If you like sports and fitness, you might have seen one of these videos on your social media feed. A long-distance runner does an amazing performance. He probably trained for years or even decades and was in a very good position to win the race. Only a few yards from the finish line, he gets too confident, starts celebrating too early, and ends up losing the race (here is an example: youtube.com/watch?v=38fffcRexi4). Not only do I think this is a good life lesson, I think many ecommerce entrepreneurs can learn from it.
The importance of the checkout step
Think about it: you spent countless hours finding the best product to sell, crafting elaborate marketing campaigns, and designing a beautiful storefront. Your customer adds the product to their cart, but you don’t want to celebrate too early. You have not crossed the finish line until the customer submits their credit card info and the payment goes through. The checkout process is like these last few yards in a race: you can’t think you’ve already won and neglect that very last part. A poorly designed checkout process can make you miss out on so much money and should never be neglected.
The metrics to track are cart abandonment and checkout abandonment rates. Studies have shown that around 70% of online shoppers abandon their cart before completing their purchase, with a large part of the abandon happening during the checkout process. So, what are the main reasons people leave a website during the checkout process? And most importantly, what can be done to improve this checkout abandonment rate?
I bet you’ve been there: you add an inexpensive item to your cart, go to checkout, and find out that shipping is as expensive as the item itself. For that reason, you decide not to continue with the purchase and leave the website (see my article on free shipping here). The main reason people abandon their cart during checkout is the hidden fees. Making the customer type shipping info (or worse, create an account) to see the shipping fees is a terrible idea. In addition to that, some companies include processing fees, administrative fees, or other “because–we-can” fees to the final price (Looking at you, Ticketmaster).
Having a clear shipping policy and displaying these costs directly in the cart can help decrease the checkout abandonment rate. Even better, if you offer free shipping (either unconditional or under certain conditions), make it very obvious! Not every company can get away with hidden fees, and most businesses should clearly disclose them.
Unnecessarily complicated process
In general, you want to make it as easy as possible for customers to give you their money. Yet, some companies still design infuriating checkout processes. They ask for the basics—your email address and delivery address. But they also ask for your phone number, how you found out about them, and tons of unnecessary information. Sure, collecting data can be useful, but these very lengthy forms can make the customers run away. Even worse, some companies ask you to create an account and click on a link you receive in your email to validate your account!
Checking out should be as easy as possible, and the customers should not feel like you are invading their privacy. If you really want to collect more data or make them create an account for email marketing, make it optional and give them something valuable in exchange, such as free shipping.
Lack of trust
I remember in the early days of Ecommerce (yes, I feel old), the idea of purchasing items over the internet raised many questions. Can I trust this company with my credit card info? What if they ship the wrong product? What if they keep my money, but I never receive my stuff?
These questions are still valid today, which is why many customers prefer shopping on large marketplaces. They trust Amazon but are unsure about a random company’s website (unless we are talking about a well-known brand). Websites should be well designed, not include too many intrusive ads, and appear as trustworthy as possible.
Not enough payment options
According to recent Worldpay and Top 1000 reports, the proportion of customers who prefer using digital wallets is expected to increase from 36% to 47% this year. However, only 72.5% of the top 1000 retailers offer PayPal as a payment method. Worse, 12.7% and 11.6% of them offer Amazon Pay and Apple pay. Some of them are missing out on a lot of extra revenue due to the limited payment options they offer. While offering every payment method that exists is unnecessary, it is important that retailers pay attention to what their customers want. Make sure you offer the payment options your customers need so you don’t miss out.
Ecommerce started with mostly debit and credit cards as the only payment method available to customers. With time and changing customer preferences, online retailers started to offer alternative payment options. Customers still prefer using their debit/credit cards, but there is a greater demand for digital wallets like PayPal or Google Pay.
Fear of missing out on a good deal
Many times, online retailers will ask their customers if they have a discount code during the checkout process. Customers with a coupon code will be more likely to purchase, and using coupon codes makes it easier to design advertising campaigns.
The problem is when the customer does not have a coupon. If they can’t find one easily, they may get frustrated and leave without completing their purchase (thinking they are not getting the best deal) or search for a code on Google, not find one, and give up. Customers should not be distracted during the checkout process unless you ensure most customers can easily find a coupon code that applies to their purchase.
Getting the customer to visit your website and add items to their cart is already a lot of work; you don’t want to sabotage yourself during the very last step of the purchase process. A well-designed checkout process will make a big difference in your checkout abandonment rate and, as a result, on the bottom line.