as a reason for shopping cart abandonment.[2] Be forthcoming about shipping and other costs throughout the process so as not to lose customers at the last moment.
  • Easy goes the discount code boxes: If there is an empty promo code box during checkout, consumers could leave that website in search of a discount code. It’s advised not to make promo-code boxes individual form fields. Instead, make offers visible in-line, as clickable text. It’s psychological—if an online customer doesn’t see a form field inviting them to type in a code, they are less likely to leave your site in search of a code.
  • Keep discount codes on your site: If merchants can’t keep people from searching for a promo code, at least control where they search. Place a coupon code page directly on the website with all eligible promo codes. This way, shoppers can search for a promo code and the merchant site’s page will likely surface at the top of the search results, if they are coming from another website.
  • Be careful with color: In one example, a merchant may have a great checkout process, but is also making helpful customer recommendations — doing just what they should have been doing — in bright red highlighted blocks on the screen. Many customers see a bright red box and think they’re doing something wrong, so they back out. By simply changing this box to a different color, the buying process could improve dramatically.

 Trust Issues

Online merchants are more prone to leaving their customers with trust issues as they advance through the buying process on a website. Even if the best shopping cart software and every page of the checkout process is optimized, too many “trust badges,” which are often intended to earn the confidence of customers, can actually do more harm than good.

Trust badges are typically used to show things such as site and credit card processing security. The problem comes when customers see badges they don’t recognize. While more isn’t always better, choosing the right badges can be beneficial.

Check out a few helpful case studies for online trust badges:

  • How the STELLA Service Award Increased eCommerce Conversion Rate: Placement and education increase conversions by 77 percent.
  • Norton Security Seal Increases eCommerce Conversion Rate: Placement increases customer trust and results in an 11 percent improvement in sales, and a 52 percent lift in sales from paid search.

Catching Lost Sales

We’ve covered typical pitfalls customers run into during their checkout process, and the reasons why they could drop off.

Now, what if merchants had a second chance to get a seemingly lost customer to hit the buy button? One tried and tested strategy is to get the customer’s email address early in the checkout process. Armed with this information, the merchant can leverage cart abandonment software, which will email a customer who failed to complete checkout to ask them if they forgot something in their cart. Who knows? Maybe that customer had to run to a meeting or a phone call took their attention away. By sending a follow-up email, you’re effectively giving your sale a second chance by targeting those who almost made a purchase.

The checkout of a merchant’s website is a powerful place, but it’s only the start of a purchase process. Seeing customers through to the final purchase is important, and could continue to help drive repeat business through the delivery of frictionless experiences.

This article is brought to you by Discover Network. To read more on the world of commerce, visit Discover Network Perspectives.

[1] Baymard Institute, “31 Cart Abandonment Rate Statistics”, May 8, 2015

[2] First Scribe, “Why are my Online Customers Abandoning their Shopping Carts?”, May 1, 2015