E-commerce checkout optimisation & the proverbial abandoned shopping cart

We’ve all been there. Added an item to the cart on an online retail website, only to leave before completing the purchase. In fact, its cited that on average almost 60% of customers abandon their shopping carts when shopping on e-commerce websites. It’s a harsh reality affecting online retailers globally, as consumer’s desire to purchase is overridden by the effort it takes to actually place the order. This begs the question; why do customers so frequently abandon their shopping carts?

Several areas have been identified as frustrating and/or arduous, and are generally where users drop-off in the checkout process;

· Unexpected shipping costs or lack of shipping options

· Being forced to create an account

· Payment security concerns

· Confusing checkout flows

· Excessive forms when entering billing & shipping addresses

These areas suffer from severe usability issues and will frequently lead to unnecessary abandoned carts and frustrated users. As UX Designers, here are the 8 golden rules covering what can we do to relieve frustrated users, increase conversion rates, and ultimately turn these lost sales into opportunities.

1. The checkout page should be clear and uncluttered

Enclosing the checkout (removing the main navigation bar from the cart and the checkout) ensures that users are focused on the task at hand and less likely to be taken out of the checkout by links or distractions. A minimal layout with clear call-to-action buttons will encourage users to checkout instantaneously and increases the chance of making a sale.

2. The checkout process should be streamlined

Don’t spread the process over several pages as this gives users the impression that there will be many steps involved. The checkout should be streamlined to as few steps as possible — encouraging a continuous flow from cart to confirm order, while clearly illustrating the navigation steps so users are aware of where they are in the checkout process. You want to make checking out the easiest part of the user’s journey.

3. Persistent cart overview

Users should always be able to view the contents of their cart (and order cost) throughout the process of the checkout. You want users engaged and on-track to complete the purchase. Hiding the cart on a separate screen is essentially encouraging your users to leave the checkout to obtain this information.

4. Easy form filling

People hate forms, so making it painless as possible is the goal. Correctly label forms, avoid ambiguous instructions and don’t ask for too much. It’s also worth noting that it’s vital to make error messages clear. Simple usability issues like these can be so severe that they prevent users from completing their purchases.

5. Be transparent with shipping and taxes

Apply shipping/tax charges to the order as soon as the user has entered their shipping details. Nothing puts a potential customer off like feeling that they’re buying from a dishonest company or getting a nasty surprise on their bank statement. Including credit card logos and security seals will reassure your users that your site is secure and trustworthy.

6. Provide guest checkout and the option to create an account AFTER the purchase

You want to streamline the process, so it’s foolish to force your users into creating an account if there is no real need. Allow for guest checkout, get the sale, and then worry about sign up! People are more likely to sign up to track an order than signing up to process an order. However, if registering is imperative to your checkout process you should encourage users and incentivise — educate your user on what the benefits are of being a registered user as opposed to not. Promotional offers can also be persuasive.

7. Show an order summary

The shopping cart should be clearly itemised and include any relevant shipping/tax charges. Customers are wary of hidden costs and feel more comfortable when they can see the total cost in an order summary before proceeding. This can avoid any potential post-purchase confusion. An order review/summary is necessary to ensures users know what they are buying and can amend anything before submitting their order.

8. Help options

It’s also advisable to offer non-intrusive help options in the checkout. Potential customers may have questions about your products and the last thing you want them doing is leaving the checkout area to find contact details. Make it easy for them to find the option to ask questions with a FAQ, size guide, live chat, or phone number. Including a phone number for queries is not only helpful but also something customers find reassuring.

Users face a hoard of reasons to stop them from pursuing a purchase before they even reach the checkout area of an e-commerce website. So once they have reached this step it’s imperative the experience is painless and intuitive as possible. Optimising the journey will ensure a great user experience, and open opportunities for increased and repeat sales. The checkout is a fundamental part of the process which ultimately fulfils the bottom line of online retail; to generate sales.