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6 Common Checkout Mistakes No One Should Make

Let’s begin with a scary statistic: 68% of your potential customers will leave your store even as they are preparing to pay you.

That’s a painful number. What can you do about it?

First, we have to accept that there will always be some percentage of people who naturally drop out of the checkout process. This happens in the real world all the time. Just because you try on a shirt at Zara doesn’t mean you’ll buy it, right?

The avoidable dropouts, like the one below, are the ones we want to prevent:

You try on a shirt at Zara, like it, and then get in line to pay for it. But, before you can pay, the cashier asks you to fill out a 3-page form. Then, the cashier tells you that if you want to take the shirt home today, it’ll cost you an additional $10.

This sounds ridiculous, until you realize that many ecommerce stores are guilty of analogous mistakes in their checkout flow.

In 2014, with the wealth of ecommerce conversion best practices we have available, this is simply inexcusable.

In this post, we’ll go over the 6 most disturbingly common mistakes stores make during checkout, so you can make 2015 your highest-converting year yet.

Mistake #1: Having Unnecessary Form Fields

Every field you make the shopper fill out increases the potential for human error. Errors mean frustration. Frustration means abandonment.

Here’s how you can streamline the amount of information you require shoppers to enter:

Defer non-payment related questions:

Save questions like “how did you find us” or “rate your experience today” until after payment is complete. While useful for the marketing team, they just get in the way of the customer.

Auto-fill based on postal code:

Instead of asking shoppers to input city, country, and postal code, ask for the postal code first, and then auto-fill the city and country for them:

checkout fields

Duplicate shipping information to billing information:

In the vast majority of cases, you’ll find that people use the same address for shipping and billing. Offer a button that lets shoppers duplicate their shipping information to billing, or vice versa.

checkout shipping address

Mistake #2: Forcing People to Create an Account

Give shoppers a way to complete their purchase without creating a new account.

Forcing people to create an account increases the number of fields they have to fill in. And, in plenty of cases, they’ll even be asked to check their email in order to complete account setup.

This is a terrible idea. Email inboxes today are minefields of distractions. Being distracted is the last thing you want your shopper to be!

If, for whatever reason, you really need shoppers to create accounts, here are some ideas on how to do it better:

Reduce fields needed for account creation:

The only difference between a returning customer and one who needs to create an account is that the latter must enter an email and password to complete checkout. Dollar Shave Club is a good example of a website that makes this process as simple as possible, with the least number of fields needed:

where should we ship

Everything else you need for the account can be inferred from the shipping address. If your target market doesn’t mind connecting their Facebook accounts to your store, then you may want to test that as a way to further streamline checkout.

Prompt account creation after payment:

Allow guest checkout. Then, as soon as payment is complete, ask shoppers to create an account with your store, pre-filling in relevant information from the checkout process.

Incentivize account creation:

Make it a no-brainer for people to give you their information, whether it’s because of discounts, access to referral programs, or member-only specials.

Mistake #3: Hiding Shipping Information until the Last Step

If you think your logistics are going to be overloaded, set expectations clearly and be upfront with customers.

This is especially important during peak periods like holidays or calendar events. Imagine going to an online florist to buy roses for Mother’s Day, only to find out on the checkout page that all courier slots are fully booked and it’ll cost triple to ship flowers in time.

holiday ordering cutoffs

Mistake #4: Emphasizing Coupon Codes

Here’s a really good way to stop your customers from buying. Send them on a frustrating hunt for an elusive coupon code.

This ties in to a point in mistake #2 about sending people to their email to complete account setup. Here, again, minimize distractions and keep your shopper focused on the checkout process at hand. The last place you want them to go is Google, where they’ll get distracted, or worse, go to a different store with the same product.

Furthermore, displaying your coupon code field right next to the cart price is a good way to make people think:

“There’s a form for a coupon… Now, I feel like a sucker for paying full price.”

Instead, here’s how to do it:

  • Give coupons a special URL: Use special links that automatically apply discounts or rewards when used. Instead of requiring shoppers to enter a promo code during checkout, it’s automatically applied and reflected in the price calculation.
  • De-emphasize the coupon / promo code field: Don’t get rid of the coupon option entirely, but find a way to remove it from the default flow. The way Staples handles this is a great example:

order confirmation email

Be sure to read: The One Little Box That’s Costing You Big Dollars.

Mistake #5: Offering Limited Payment Options

Accept as many forms of payment as reasonably possible, and more importantly, be transparent about the ones you don’t accept.

Otherwise, you risk making your customers feel cheated. Also, regulators could ding you for false advertising.

Budget airline Jetstar recently got in trouble for advertising cheap flight tickets, only to tack on a “credit card processing fee” on the last part of the checkout flow:

Jetstar how would you like to pay

The issue isn’t the fee itself. In fact, it’s great that Jetstar offers so many payment options.

The issue is that they weren’t transparent. This ties back to mistake #3 about shipping. Customers will abandon their carts if shipping fees or payment fees are higher than they expected.

If your payment processing fees are higher than the norm, set shopper expectations appropriately.

Mistake #6: Not Having a Mobile Checkout Flow

If you’re like most modern ecommerce retailers, a quick look at your analytics should show that a large percentage of your customers are browsing from their phone or tablet. Mobile shopping is firmly mainstream.

So, if your checkout flow isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you’re losing out on sales due to frustration.

It’s simple. Look at the difference between this:

checkout form long

And this:

the sweet suprises

These are from two online flower stores visited from the same phone. One is a headache to look at while the other is formatted perfectly for the screen.

Don’t give your shoppers headaches. Check your analytics and determine whether investing in a mobile-optimized checkout flow makes sense right now. It’s inevitable that you’ll need to design for mobile sometime. It’s just a matter of when.

This all circles back to shopper frustration. If you give shoppers a reason to abandon their carts and leave your site, they’ll do it.

Conclusion: Make Your Store’s Checkout Painless

As we head into 2015, perhaps the biggest mistake of all is to forget to view your store from the shopper’s point of view.

Making your checkout process as painless as possible is one of the highest ROI activities you can engage in to prepare for your next year of sales. Tweaking the end of your funnel has a huge impact on reducing your cost per acquisition (CPA) numbers, allowing you to allocate those funds toward improving product quality or new programs to get even more customers.

About the Author: David Fallarme leads marketing at ReferralCandy, an ecommerce plugin that helps stores get more customers with smart, Dropbox-style referral programs. Get in touch with him on Twitter.

  1. It’s unbelievable how many online shops fail at making the checkout process as smooth as possible. These tips are great, please use them. I also want to add one more thing: if you use a multi-step checkout give your customer an overview of all the different steps that follow by providing some kind of progress indicator. Really useful post!

  2. These are all some excellent points.

  3. Firstly, un-necessary registration personal information irritates the customers. so retailers has to avoid it,[just essential information is enough.]
    Secondly, lengthy checkout steps discourages the customers to complete their checkout. For example, in PrestaShop Ecommerce, there are 6 step checkout process, Being a merchants, I felt this flaw and I am using a plugin [buff.ly/1vPl3or ] on my store, and customers are satisfied with checkout on my store.

  4. Hi David, Like your solution to ask for the zip code/postcode first. It indeed is annoying, because whenever I have filled out all the data already, my browser “refills” when I am coming to the point of filling out my zip code. Simple but brilliant idea.

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