7 Ways to Optimize Your E-Commerce Checkout Experience

Little tweaks can sometimes make a big difference.
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Show shipping details early in the process and highlight your site's security to improve the customer's checkout experience. (Photo: JN-chantalao/Shutterstock)

“The checkout experience is arguably the most critical step of the e-commerce sales process,” said Erik Robie, business developer and e-commerce expert. “It is the point where consumer tension is at its highest; they’ll either agree to part with their hard-earned cash or not.”

If you give customers any reason to abandon their online shopping cart, they’ll take it, said Robie — and it’s unlikely they’ll ever return to give you a second chance.

Here are seven easy ways to optimize your site for a fast and streamlined checkout experience.

Related: 10 Tricks For Boosting Sales in Your E-Commerce Store

Include a progress indicator

“Customers want to know how many steps it takes to get from start to finish,” said Ryan BeMiller, e-commerce marketing blogger for ShoppingSignals.com. “Not knowing how much longer it’s going to take or how much more info you’re going to ask for increases the likelihood that they’ll quit.” Showing the customer where they are in the checkout process makes them more likely to complete their purchase.

While adding a progress bar is ideal, according to Be Miller, even just adding numbers to the page titles can help. For instance, say you have three pages in your checkout process — shipping info, payment method and order review. You can easily change the page titles or headers to indicate where the user is in the process, such as “1. Shipping Info”, “2. Payment Method” and “3. Review Order.”

Provide contact information

Include contact information on your checkout pages, said BeMiller. Knowing how to get in touch with you if a problem or question arises will help put the customer’s mind at ease and should result in more conversions. And don’t worry — in most cases, it doesn’t create more calls or emails, he said, but it will improve the customer’s perception of your business to know you are available to help.

Related: How to Build a Blueprint for Stellar Customer Service

Ryan BeMiller

“Not every checkout is the same, and in some cases, one step in your checkout may be confusing to a new customer. In those cases, tool tips and helpful hints can go a long way.” -Ryan BeMiller (Photo: Ryan BeMiller)

Add tool tips

During checkout, you want to eliminate as many hurdles as possible for the customer. Make sure they know exactly what you need to complete that step.

“Not every checkout is the same, and in some cases, one step in your checkout may be confusing to a new customer,” explained BeMiller. “In those cases, tool tips and helpful hints can go a long way to helping the customer keep moving forward in the checkout process.”

Show shipping details earlier

The sooner the customer can see their shipping details, the better, said BeMiller. Don’t wait to collect shipping information until the end of the sale; ask for it up front.

“Always over-deliver on the amount of information you present to the customer, as early as you can in the buying process.” -Ryan BeMiller

Sometimes you may even want to include shipping estimates on product detail pages so the customer doesn’t have to wait until checkout to have an idea of what the delivery costs will be.

Related: Should You Offer Free Shipping?

Highlight your site’s security

Before an online shopper shares her personal details with you, she should be confident that her payment information is secure. Adding a security badge is an easy way to put a customer’s mind at ease. Ask your merchant services provider for any security badges you could add to your checkout pages.

“If you don’t have the ability to easily add security badges, you can simply change the text on the Payment Method page,” suggested BeMiller. “Instead of a text header that just says ‘Credit Card Details’, you could change it to ‘Secure Credit Card Payment’.”

Eliminate unnecessary steps

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Make sure your checkout process requires customers to fill out as few fields as possible. (Photo: lisenok94144/Shutterstock)

Don’t ask for more information than you really need, said BeMiller. The easier you make the checkout process, the more likely a customer is to complete the sale.

“The fewer fields your customer has to complete in the checkout process, the simpler it is. Think about what you absolutely must have, and consider eliminating all other fields.”

Ask for feedback

Finally, make sure the checkout page makes sense to a customer who knows nothing about your business or your products. “Aim to make it absurdly simple,” BeMiller said. Ask for feedback to make sure customers are getting it.

Erik Robie

“Your customers can be your greatest analytic resource.” -Erik Robie (Erik Robie)

“Your customers can be your greatest analytic resource,” said Robie. He recommended setting up an online questionnaire and incentivizing participation, perhaps with a coupon to use on a subsequent visit.

Robie said another idea would be using a focus group to get feedback. “This can be a bit pricier than gathering feedback from your customers, but it has the benefit of being a buffer between your experiments and your income stream. If your customers are subjected to a different rough-hewn checkout experience every time they shop with you, you run the risk of losing any reputation and customer confidence you’ve earned thus far.”

Getting professional input from a user experience expert is also a good idea, said Robie, “but ultimately, it’s the opinions of your customers which matter.”

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