Optimise your Checkout Pages for improved conversion rates

You can't successfully scale an eCommerce store if you have a poor conversion rate. That's why it's important to optimise your checkout process through best practices and great UX.

 min read

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Check out your checkout! (see what I did there? ;).

Recently started your store and failing to seal your transactions? 

Trying to scale the growth of your store but seeing poor conversion rates?

Your checkout process might be the problem. Sellers focus heavily on a unique storefront, branding, and offers but forget to give proper attention to checkout. This may lead to customer frustration or worse, abandonment of the transaction altogether.

Let’s try seeing how we can identify common checkout problems and learn how you can fix them!

Causes of checkout abandonment

We will dive into the checkout page best practices shortly, but before we do, it’s important to understand the key causes for checkout abandonment. 

Why? Because you need to understand potential reasons why cart abandonment may be happening to ensure you make good decisions around checkout store design. More importantly, what to prioritise when it comes to design.

These are the leading causes of checkout abandonment you need to consider.

1. Additional costs that are too high is one of the primary causes of abandonment. Often unavoidable from a business point of view, businesses need to mitigate the effect it can have on the users.

2. A complicated checkout process can make anyone frustrated and confused. Just imagine buying something off from a store, and you’re redirected to different pages with lengthy forms. Oh, the horror!

3. Security issues may scare away your potential buyer. This may happen by payment methods that users are unfamiliar with or failing to give your users assurances.

4. Lack of payment options that your buyers use is another reason they don’t complete the transaction. They have the cash, but your store doesn’t accept their preferred payment method.

Let's get into the best practices

Addressing these causes can help reduce cart abandonment. 

It’s easier said than done and takes time. What I will be sharing are tips I know have improved results with eCommerce companies I’ve worked with. 

These best practices directly address the main causes of abandonment, so follow these steps and help yourself get better conversions from prospects to actual buyers.

Hidden additional costs 

As you can imagine no one likes hidden costs. This is a big barrier I see when it comes to conversions if customers get to the final stage of adding in their credit card details and see the actual final price. 

It’s happened to me personally multiple times and I can tell you it’s not the best feeling.

How to fix: 

1. Be upfront with additional costs 

Indicate, even before checkout, that the transaction may or will involve additional costs. Adding the costs only at checkout will just negatively portray the pricing. Avoid giving your users the feeling of being misled about the prices at all costs.

Long and complicated checkout 

I don't think anyone likes lengthy forms - nobody has time for that! Not to mention it’s a bad experience for mobile. Avoid a long process and keep it simple.

2. Make use of a progress bar 

A progress bar serves two primary purposes. First, it informs you what part of the checkout you are currently in. Second, it shows how short the actual process is and how close you are to finishing the required steps.

The second one is quite important because it has a persuasive effect on the user. You feel less inclined to abandon the process if you can see for yourself how close you are to the finish line. Ensure that the progress bar is clear but not distracting.

3. Use a clean and minimal checkout page design 

Every successful online store keeps its checkout page minimal. Why? Because it helps keep the user focused on finishing the stage. Don’t distract your buyer. Keep out any form of advertisement or offer, yes, even your own, away from here.

4. Avoid unnecessary navigation or links to other pages

Similarly to avoiding distractions, ensure that your checkout stage is not cluttered with unnecessary links to other pages. Mistaken transfers to unrelated pages may result in a change of mind. You have the user’s attention to your product, and the sale is already almost perfected.

A sure purchase is better than two potential sales!

Keep in mind that you must also keep the number of pages for checkout as low as possible. More loading pages allow the user to abandon, so avoid splitting up the checkout to too many pages.

5. Make use of pre-populated forms and fields

Check out faster by making use of auto-fill forms and fields. Repeatedly filling up the same form over and over again is a guaranteed way to annoy the user. Less time spent filling up the same form means more probable conversion.

Pre-populated forms and fields help the user commit more easily because there are fewer steps to do for every transaction. 

This is particularly important for optimising conversions and encouraging users with their second purchase. 

It also helps build trust. Trust in a store or brand translates to more sales!

6. Use form validation to reduce input errors

This feature is a technical process where your checkout form validates if the information provided by the user is acceptable. A recognisable feature will be to check if the email provided by the user is in a valid format.

There are two types of form validation - in-line validation and post-submit validation. The latter is the most common, and you’ve probably encountered it too. 

It typically goes like this: You complete the form, click the submit button, and if there is a wrong input, you’ll have an error text on top and a red asterisk at the wrong section. 

Depending on the form script, you’ll have to input all the details again or fix a certain portion of the form. Either way, it’s annoying and frustrating! 

So, ditch the post-submit validation and apply an in-line validation. This validation type is the complete opposite; it instantly tells the user that the data is valid as soon as the input is completed, resulting in a faster fill-up and checkout experience.

7. Add guest checkout 

Asking your user to create an account for future purchases and a way to market to them directly may seem the best way, but there is always a segment of users who prefer the option of completing the sale without signing up. 

As you probably already know, we can remarket these users via paid ads if they don’t convert into signing up with an account.

Guest checkouts allow these users to have a frictionless experience with the brand.  This also helps users who are in a rush to get an item for any number of reasons.

Remember, the last thing we want to do is create a barrier to someone making a purchase. 

Also you can easily remind these new customers the benefits of signing up with an account.

Poor Checkout Security 

Would you purchase an item (s) through an eCommerce store that has a loophole in its payment system? Of course not! Your customers feel the same way. So, tidy and strengthen your checkout security system and boost your credibility for their assurance. 

How to fix:

8. Add Trust Marks / Logos

Ecommerce may have made the way we buy and sell things more accessible, but it has also given ground for some to defraud others. Users are naturally wary of stores they do not know and for good measure.

A reliable way to boost credibility is to make use of security logos. They are badges provided by third parties to show that your store is trustworthy.

Important: Only include security logos if you’re actually using the security application.

You can share logos which may vary from different payment acceptance options (e.g PayPal Verified), SSL Badge and other security symbols (e.g. McAfee Secure, Norton Secured).

Make sure that these marks and logos are always clearly visible to reassure your users.

9. Include social proof 

I strongly believe in such a competitive landscape now in 2021, social proof is everything when it comes to eCommerce. 

You’re probably using social proof across your website including the homepage, but what about using it within the checkout process?

As we know, when new customers are unsure about the purchase of your product (or they may be weighing up a competitor’s product), it’s our job to help make their decision easier. 

Who’s better to persuade new customers - your existing customers. Does that mean we need to have write-ups and reviews within the checkout process? Sure, those are social proof, but it needs to be designed well. 

A better way to subtly show social proof is to display how many other people bought your product. You can also show how many people endorsed it. Every little push helps!

10. Add fear of missing out

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is another psychological trigger that many stores add to their experiences. It’s a great way to better position your product offering. 

Adding FOMO in eCommerce means the user feels a sense of trust that other people are buying products from the store. It helps reduce the anxiety of customers and making their decision easier.

How can you use FOMO for your store? 

You can show available quantities left in stock, add a limited-time offer for a discount or free shipping. Or, you can show how many other users are currently viewing the product. Some stores make use of pop-ups to induce more sense of urgency. 

I recommend looking into tools such as FOMO and Proof.

11. Respect user privacy – ask only things needed at the minimum 

Asking your users for their personal information is obviously part of eCommerce. We know that building your marketing list is crucial, especially when you’re making a segmented email list, but asking for data beyond what is necessary affects checkout in two ways.

First, you risk scaring your users away. Consumers are getting smarter around data collection. Ask for data that is only absolutely necessary for the completion of the transaction.

Second, the more you ask, the more fields your user has to fill up. This goes back to the need of having a straightforward checkout process. 

Do not over-extend information collection. Asking for things unrelated to checkout may result in the cart being abandoned.

Limited payment options 

There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting a specific product, only to find out that you can’t push through the transaction because your credit card or payment of choice is not available. 

How to fix:

12. Add several payment options – Have the Users Pay Their Way

Have the most commonly used payment options available at all times and indicate which payment method you accept even before checkout. Limiting yourself to just one way to pay will only limit your sales.  

In fact, it’s becoming a universal expectation that customers can use whatever payment gateway that suits them. 

During checkout, have the payment methods concisely presented so the users can choose however they prefer.

If your system can process cash on delivery terms, include it as well. The option to make use of money is an option all the same. The more options presented translate to a higher probability to perfect the sale.

Bonus Tips: Practices that translate to a sale on a different date

13. Ensure your contact details are clear for customers to get in contact

Sometimes an abandoned transaction may mean something else. A user may be looking for a similar item not currently on display in your store. Providing an easy way to communicate with you may mean a sale on a different day. Your users may also request an item you currently do not have.

Clearly provide your contact details on the checkout page itself so your users can get in touch with you for any reason. Personal communication may give you an idea of what can lead to more conversions overall.

14. Add a save the cart details function 

This function can help convert an abandoned transaction into a sale, even if not immediately. A user may feel more inclined to buy your goods upon returning if the canceled cart is saved and presented again upon return because the user would not need to undergo the entire process again.

You must consider that the transaction was abandoned already, but this function may still save it. A potential is preferable to outright gone.

Final Thoughts 

Users may abandon the transaction for any number of reasons. However, abandonment during the checkout stage is a more substantial loss because you lost the sale at the very last step. 

You must help users cross that line by being attentive to what may cause this problem.

You should be testing your cart abandonment process often. Is it easy to use & understand? Is it accommodating to different types of customers? Did it take too long? Does it work well on mobile? 

I also recommend asking your friends or potentially even some top customers who have made many repeat purchases. Ask for their feedback. This will help you accelerate key changes.