In a Time of Ecommerce Innovation, Checkout Funnels Lag Behind

Few Internet breakthroughs have been as impactful as the modern checkout funnel. Without a simple way to make online payments, where would ecommerce be today? How many tech giants (Amazon, eBay and many others) would not exist if it wasn’t for this development back in the late 1990s?

As important as the checkout funnel is, this critical part of ecommerce has remained largely static and unchanged for decades now. Ecommerce companies have gone to great lengths to improve the customer experience and increase conversions across other segments of business. Despite those improvements, the checkout funnel we all have grown accustomed to using has seen very little innovation to this day.

Changing with the Times

Think of all the technological innovations from the past couple decades. Where should we even begin? CD players have shrunk into small MP3 players that can hold thousands of songs. A phone can now do more than a computer once could. Likewise, vast innovations in user experience can be seen all across the internet.

There’s almost no comparison between a website homepage today compared to one from the 1990s. Take a look at how Amazon used to look with its garish colors and lack of images. It’s almost unbelievable how much progress there has been over the past decade.

In addition, today’s product pages within a site are vast improvements compared to what they used to be. Websites have kept up with the times and continued to innovate through responsive design, improved searches, smart product recommendations and other important tools that help convert visitors into customers. This new wave includes widget-like plugins that several adtech companies have successfully launched for brands to easily embed real-time promotions and hyper-targeted ads directly onto pages.

But more important than any of that is the last and final checkout page where customers go to actually purchase products. And yet, oddly enough, we still haven’t seen many improvements at the most essential time of conversion.

The Last Innovation?

With so many improvements elsewhere on ecommerce websites, the checkout funnel has fallen through the cracks. The last major innovation probably came in the late 90s when the small company now commonly known as Paypal broke onto the scene. The fairly simple and safe checkout process offered by PayPal helped streamline the process which was previously difficult and complicated to navigate. Since then, Visa Checkout and MasterPass have emerged as similar services based on the same ease of use.

Since those early developments more than 15 years ago however, there haven’t been many game changing enhancements to the checkout funnel at all. Along with some minor improvements, Amazon’s one-click checkout has innovated to create a useful interface for repeat customers. Still, their initial checkout funnel isn’t unlike any other online retailer — saving information via a web browser is useful yet far from groundbreaking.

No matter where you end up shopping, it will typically be the same lengthy, multi-step form in order to make a purchase. Passwords, payment information and addresses are all tedious friction points that can deter any potential customer.

In some ways, you could argue the checkout funnel has been made more difficult over the last few years due to the heightened security measures needed to fight fraud. Mobile payments can be extremely convenient, yet buying something online with a mobile device is a hassle due to the excessive number of forms that need to be filled out. It’s this lack of innovation at the hand of security (due to advancements elsewhere) that makes the process much harder to complete for a consumer.

So then, what’s to make of all this?

Change on the Horizon

Despite the seemingly bleak outlook, there still are some interesting developments regarding checkout and improving the current system. Paydunk is seeking to revolutionize the market as a mobile payment company that essentially removes the checkout page for a consumer. With the Paydunk app, all you need to do is enter your PIN number when making a purchase instead of filling out long forms and payment information. Consumers no longer share or store their PCI or PII information in the cloud or with other companies or retailers, instead the sensitive information and profile remain encrypted with in their secure phone. No usernames, passwords or accounts.

While Paydunk is currently available for some retailers, the downside is that it hasn’t yet become universal — although the future does look promising as the service continues to scale to a broader audience and consumer base. Perhaps brands will recognize the benefits of, reduced risk to cyber crime & an increase in the user experience, to adopt similar policies on their own moving forward.

More established companies are also starting to experiment with alternatives to the traditional checkout pages. Amazon patented a “selfie” payment system where biometric information replaces the traditional forms that need to be filled out and allows a user to simply take a picture of their face for checkout recognition. MasterCard is also rolling out a similar system. Ultimately, the goal is to make the tedious nature of password confirmation obsolete in five years or less.

No matter how you look at it, the traditional checkout page used today is in need of a big upgrade.

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