You’re at the bar, having a few cheeky after work drinks with some of your best buds.
It’s coming on 6pm. The convo’s, the cool beverages the good times are all flowing.
Happy hour – the best hour – is about to greet you with its warm, soothing embrace.
Time to treat the crew to another round.
The checkout process begins in earnest…
It’s a happening bar. You deal with the five minute line. Shouting over the din of loud background chatter, you order four more of the same.
While the bartender fixes your drinks, you fish out your credit card.
“Pay wave okay?” the bartender asks/pleads.
“Of course. Thanks.” is your swift reply.
The kind folks at Visa/Mastercard have just saved you and the bartender a good minute of your life. No mucking about with pin codes. No pen (most-likely inkless) thrust into your hand for you to scrawl an indecipherable signature. No cumbersome coinage jangling around your pocket, or beefing up your wallet.
Imagine, for a moment, if that transaction played out the way most online stores expect it to.
You ask for your drinks.
“Is there anything you’d like to review?” the bartender shouts back in reply, asking you to confirm your order.
“Ahh, no. Thanks. Just the drinks.”
Now it’s time for you to handover a whole bunch of seemingly unnecessary details in order to set yourself up as a member and receive a 20% off coupon over email (amongst other shameless sales promotions). You have to pull out your phone and recount your code to receive it though.
“Can we just sort the drinks out?” you plead, now slightly miffed.
“Oh, I see – you want the guest purchase option.”
“I guess. I really just want my drinks.” You say, a crowd of parched, patienceless onlookers now gathering in a queue behind you.
“Okay, I’ll just need you to type out your entire credit card number, the expiry date, the CCV code, your mobile phone number, your email address, postcode, favoured delivery method… I think that’s all I need for now. Just keep in mind the next time you come back for another round, we won’t have saved any of your details. You’ll have to endure this entire experience again because you didn’t sign up as a member. Not to be passive aggressive. Just sayin, you know?”
One would have to be pretty committed to those drinks.
There is an ecommerce moral to this story…
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Customers care deeply about your checkout process
I hope you have a reinvigorated appreciation of the beauty of Pay Wave technology.
This time-saving, frustration-preventing, line-dispersing innovation has revolutionised the checkout experience.
We online retailers understand how important it is to maximise our conversion rates. It seems like optimising our checkout process runs a distant second to product page CRO on the priority list.
Based on a compilation of 33 studies, the average ecommerce cart abandonment rate sits at a tick under 69%.
Just imagine what the ecommerce equivalent of the Pay Wave revolution could do to that figure.
But I’m willing to wager you’re not putting much time into optimising your store’s checkout process.
You need to develop an online version of the Pay Wave checkout experience
If you get a potential customer to the point where they are prepared to enter their payment details – you’re in the final straight of the marathon.
It’s so freaking hard to reach this point. Think of all the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears that it took you and your team to bring in this potential customer. You just can’t let yourself collapse before the finish line.
Alas, we ecommerce folk are generally pretty slack with our checkout usability performace.
A fantastic study by Danish research body Baymard Institute based on the mobile sites of 50 major e-commerce sites found the average ecommerce checkout user experience to be ‘seriously flawed’. A whole stack of these usability problems were so significant, they prevent users from completing their orders.
According to the Baymard Institute study, a third of ecommerce sites are making a cringingingly rudimentary mistake.
33% of the sites surveyed failed to display the total order cost – at any point during the checkout process – before asking for credit card data.
Users couldn’t get an idea of the total cost before filling in 10 (or more in some cases) fields on their keyboard or mobile touchpad.
Come on guys. We gotta do better than that.
Let’s go back to our bar example…
You know how frustrating it is to order a round, only to find out your gin and tonics are an exorbitant $17 each. You’re standing right there, in front of the bartender, and the drinks are already mixed and crying out for a new home. You can’t exactly abandon your cart – as much as you might like to. But you’re still not enough of a jerk to ask the bartender to pour em’ out. You begrudgingly empty your week’s pay packet and avoid the judgement of the folks waiting to order behind you.
Online, it’s different. There’s no expectant smiling face ready to judge your stingy ways. If you spend all that time entering your payment details only to stop in your tracks when you see an unexpected delivery charge, there’s a mighty fine chance you’ll close that browser window and never return to that site.
But how hard can it be to show our customers the total order cost before asking for their payment details?
And that’s not the only thing we’re irritating our customers with during the checkout process. The Baymard Institute study also flagged these other easy-to-fix issues which are robbing unsuspecting ecommerce brands of precious sales and repeat custom:
- 16% of sites, by default, show twice as many address fields as is necessary by showing all users two separate sets of address forms for billing and shipping
- 28% of sites ask for the same information twice, instead of pre-filling fields where possible
- 30% have an input for credit card type instead of auto-detecting it based on the typed card number
- 50% of sites ask for some form of repeat information
- 94% do not consistently indicate both required and optional fields, forcing users to guess which fields they have to fill or do extensive scrolling to reach prior fields
Chances are, your checkout page fits into one of these statistics. The good news – there’s some really easy ways to improve your conversion rates by streamlining your site’s checkout experience.
How to improve your checkout process
It’s time we ecommerce folk started taking the checkout experience more seriously.
We need to find a way to continually streamline the checkout process so our customers get as close to the ‘Pay Wave’ experience as possible.
Reducing cart abandonment is such a simple, direct way to increase your conversion rates.
People don’t enjoy paying for things. You don’t go to the mall to stand at a checkout.
Swathes of potential conversions break down after the add-to-cart moment. You need to strip down the purchase process to the absolute bare essentials to make things super easy for your customers.
Beware of overloading that single page. It should still be usable and simple.
A single-page checkout will help, as long as you can keep things clear and uncluttered. With a visual progress indicator, or simple concertina drop-downs (like those used by Victoria’s Secret), your customer can see the end in sight.
Remember to keep repeat customers in mind. It’s not all about the one-off sale. You need to consider the data you need to capture to make the customer’s future purchases quicker and easier.
Incorporate functionality that allows you to personalise and autofill the checkout process for returning customers. They’ll appreciate your efforts with repeat patronage.
Single page checkout is not the only way to improve the checkout experience and reduce friction from frustrated buyers.
Adding autofill capabilities to your checkout process will reduce the time involved with payment. New technologies allow for predictive search to complete forms in advance for users by dynamically updating the list of matching addresses as you type.
Some websites provide predictive autofill based on postcodes, allowing users to click “find address”, then select the address from the matching results. Card prefixes can be used to determine card types, and past purchase data can be used to autofill forms with the details used by returning customers.
This is particularly important for mobile sessions where long lists are irritating to complete manually. A poor user experience here can have a significant impact on cart abandonment rates.
Whitegoods e-retailer AO.com excel themsleves at checkout. Some simple additional functionality allows the brand to offer specific delivery time estimates based on the address entered by the customer. This helpful little detail is enough to prompt the customer to stay loyal on their next purchase.
Complete a simple cost versus benefit analysis to compare the potential increase in conversions resulting from this user experience improvement up against the additional cost of the technology. If you maintain a long term perspective, the former will usually win out.
Give your customers a collection of payment options. VISA and MasterCard is table stakes. Data from comScore shows that 56% of respondents expect a variety of payment options on the checkout page.
It’s not necessary – or practical – to offer every payment method available. You won’t experience exponential growth by adding a Bitcoin payment option to your store. But you should spend some time analysing your audience, competitive sites and other industry stores with the same target, to determine any possible additional methods.
The prevalence of both PayPal and American Express accounts warrant close consideration. Newer options like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Masterpass, Stripe and Square may interest larger ecommerce sites with a high volume of international sales.
Huge brands with high lifetime customer value rates and regular repeat customers might even consider establishing their own payment and rewards program.
Airlines, travel companies, grocery chains and big box retailers often develop their own currency, with branded payment cards allowing loyal customers to rack up benefits. Disney shows you how to incorporate a branded payment option for your customers.
Of course, you’ll need to weigh up the fees of new options against the potential benefits to your customer’s experience. But a small change here could pay big dividends.
As mentioned, reducing frustration at payment time is critically linked to reduced abandonment rates. Adding a visual progress indicator is a minor development that can make a major difference.
When you’re finished shopping at the grocery store, you survey the queues at each checkout and select the line you think will be quickest. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Much the same, when you’re waiting at a store to be served, your anxiety is appeased when a friendly store assistant thanks you for your patience and lets you know the wait should only be a couple of minutes longer.
The premise is the same for your online store. A visual indicator allows you to show the shopper how long they have left in the checkout process. There’s a few ways you can do this, illustrated by the examples we’ve included of Nike, Target and Lowe’s.
After you’ve been to the trouble of stripping your checkout to its essentials, you need to communicate the speed of your process to each customer.
Remove all of possible distractions from your customer to streamline the checkout experience.
Don’t give the buyer an option to click away with their shopping cart left on the counter. You’re so close – don’t let it slip now.
For starter’s, remove the navigation bar at the top of your checkout page.
Of course, we don’t want to force our users into something they don’t want to complete. Add some specific help options instead, to compensate. Crate and Barrel show you how it’s done.
A live chat prompt, a tailored checkout FAQ section, and even a link to your shipping, returns and security policies could be useful at this point. Try to be helpful, but make sure you get your customer in and out of that checkout mighty quick.
One sale doesn’t make an online business.
Don’t be that ecommerce brand that sends a boring old generic post purchase receipt email that your customer can’t wait to discard to the inbox bin.
Every time you communicate with your customer, take the chance to help them. Use content to educate, inform or inspire.
Take your cue from the best offline retail experiences. When you buy a suit, a car, a lounge chair, or a guitar, you’re loaded up with a bunch of info that helps you maximise your purchase.
Add tips, tricks and advice to your post purchase email. Give useful instructions, demo’s and maintenance info to support your product. Offer a clear path for post purchase support to direct any questions or enquiries with ease.
Dyson show us all how it’s done. A sexy product the vacuum is not. But this content is a bonafide loyalty generator. Customers will come back to Dyson just for this kind of helpfulness.
We can’t always make the sale straight up. Play the long game and turn your cart abandonment emails into something your potential customer is actually interested in. None of this ‘oh-you-forgot-to-give-us-all-your-money-do-it-now!’ caper.
Entertain. Engage. Funny-bone-tickle.
Show the values of your brand and prove to your potential customer that you care about them, and not just their wallet. Have some fun with it and surprise your reader. It’s an easy way to be better than your lazy, complacent competitors.
Learn from the best checkouts in the business
You can find a list of 100 ecommerce checkout processes ranked in order of user friendliness from our good friends at the Baymard Institute.
US retailer Crate and Barrel comes out number 1 on Baymard’s list.
Have a browse and try to find some retailers in your industry. Jump onto each site and analyse their payment process. Compare your checkout experience against the best and you’ll probably find a couple more areas you can optimise for a simple conversion rate boost.
(Most of these checkout process hacks come directly from our Ecommerce Marketing Bootcamp. It’s kinda like a Michelle Bridges program for your online store. Except you can eat as much chocolate as you want while your doing it. Click on the big grey button below and start pulling your site into shape now.)