There are so many aspects of an eCommerce store that we can focus on to improve CRO.

None though are more important than the checkout. The checkout contains the final series of critical steps before a purchase and far too often it can be the point that a customer abandons a purchase. But why? In this article I’ll explore many of the good habits of a checkout and refer back to the retail big guys to see what they’re doing right too. Hopefully you’ll come away with some improvements for your checkout and avoid some of the pitfalls that can lead customers away.

To prevent users from abandoning a purchase during the checkout process, we need to focus on making the checkout as quick and painless as possible. Also, a customer must feel safe in making a purchase and have answers to any questions at their fingertips. In short, we need to make the checkout simple, helpful and trustworthy. Focusing on these 3 things, we can ensure we make a much more user friendly checkout that can yield a much higher conversion rate.

Imagine this… You’re a couple of clicks away from finalising an online purchase for a gift for a friend. The store seems reputable, the price is reasonable and it accepts PayPal which is your preferred payment method. Before committing to the purchase though, you wonder if the the package will arrive before your friends birthday party. There doesn’t appear to be any specific details regarding delivery time during the shipping step of the checkout, so you click the freight and delivery information link. This takes you to a separate page filled with convoluted information about delivery options and pricing. You become frustrated and google search “next day delivery” for the same item. A sale is lost.

Or how about this; you find the information you were looking for and are happy. But when you click back to the checkout you find you have to start the process all over again. In frustration, you abandon the purchase.

So many things could be done to remedy this scenario. Most obvious being the delivery times being clearly listed on the shipping step. But how about adding an FAQ section to the side of the checkout so a myriad of questions can be quickly answered without having to leave the checkout. Or what about a clearly labelled phone number with “Any questions? Call us.”. All of these solutions look to prevent the user from leaving the checkout by providing them with all the information the need to commit to a purchase.

Let’s have a look at a few steps from the checkout process on the online Apple store. Take note of how all of the steps of the checkout process fit nicely above the fold without the user having to scroll. This makes the process seem much more finite and is less confronting than presenting loads of information on the screen.

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  • Security is illustrated with the lock icon and outlined in the fine print – TRUST
  • A guest option is provided for a simpler checkout process – SIMPLE
  • The buttons used to continue are bold and prominent – SIMPLE
  • Help is provided at the bottom with a phone number to call – HELPFUL

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  • Clear continue button, other buttons have less emphasis – SIMPLE
  • Accurate pricing information, no unexpected fees – TRUST
  • Total overview of checkout process above the fold – SIMPLE

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  • Thorough questions section that can help a user without leaving the page – HELPFUL
  • More fine print regarding protection of user data – TRUST

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  • Optional fields marked clearly – SIMPLE
  • Very compact and the number of fields kept to a minimum (entire form seen on one page) – SIMPLE
  • All fields clearly labelled and examples given in placeholder – SIMPLE and HELPFUL
  • FAQ info on RHS – HELPFUL
  • Tooltips and validation tips – HELPFUL

As you can see, the Apple store has covered many bases in creating a simple, helpful and trustworthy user experience on their checkout. There are many other things that could be done to create a similar effect though. Some things to consider could be:

  • Allowing social login to create a quicker registration process
  • Showing testimonials and guarantees during checkout to further instil trust
  • Limit distractions and links that will navigate the user away from the checkout
  • Avoid unnecessary buttons. Make the continue button the focus
  • Provide multiple payment methods. Some people only like to shop online with PayPal
  • Make sure the user doesn’t have to enter the same data twice (incredibly annoying!)

On a slight tangent, there seems to be a lot of CRO discussion about the comparative effectiveness of the 3 main eCommerce checkout types. These are the one page, one step and multi-step checkout types. Each have their benefits and set-backs and I’ve yet to see convincing data that proves one to be superior over the others in every scenario. It’s also interesting that you will see examples of big retailers using any one of these as their checkout method. The list below just gives a little taste of how the different checkout types are spread across huge online retailers:

  • apple.com – one page
  • nike.com – one page
  • amazon.com – multi-step
  • adidas.com – multi-step
  • zappos.com – one step
  • gap.com – one step

It seems like choosing a checkout type could be based more on what the retailer expects their consumer base to be more comfortable with. Either way, I think less attention should be on the choosing the ultimate checkout type and more on refining the UX until it is as bulletproof as it can be. And if you’re ever stuck on ways to improve your checkout, refer back to the big retailers. They undoubtedly invest a lot of time, money and testing to maximise their conversion rate. Why waste their hard work? Go ahead and get some ideas from them.