GUEST COMMENT How to have a pain-free checkout process
You have done all the hard work by cutting through the noise of thousands of competitors and drawn a potential customer to your online shop. Even better, they have found exactly what they are looking for thanks to your well designed website. The in-depth market research you undertook and keen monitoring of prices has ensured that the price of the product matches or beats your competitors. All of this hard work has convinced the shopper to put the product in their basket; they go to click on the checkout sign and, suddenly, they are gone. So what happened?
The moment a shopper starts the checkout process is often the highest risk part of the whole customer journey. Above 70% of customers lose faith mid-way through checkout and abandon their cart. There are several reasons a shopper can suddenly change his or her mind. After all, parting with cash is something we can be easily convinced not to do.
One of the major causes of checkout abandonment is a lack of transparency. Shipping and admin fees are the scourge of conversion rates everywhere, but being up front and clear about them will help ease the blow for customers. Put simply; make sure you have any additional charges clearly displayed from the start.
Delivery charges are the necessary evil of online retail. However, many customers still baulk when they see a big delivery charge automatically added to their cart. Giving your customers a range of delivery options to choose from puts them back in control. Naturally, most people will opt for the cheaper delivery option, which gives them a sense that they have saved money.
The best practice for keeping distractions to a minimum in the check-out process is to opt for a 'closed check-out'. This is where you remove all elements from the page design apart from those vital to proceeding down the purchase path, including reducing the navigation bar down to the absolute bare minimum.
Distractions such as adverts, unnecessary additional options and cluttered design can put shoppers off. Make sure that when customers get to the checkout the only option they should consider is how to pay. With that in mind, endless forms or hurdles to actually pay for a product is a huge turn off for many consumers. Keep the information that you ask for from customers to the bare minimum. Market research questions can wait until after the customer has successfully converted. If you don’t have a ‘guest checkout’ option on your online shop, you should make it a priority to get one. Customers are thankful for options that save them time and a guest checkout is especially valuable to customers making one-off purchases.
Fear of the unknown is also a conversion killer during checkout. If your customers don’t know how many more hurdles they need to jump through they are more likely to give up. Having a simple progress bar removes that concern.
Any decent web designer would tell you that clear calls to action are crucial. For online retailers the most important call to action is the one that encourages customers to pay. With that in mind, it’s baffling to think that so many websites bury the payment option. The best websites provide all major payment gateways and display them clearly at the earliest possible juncture. This lets the customer know from the outset that their preferred payment method can be accommodated and when they know what product they want they can pay quickly.
The truth is that the secret to a good online checkout process is empathy. Understanding the frustrations your customers could have is the key to looking at your online shop with a critical eye. Lessons should be taken from physical shops, after all, how often do you see someone join the queue to pay at a shop and then dump their goods and walk away. Go into any shop on the high street and the first thing you are likely to see is the checkout. Good shops will have payment options displayed prominently and will endeavour to make checkout as speedy as possible. Make payment as painless as possible and people will part with their cash.
The sad truth is that no matter how well you design your checkout process, some people will still abandon their carts. Luckily, technology can come to the rescue. Services like Ve offer re-engagement strategies that can help drive customers back to your site and secure that crucial conversion.David J Brown is chief executive and co-founder of Ve