For as long as the web has been around, there has been the need for people to buy and sell online. Traditional e-commerce patterns dictate a certain set of steps all users need to follow to ensure a successful transaction.

Unfortunately, this model doesn’t always work for everyone. This is the same as with aspirin. ‘Most’ people benefit from it, but about 1% or more have some sort of horrible reaction to it. One checkout model that works for one company, such as Amazon.com, will not necessarily work for you.

As it is with any industry, when things fail, a new ‘expert’ role is brewed (call it marketers, analysts, sales specialists, searching-diser, etc) There seems to be a big opportunity for someone to make a buck off of you when the user doesn’t successfully check out. The bigger the company, the more ‘experts’ you will find. This can range from people that based their conclusions purely on analytical data, to those that copy exactly what competitors do as a desperate attempt to stay in the competition.
The bottom line is that there is a lack of common sense when it comes to predicting what the user wants. It is simply overwhelming.

So, let’s demystify why these traditional checkout flows fail.

Designing without Human-Factor in Mind

How many times have you gone to the store and while trying to pay for an item, the cashier asked you, “What’s your address?” or “What’s your login name?” How about if you were greeted and asked how you wish to pay for the purchase instead? This approach is what we call “human approach” or “human-like” behavior. That’s because that is what a person would expect and is also used to. Unfortunately this is not the case when purchasing online.

Applying a human-like approach to your checkout holds the key to a successful sale. When users click on ‘checkout,’ be proactive and ask them how they wish to pay for the order.

Did you know that 7 out 10 users who have entered a credit card number complete the transaction? Customers who have provided a credit card number have mentally agreed to complete the transaction because they feel confident that they have already rendered the payment, so why don’t act upon it, right?

Today’s checkout flow cookie cutters don’t always work. It is not because the page is not pretty enough or because you don’t have the right information in it. It simply doesn’t work because it lacks that ‘human touch’. This is the special ingredient that you’ve been looking for or perhaps you didn’t know was possible. I’m sure there are companies out there that think they are reaching their quota when it comes to sales and don’t think they can do better.

In any case, each time you ask your marketers or data analysts about sales and bounce rate, the answer seems always be the same (almost as if it was auto- generated): “new customer.” “Why is that?” you’d wonder. The answer is simple. Returning customers are acquainted with your site, and most likely, familiar with it. New customers are quite easy to scare. All it takes is one confusing question to turn them away.

The Correct Approach

It appears as if we are not all in the dark. There are a few companies out there that have seen the benefit of exploring the ‘human behavior factor’ and are taking advantage of its full potential.

When it comes to checkout flow, applying ‘human-like’ approach is crucial, in my opinion. Your first step in the right direction should be to stop believing that ‘embellishing’ the form/ page will increase your chances of completing the sale. A pretty form is not more effective than a regular form. The key is how you word it and how it is presented to the user. Whether it is a single page or a 5 page flow, always include the user’s point of view and expectation into the equation. Don’t simply rely on a designer to come up with an amazing mock-up. You would be surprised how much your checkout flow could change compared to the competition when you do your homework and start listening to your own customers. Remember, what works for Amazon.com may not work for you!