We often try to find new ways to increase the conversion rate of our product or landing pages; however, one thing that we might forget is the checkout process. Many think that once the visitor clicks “add to cart,” they will complete the checkout process.
In reality, the checkout process is as important as the landing page itself. If something goes wrong or if the customer finds the process too complicated, chances are he or she will leave.
Here are a few tips on how to use your checkout process to drive your overall conversion rate…and most importantly: sales!
1. Keep It Clean
You know what they say about first impressions. Therefore a clean, clear, and straightforward checkout page is the first step to a great checkout experience. A good thing to do is remove every distraction that could potentially make the customer flee. For example, removing the navigation bar, as well as unnecessary links and elements, is an excellent way to keep the customer focused on the checkout process.
Another element that can influence the customer’s decision to proceed to payment is the checkout form. Generally, the fewer fields the checkout form has, the better the chance the customer will complete the order.
Stick only with essential fields. For example, if a customer buys a digital download, don’t ask them for their shipping address. Remember, the more fields the customer has to fill, the more time he or she needs to invest; and as you know, time = money. Do not make your customers waste their time. Make form completion a quick thing.
And always test your forms! Test the number of input fields, checkout page layout, and buttons.
Kissmetrics has a great “checkout” page. It is distraction-free and asks customers only for essential information.
2. Include A Visual Progress Indicator
As you know, everyone wants everything to be fast, and that also includes the checkout process of your website. The “process” normally means the customer needs to go through a number of steps before completing the order.
Including a visual progress indicator with a description of each step has been beneficial to certain businesses. It will ensure that the customer knows exactly what is coming next and if they’re close to completing the process, thus eliminating potential confusion.
Don’t fall into the trap of having too many steps in your checkout process, as it could increase cart abandonment and crush your conversion rate. I would recommend a maximum of four essential steps, with three steps being ideal. They normally include: Shipping & Billing, Payment, and Review & Place Order.
If you’ve got too many steps, I suggest you try to merge a couple of them. For example if you have Review, Place Order, and Receipt all in separate steps, you could move them into one titled Review & Place Order. It’s all about making the process look shorter.
Gilt visual progress indicator is perfect. It is short, tells you how far in the process you are, and gives information about upcoming steps.
3. Offer Customers The Option To Buy Via PayPal Or Google Wallet
There still are some websites where entering your credit card information manually is the only way to pay. Entering your credit card information manually takes time and everyone hates it (that certainly includes me!).
Well, let me tell you that those who do not accept PayPal or Google Wallet on their site are missing a lot. GoDaddy processed more than 15,000 transactions through PayPal during the first 20 days following the integration of PayPal as a payment option.
If you’re still wondering why customers love PayPal, it is because it’s fast. The customer’s credit card information, along with the shipping/billing address is already saved in PayPal, and this eliminates the need for manually typing the information. Can you imagine how horrible it would be if, every time you bought a song in iTunes, you had to manually enter your credit card information? If you are not accepting PayPal or Google Wallet on your website yet, go ahead and do it.
Zappos accepts both the traditional checkout method (which means manually entering your credit card information) and PayPal.
4. No Registration Required
Lots of websites force you to register before proceeding to checkout. I’m here to tell you: don’t do it! This website increased their revenues by $300 million by offering customers the option to register or not.
The best alternative is to provide a “continue as guest” button which will take the customer straight to checkout. The account is made during the checkout process, which looks faster to the customer. Do not forget to include, next to the “continue as guest” button, a login form for existing customers who also will enjoy the convenience of a faster checkout process.
When you check out on BestBuy’s website, you can either login, if you’re a returning customer, or continue as a new customer/guest without creating an account.
5. Don’t Let Them Abandon
Cart abandonment by online shoppers is on the rise. The bad news is: anyone who has an online store is somewhat affected.
The good news is: there are many actions you can take to counter cart abandonment, and email follow up is one of the best ways to do that. If you think it’s not worth it, think again. Movies Unlimited saw their ROI increase to 500% with a shopping cart abandonment campaign.
As I said, email follow up is an excellent way to convince your customers to come back and complete their purchase; however, the email needs to have certain elements in it to be convincing. Here is what’s recommended for follow-up emails:
- Offer a discount.
- Offer free shipping (if you don’t already).
- Send a first follow-up email as soon as the customer leaves his cart (and your site).
- Send a second email about 24 hours later.
Now, if you are wondering how you can send follow-up emails if you don’t require visitors to register — in other words, if you don’t have the customer’s email address — MarketingSherpa recommends these tactics that were used by SmileyCookie:
- Offer a discount if the customer signs up for email newsletters before the checkout process. This way, a tracking cookie is placed in the visitor’s computer; therefore, remembering his email address. If he adds an item to his cart and ends up leaving without finishing the checkout process, an email is automatically sent.
- For those who have an account and are already logged into your site, their shopping cart is saved. If they leave, they will receive a follow-up email (since their email address is already entered into their account).
If you would like to read more about cart abandonment, I encourage you to read this excellent post.
6. Offer Free Shipping
Some retailers are reluctant to offer free shipping. What they might not realize is that 44% of visitors who leave their shopping cart, leave because of shipping and handling fees. Another study shows that unconditional free shipping is the #1 feature for making a purchase. Of course, not all retailers can afford to do that, but I strongly encourage you to test it. If you don’t think free shipping will work for you, consider offering free shipping for orders above X dollars.
If you do decide to offer free shipping, don’t hide it. Make sure a free shipping banner or announcement is always visible to customers; and by always, I mean starting when they land on your site until they check out. Showing your customers how much money they will save also can be a brilliant idea for convincing them to proceed to checkout.
Apple offers free shipping and prominently displays it on its cart and checkout pages.
7. Show They Can Trust You
Customers need to feel safe when they‘re on your website, especially when they are checking out. They need to know that their credit card information is safe at all times and that they can trust you.
As I said earlier, a professional design is the first step; however, it’s not the only thing. Your website actually needs much more to be able to convince customers to trust you, as people are getting more and more aware of how to stay safe on the Internet. By adding trust elements such as those I explain below, Slideshop.com increased their sales by 15%. Here are some elements that will help your customers know you can be trusted:
SSL certificates and badges. SSL certificates are particularly important if you have an e-commerce website. This shows your customers their personal information is protected and hacker-safe at all times.
If you have an SSL certificate, make sure a security badge is always visible (including on your cart and checkout pages) showing visitors they can pay securely. SSL certificates normally range from $50 to thousands of dollars a year depending on the level of security you want and the size of your site.
Guarantees. Even if someone adds a product to his cart, he still might need a bit more convincing to be sure he’s making the right choice in buying from you. Having a 100% money back guarantee (so that he will know he can get his money back if he’s not satisfied) is an example of a way to give the customer that sense of trust he needs.
Testimonials. Testimonials are powerful and excellent convincing tools when customers are in doubt. It is recommended that you place them close to sources of anxiety; for example, in the checkout process when the customer must enter their credit card information. One thing you must know is that you probably won’t receive any testimonials. You must get them. Send your top customers an email “asking for help.” It’s definitely worth the effort because 57% of online shoppers look for reviews/testimonials prior to buying.
SEOmoz makes customers trust them by having client logos, as well as testimonials with headshots, on their home page and pricing page. They could easily be applied somewhere in the checkout process.
8. Offer Related And Similar Products
It’s a smart move to up-sell and cross-sell. It gives you the chance to increase a customer’s order size. If a customer buys a flashlight, why not sell him batteries? Apple does this with the iPhone by offering cases, adaptors, and chargers right before checkout.
The best way to do this is to have a sidebar or an area that displays the names, pictures, and the “add to cart” button of each related product on your cart page. Also, remember to show only products that are related. Similar products should be cheaper than what the customer has in his cart.
HP suggests similar products that are cheaper than the one you’re buying. HP’s related products are closely related to your cart item and can be added to your cart in one click.
There is one mistake to avoid when up or cross-selling: do not show related or similar products on your checkout or payment page. Show them only on the cart page. The reason for this is that you want the customer to be as focused as possible on the checkout process, without any distractions, so they can finalize the order as fast as possible.
9. Tell Them What To Expect Next
After a customer presses the “place order” button, what happens next? Make sure you tell them. First, thank them for their order and confirm that their order has been received to avoid potential confusion and eliminate uncertainties. If you send emails when orders are shipped, let them know.
Idealinput tells their customers what they should expect next by saying when and how they will receive the feedback. It’s a great way to clear uncertainties.
10. Make Purchases Social
One thing retailers often overlook is giving the customer the power of sharing after they place an order.
A good tactic to apply is to place a Facebook “like” button and a Twitter “follow” button on your thank you page. Since the customer just bought from you, chances are high that he will “like” or “follow” your brand. Then, when you appear in their newsfeed, there is another selling opportunity.
Another option would be to give customers the opportunity to update their Twitter or Facebook status with a prewritten message after they place their order (e.g.: “I just bought this cool new device at ABC Store which gives me the power to levitate! Check it out: yourstore.com/levitate.”).
AppSumo lets you share the items you’ve just bought via Twitter or Facebook. They give you $10 credit for each referral you get through your share.
I know this is not part of the checkout process, but if you’re looking for a site-wide solution for your store, why not add “like” buttons to every product? American Eagle did this and found Facebook-referred customers spent 57% more money than visitors who were not referred by Facebook.
The checkout process is as important as your landing page. The process has numerous elements and requires lots of tweaking; however, if you do it right, you will be able to tackle cart abandonment issues, increase your conversion rate, and finally reach your goals. Remember, it’s all about removing distractions and making the process as easy and quick as possible.
About the Author: Raphael Paulin-Daigle is a passionate entrepreneur. He founded a couple of online stores and recently launched Idealinput.com, a service that helps businesses improve their websites, ads, and logos by getting reviews from top marketing and branding experts.