40 Checkout Page Strategies to Improve Conversion Rates

To many website owners, shopping cart abandonment and conversion rate drops on a checkout page may seem to be a bitter fact of e-commerce life.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, you can increase conversion rates on your checkout page by helping to give your shopper everything they need to make an informed, confident decision.  Print out this helpful checklist and use it to optimize your checkout page for higher conversion rates.

Design and Layout

This is where much of the buyer’s decision to buy or not buy will rest – at first.  Best shopping cart design practices will factor in here, such as ample use of whitespace, clear delineation of different steps in the order process, and these vital checkout-boosting points:

1. Give users a visual checkout process – while it’s ideal if you can fit everything onto one page, plenty of conversion studies have shown that the less clicks to checkout there are, the higher your conversion rate will be.  If you need to spread things out across multiple pages, give the shopper a visual indicator of how far they’ve progressed.

2. Add checkout buttons to the top and bottom of the page – The less time that customers have to spend looking for them, the sooner they’ll take action

3. Include credit card logos and security seals – Let shoppers know your site is a secure, trusted place to do business.  Popular security seals include Verisign and BizRate.

4. Give users the option to continue shopping from the checkout page – They may have forgotten something, and there’s nothing worse than hitting the back button and finding that all your cart details have vanished.

5. Differentiate checkout/continue shopping button colors – If you have these two buttons side by side, consider changing the color of one of them to make it visually separate from the others and lessen the chance that the user will click the wrong one.  Add plenty of space in between them so there’s no mistaking where the user clicked.

6. Give visitors the option to create an account AFTER checking out – There’s nothing more aggravating than being presented with the “Register to Create an Account!” popup first before you can complete your order.  Removing it caused one online retailer’s sales to increase by $300 million!  People will gladly give their contact information in order to track their purchase after the order rather than stopping to fill everything in beforehand.

Amazon.com usability

Everyone’s favorite usability study, Amazon.com has pre-checkout down to a fine art.  This cart page includes details on the item added, a financing offer, free shipping, protection plan and related accessories on one page.

7. Allow users to print or email their cart contents – In the case of certain purchases, they may be buying for someone else, need their manager or boss to sign off on the purchase or some other step that forces them to stop the checkout process.  Make sure that if there has to be an interruption, you give them the tools necessary to make it as smooth as possible.

8. Let buyers save their cart or add to wishlist – Many people use a shopping cart as a glorified wishlist, to save things for later.  Why not give them the opportunity to do just that by letting them save their cart or optionally add products to a wishlist for a future purchase?

9. Exit popups don’t always work – Oftentimes, antivirus or browser software will stop popups in their tracks, preventing you from surveying the customer as to why they left their shopping cart.  Instead, use email to follow-up and test adding a discount code or dollar value off if they complete their order.

10. Don’t forget to include links to your privacy policy, shipping details, FAQ and returns policy within easy reach of the checkout screen.  You may also want to consider testing a live chat option on the checkout page in case the customer has any pre-sales questions before placing their order.

11. Review one last time before it’s final – Give customers one last chance to make sure they ordered and entered everything correctly before they proceed with their order.

A clear call-to-action

BassPro Shops deliver a $20 coupon in an email, toward items already in the user’s cart.  A clear call-to-action invites the user to click through, apply the coupon and continue shopping.

Optimizing Product Details

If your design and layout is as seamless as possible, the next aspect of the user’s attention is going to go directly to making sure they’ve ordered the right color/size and combination of items.  Here are some other factors to add in to make the shopping cart experience as pleasant as possible.

12. Include a product summary – having just a name and a number might be enough on the vendor’s end, but letting the customer know what size, color, and other customization options are available will help them ensure they’ve made the correct choice for their needs.

13. Detail shipping methods on the checkout page – Don’t wait until after they enter their shipping address to let them know which options you accept.

14. Let the user update quantity or remove from cart – while they’re still on the checkout page. Here again, the more times they have to hit the back button (or look for the cart icon) to go where they want, the more chances they’ll simply give up and drop the process altogether.

15. Recommend related products before checkout – This is another excellent shopping cart practice which is sorely under-used, particularly in the field of electronics, where shoppers want to be absolutely sure they have everything they need to get the most out of their purchase.  No one wants to find out too late that the item didn’t come with an adapter (or that one was recommended in the first place).

ability to update the cart while preparing to checkout

When purchasing high-end headphones, Bose.com’s website recommends helpful accessories plus offers several payment options, progress steps and the ability to update the cart while preparing to checkout

16. Include order number and contact info for any questions – Let customers know how they can reach you by phone and email. Not everyone wants to (or knows how to) use live chat functionality, and if for some reason it isn’t staffed, having email and phone contact details on the same page can prevent carts from being abandoned due to unanswered questions.

17. Show the final price before checkout – More and more e-commerce sites are incorporating this feature to help prevent orders from being lost due to the customer’s idea of a perceived price increase in the form of shipping/handling/tax fees.

18. Confirm that the item is in stock/available – No one wants to get all the way to the order page to find out the item is no longer available.  Thankfully, most carts have inventory tracking built-in to the ordering process.  If an item is on backorder, allow the user to enter their email address to be notified if/when it’s back in stock.

19. Show pre-order availability – If your customer is pre-ordering an item, let them know when it’s expected to be available. Although release dates can and do change often, Amazon takes the uncertainty out of the pre-order process by offering users a credit if the price drops between the time they pre-ordered, and the day the product launches.

20. Include product ratings and testimonials – Nothing helps instill confidence in an order more than customer reviews and ratings about a particular product. Shoppers want to know if the wires break easily, if the item is too long in the sleeves, or if it works exactly as advertised.  Don’t let them find out too late!

owners rate and review a product

PetCareRX lets pet owners rate and review a product and have that review appear right on the product order page

21. Include gift wrap/message options – This tip is particularly valuable near different holiday shopping seasons, depending on what you’re selling.  Any “little things” which can add a personal touch while helping the shopper save time are highly valued and remembered when shopping online.

22. Include product video – Where possible, show the product in use, or ideas on how to use the product for best results.  Read this KISSmetrics article to learn how product videos help increase conversion rates.

Payment and Shipping

This is where most shopping carts are abandoned, and it’s usually because of the aforementioned failure to include shipping, handling and tax into the final order tally up front. There are also some points that can make this crucial moment even easier for buyers, such as:

23. Provide free shipping – Time and time again, shoppers say that this factor over all others compels them to order.  Not all merchants can realistically afford to always do this, as shipping costs can eat into their bottom line. If that fits your current situation, consider…

24. Offer free shipping when the customer spends $X  – You can set a dollar amount needed to reach the free shipping threshold, but the fewer requirements you set, the more likely people are to increase their order maximum order volume and come back to purchase again. If you do this, add in a progress bar or a total amount as the customer adds the items to their cart to show them how close they are to qualifying.

25. Provide multiple shipping and payment methods – Let the user decide how quickly they want to receive their order.  Likewise, not everyone wants to bother with dragging out their wallet (or purse) to find their credit card.  You’ll likely convert more online shoppers by using online payment services like Paypal or Google Checkout.

26. Put the latest promo codes directly on your website – There’s nothing worse than going off-site to a coupon directory to find a code and then returning to the site in question to use it.  Keep those shoppers on your site longer by including the promo code right on the checkout page, along with a field to use it.

American Eagle lets customers choose shipping options

American Eagle lets customers choose shipping options, showcases a promo code (and discount field) and provides the order total directly on the checkout page

27. Was $X, Now $Y – Everyone loves a good deal. If you can show the previous price of an item, you’ll encourage them to complete the order while the item is still on sale.

28. You Saved $X – Like the above, if you can show the shopper how much they’ve saved on their order before the final price is displayed, they’ll feel much more comfortable pressing that Checkout button.

29. Include an Approximate Shipping Date – In exchange for their zip code, and with their shipping method selected, it’s a great idea to include an approximate shipping date (when the item leaves the warehouse) or an arrival date when they can expect to receive it.

30. Make Digital Download Instructions Clear – Most of this article has been devoted to best ecommerce practices for tangible items, but even if you’re selling digital goods, many of these points still apply.  At checkout, make it expressly clear how the customer can download their order. If they need special software to open it, show them how to download it.  And in the future, if they need to download it again, provide them with instructions on how to do so.  Don’t assume everyone knows where and how to get Adobe Reader!

31. If you need specific information, tell them why – Customers are more likely to share information (like date of birth or their phone number) if you tell them why you need it.  Just be sure that you truly DO need that information and it isn’t just a “nice to have” piece to bulk up your lead database.

Rewards and Special Offers

Everyone likes to feel rewarded.  And getting customers through the checkout process is just the first step. You also have to tailor your checkout page toward future orders – or remarketing to customers who have abandoned their order.  Follow these points to increase shopping cart conversions on future orders.

32. Promote reviews in exchange for coupons or discounts – Encourage customers to review a product in exchange for a discount or coupon by email.  More reviews could entitle the user to bigger savings or free samples.

33. Consider a loyalty program – Award customers with points in exchange for reviews, purchases, ratings or other actions that can help contribute to your website.  These points could be redeemed in exchange for samples, a coupon toward a future visit, or other rewards.

34. Give away complementary samples with each order – Depending on what you sell, this could become a serious factor in getting repeat orders. It works particularly well when bundling, such as including free sampler perfumes with a clothing order, or in the case of the Freeman Beauty sites, a sample travel beauty product with each item added to the cart.

Freeman Beauty website lets customers add a sample to their basket

The Freeman Beauty website lets customers add a sample to their basket for each full-size product they order

35. Provide 24/7 Customer Service, 365-Day Return Policy – Zappos is the poster child of great service, because they make it a part of every factor of their business – including a year-long return policy.  Countless studies have shown that the longer the guarantee/return policy is, the less the likelihood of returns or refund requests.  And, while not appropriate for every business, it has certainly earned them a loyal following.

36. Promote financing offers for higher-ticket items – Some stores use Paypal’s “Bill me Later” function while others offer payment in installments or a lower price for locking in a year’s worth of service (versus paying month to month). Consider some creative financing options to help move your more expensive merchandise.

37. Installation and Setup – Depending on what you sell, you can compel more shoppers to buy if they have some help with installation and setup. This is particularly advantageous for computers and other technical equipment and incredibly valuable to first-time customers.

Zappos includes Paypal integration, free shipping, safe shopping seals and live chat

Zappos includes a laundry list of best shopping cart practices, including: Paypal integration, free shipping, safe shopping seals and live chat

38. Let customers set up notification alerts – You’ll greatly increase the chance that they’ll return and make a purchase (or another purchase) if you let them create email or text message alerts on your site.  For instance, they may ask to be notified when a product is almost out of stock, or notified when similar products are added.  Let them choose how and when they want to receive alerts, and you can bank on having a customer for life.

39. Upsell with gift cards – This strategy is commonly used over the Christmas holiday season, but there’s no reason it couldn’t work on other types of sales.  The option to add a gift card to their cart or get $X off their purchase when they add a card can increase your total sales per customer considerably with no extra effort on your part if the cards are delivered digitally.

40. If No Upsell, then Downsell – Even if a customer declines the upsell offer, the order isn’t entirely lost.  Try a downsell of a “lite” version or a shorter subscription period to give the customer a taste of the upsell for less.  This lets you make money on an order regardless if it isn’t quite as much as you’d hoped.

Crutchfield displays a gift card upsell

Crutchfield displays a gift card upsell, free accessories, total savings, and free shipping plus an in stock notification on its cart page.

Test, Test, Test

Of course, with any list that includes techniques and tips to help increase conversions, you should remember that no matter how certain you are that one idea or the other will work for you – it’s ALWAYS worth testing. Your users may surprise you, and you won’t know how well a particular strategy will work unless you split test accordingly.

What Are Your Favorite Checkout Conversion Strategies?

Have you come across a shopping cart that did everything right?  Did you come across a particular site that make the checkout process so smooth and hassle-free that you’d order from them again?  Share your comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversions with website reviews and SEO copywriting. Download a free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up at iElectrify.com or get more from @sherice on Twitter or Google+.

  1. If someone were to create an e-commerce / shopping cart plugin for WordPress with even half of these features, I’d yell, “take my money!!!”

  2. Yeah that will not be a bad idea Neil maybe you should create it ;-)

  3. Some matching images are in the wrong place. The image under the 11 should be under 9 in fact.

  4. Do you have any suggests for customer rewards program? I remember seeing a nice app, but alas google isn’t so keen on finding it when I search, turns out their are lots of internet loyalty / rewards programs.

  5. Nice Pointers!
    It would be of great help if VanityPlaza ( http://goo.gl/H7BgQ ) could be reviewed the viewers.

  6. Another possible idea: right before payment, ask if they will tweet or fbook post about their purchase for a small % or $ amount off

  7. All excellent recommendations. Removing all the friction elements and adding motivators is always going to help conversions. Great post

  8. Great overview Sherice!

    When using ceiling free shipping offer (24) “Offer free shipping when the customer spends $X”, it is also really helpful to suggest products which will help customers get free shipping if their initial order value is below the threshold. This could work in conjunction with the progress bar.

    Noting a remaining quantity for stock also serves to create a sense of urgency for the user. eg. “6 left!”

    Have you seen an increase in sales when promotions involve actionable items?

  9. And what does you mean by “downsell”?

  10. I disagree with #4, unless we’re just talking about Cart and not the Checkout process (two separate things IMO). You’re likely to increase conversions by eliminating selling propositions from checkout — someone’s committed to buying at this point, and leaving navigation and search in place is inviting them to put away their credit card and leave checkout. Most top sites (Amazon, Crutchfield, etc) agree — place an item in your cart, hit checkout, and see what happens to the page header, nav and footer.

  11. What about conversion increasing tips for a site like mine selling (non-tangible) subscriptions (service)

  12. This is a really comprehensive post. Well covered in depth. However, do you have any tips on how to improve conversions when you are selling a service instead of a product?

  13. really nice article, thanks for sharing man.

  14. really nice article, thanks for sharing man.

  15. Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  16. These are great points. And given that no software is bug free, I would say if your checkout runs into a tech glitch, then a suitable error message, having enough details to the buyer, and proper help links, will not drive the buyers away from the site.
    A vague error message will certainly cause suspicion on the site.

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  18. At the moment I am following this article to test these recommendation provided by you. Hope to increase our service conversions. Thank you the article.

  19. Hmm i hope you dont get offended with this question, but how much does a website like yours earn?

  20. This pretty much covers it! Great resource.

  21. My pleasure, I’m glad you could get some inspiration from my post.

  22. we prefer to honor lots of other world wide web internet sites around the net, even though they aren

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