You can have the best product page in the world. But if shoppers are aggravated during the checkout process, or their needs go unmet, converting them into paying customers can become an impossible task.
Research institute Baymard reports that the average cart abandonment rate for ecommerce retailers is 69.82%, meaning just three in 10 shoppers who add an item to their cart will complete their purchase. Those losses quickly stack up, causing retailers to lose out on thousands of dollars in missed sales opportunities.
Is your ecommerce checkout primed to capture those shoppers? Fix the leaks in your process with these 12 checkout optimization tips.
What is checkout process optimization?
Checkout process optimization is the strategy a retailer uses to improve their online store’s conversion rate. The goal is to minimize distractions and reinforce trust throughout the checkout flow, driving every shopper toward a purchase confirmation email (and away from an abandoned cart).
Why does checkout process optimization matter?
The default checkout process offered by your ecommerce platform likely isn’t the one best optimized for your customers’ experience.
Online retailers who optimize their checkout benefit from fewer abandoned carts, considering 17% of shoppers ditch their purchase because the checkout process was too complicated.
Checkout optimization can also increase average ordervalue (AOV). Tactics like cross-selling and upselling, both of which happen throughout the checkout flow, encourage customers to spend more, resulting in more revenue.
12 checkout process optimization tips for ecommerce stores
- Allow guest checkout
- Offer free shipping
- Provide multiple payment and shipping options
- Use Google auto-address
- Take advantage of 1-click checkout
- Display security badges
- Have a mobile-friendly design
- Reduce form fields
- Offer live chat support
- Reinforce sales with psychological triggers
- Show the checkout flow
- Cross-sell and upsell
1. Allow guest checkout
Ecommerce retailers need a lot of information from first-time customers. While saving that in an online account makes the checkout process faster for future purchases, forcing shoppers to create an account causes 34% to abandon their cart.
“With ecommerce platforms becoming more and more popular, you don't want to discourage one-time shoppers,” says John Cheng, founder and CEO of Baotris. “A lot of people may see the process of creating an account as an obstacle, because they are looking for a fast and easy way to buy the product they want.”
Guest or social checkout allows shoppers to complete their purchase without entering unnecessary details, such as their birthdate or password. Take it from Public - Supply, an online retailer that gives shoppers the option to log in but doesn’t force all new customers to create an account prior to purchasing.
2. Offer free shipping
A Forrester study conducted on behalf of Shopify found that free shipping has an influence on purchasing for three-quarters of global shoppers, with 58% expecting free next-day delivery.
Show potential customers you’re meeting these expectations with shipping-related messaging, badges, and progress bars throughout the checkout process.
“The single biggest impact was free shipping on all orders, which resulted in a 37% uplift in conversions,” says Daniel Bari, marketing director at Dreamland Jewelry.
Take inspiration from Partake Foods, which set a minimum order requirement for shoppers to earn free shipping—a CRO (conversion rate optimization) tactic that influences 58% of people to spend more. Progress bars in the cart encourage customers to reach the $29.99 threshold, increasing the retailer’s average order value while ditching extra shipping costs for customers.
3. Provide multiple payment and shipping options
People want options when purchasing items online—so much so that 7% will ditch the checkout process if the retailer doesn’t offer their preferred payment method.
Offer a range of payment methods on your ecommerce site, including:
- Debit or credit cards
- Shopping apps, such as Shop Pay and PayPal
- Digital wallets, such as Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, or Google Pay
- Buy now, pay later
Jen Greenlees, owner of Sydney So Sweet, put this checkout optimization tip into practice, saying, “Buyers are looking for these options when paying for an order.” Average order value shot up 21% as a result of the change, with Jen also noticing that alternative payment methods resulted in a lower abandoned cart rate.
4. Use Google auto-address
Google Autocomplete reduces typing by filling in a customer’s shipping address. Enable it on your online store to have it automatically populate a shopper’s town, state, and ZIP code based on the first line of their address.
Not only is Google Autocomplete 20% faster than manually typing out an address, but errors on mobile are significantly reduced. Customer satisfaction increases all-round if shoppers can order and receive the item without hassle.
5. Take advantage of 1-click checkout
If there’s one way to summarize the optimal checkout process, it’s “less is more.” Fewer steps in the process means less friction for online shoppers, increasing the chances of them converting into a paying customer.“
Abandoned carts are often due to people changing their minds from having to fill out too much information. People want as few steps as possible, and the more streamlined your system is, the less likely they are to rethink their purchase and abandon their cart,” says Ann McFerran, CEO of Glamnetic.
With 1-click checkout, shoppers only need to enter their information once. Details such as their email, shipping address, and credit card details will be stored and autofilled next time they visit.
Shop Pay gives 100 million shoppers the ability to check out in a single click—even if they haven’t shopped with your online store before. Information is saved from other Shop carts, delivering a seamless user experience that results in 1.72 times more conversions.
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“We offer Shop Pay because it’s quick, secure, seamless, and accepts all major card providers, so it makes things a lot easier for everyone,” says Sophie Gibson, PR and communications at S’wheat.
6. Display security badges
Online shoppers are concerned about their online privacy: some 17% of shopping carts are abandoned because a customer didn’t trust a site.
Security badges reinforce why an online shopper should trust you. Highlight them through the checkout process to increase conversions, such as:
- SSL certificates
- Payment badges
- Antivirus software logos
- Money-back guarantees
- Customer reviews
Says Lily Wili, CEO of Ever Wallpaper, “Trust badges not only strengthen your brand’s legitimacy, but also provide your customers with a sense of security that your company will deliver on its commitments.” For an example of how security badges are used, take a look at the shopping cart on Nick Mayer’s online art store. Potential customers see familiar checkout logos and customer reviews—both of which reinforce that the retailer can be trusted with sensitive information.
7. Have a mobile-friendly design
By 2024, some 187.5 million people will shop via mobile devices, spending an estimated $621 billion. Your checkout process needs to be mobile-friendly if you’re to stand a chance at capturing that spend.
- Minifying code to deliver fast loading speeds
- Having a responsive design that automatically resizes for different size screens
- Using large finger-friendly buttons, such as Add to Cart and Checkout
“The majority of our customers today are discovering new products on the go on their mobile devices, and if they have to fill out a form, we’ve lost them,” says Benjamin Sehl, co-founder of KOTN.
8. Reduce form fields
A complicated checkout process forces people to work to give you money. Minimize the number of fields on your checkout form, collecting only the essentials: name, billing address, and credit card information.
Baymard’s checkout usability research found that most ecommerce websites only need eight fields on their checkout form, yet the average retailer has almost 12. The study concluded that “displaying a large number of form fields intimidates users, and causes needless checkout abandonments.”
“When it comes to the cart and basket pages, it’s important to keep things as simple as possible,” says Zarina Bahadur, CEO and founder of 123 Baby Box.
“Provide a very clear overview of what the user has added to cart and indicate the next step, as well as how they can make changes to their order. Only include custom fields if they are absolutely necessary, since they naturally create more friction for shoppers.”
9. Offer live chat support
It’s common for shoppers to have questions about their next purchase throughout the checkout process. Uncover those objections and address them in the checkout process—be it money-back guarantees or a free returns policy—to prevent shoppers from exiting.
Fearing information overload? Answer FAQs through a chatbot on your checkout page. Some 41% of shoppers have used these conversational tools to make a purchase, with 70% relying on chatbots to communicate with brands.
SuitShop, for example, gives potential shoppers immediate answers to size, shopping, and return-related questions. Not only does it relieve pressure on customer support teams, but real-time responses give shoppers less time to debate whether or not they should purchase.
10. Reinforce sales with psychological triggers
There’s a psychological battle happening inside your customer’s brain every time they debate whether to purchase something online. Is it worth spending money on? Do they really need the product?
Nudge shoppers toward answering “yes” to those questions with psychological triggers at the checkout page, such as:
- Scarcity: “Grab this before stock runs out!”
- Urgency: “Order in the next 10 minutes to secure next-day delivery”
- Social proof: “18 people bought this in the last hour”
Tentree uses this checkout optimization tip on its ecommerce store. Just beneath the checkout button, the retailer highlights how it plants trees for every purchase. This reinforces to sustainability-conscious consumers why making a purchase is a smart decision.
11. Show the checkout flow
From choosing a product to completing their purchase, online shoppers visit various pages during the checkout process. People like to know where they’re up to throughout this process. Improve user experience by showing a progress bar on these pages.
Fussy, for example, has a complicated checkout flow. Customers need to choose a deodorant case, subscription plan, and scent before adding an item to their cart.
Potential customers are kept up to date throughout this process with a progress bar at the bottom of the page. They know how long they’ve got left before their purchase is confirmed.
12. Cross-sell and upsell
Optimizing the checkout process doesn’t just mean reducing cart abandonment. Increase the amount people spend on your ecommerce store, and therefore increase revenue, with cross-sells and upsells.
Cross-selling works when you recommend an item that complements one already in a shopper’s cart. If you’re selling t-shirts, for example, cross-sell matching trousers and jewelry to increase average order value.
Upselling, on the other hand, promotes a higher priced product similar to the one a shopper has already added to their cart. In the example below, LastObject uses a pop-up to promote its XL pack of swabs—a more expensive product than the one already in my cart:
Do this on your Shopify store using upselling and cross-selling apps like:
How to deal with checkout cart abandonment
Unfortunately, even the best checkouts still cause people to exit. Shoppers abandon purchases for reasons you can’t anticipate. But that doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.
If the potential shopper already has an account on your website (or they’ve initiated a checkout using Shop Pay), send a cart abandonment email the following day that includes:
- The product they abandoned
- A link to a custom checkout page
- A discount code to incentivize their purchase
Klaviyo reports that businesses using cart recovery emails earn back 3% to 14% of lost sales, with an average revenue per recipient of $5.81. Those small wins quickly add up.
For inspiration on how to do this, look at Rudy’s cart abandonment email. Shoppers see which items they left behind, with a discount code and a time limit to quality for free shipping—both of which create a sense of urgency.
Test and measure your ecommerce checkout process
These CRO best practices are exactly that—best practices. The optimal checkout process that convinces your customers to convert might not fit this mould. Figure out which makes the biggest impact on your store by running A/B tests and monitoring the impact on your conversion rate.
“You should be placing 10 to 20 test orders yourself and asking, ‘Was that easy?’” says Michael Levy, CMO of Pete & Pedro.
Take it from Natalie Thomas, director of UX and CRO at The Good, who ran A/B tests on the checkout process for a clothing brand: “We knew that mobile customers were parking items in their cart and comparison shopping with similar clothing items on the site before purchase. So, we tested the attached variant against the current mini-cart (the control).
“By adding a View Cart CTA and Continue Shopping CTA into the mini-cart, we produced a 4.52% lift over the control. Implementing the variant is predicted to produce annual revenue gains of approximately $1 million.”
Natalie concluded, “Users are more likely to convert when linked to the cart page from the mini-cart—a valuable learning that was well worth the time and effort it took to test!”