Checkout is the last mile in the ecommerce funnel. Conversions can suffer if all your optimisation efforts are placed only at the top and middle of the funnel i.e. customer acquisition and optimising category or product pages.
Think about the impact on revenue if you managed to drive a 2X or 3X increase in conversions at checkout. Optimising your checkout sometimes requires a lot less work and can deliver higher ROI compared to sourcing new customer acquisition channels.
This article aims to reveal friction points in your checkout process preventing shoppers from hitting the ‘buy now’ button.
Reasons for Friction at Checkout
As anxiety is the biggest source of friction, let’s kick-off with the concept of anxiety and its relationship with friction. Anxiety is a psychological discomfort or pain that causes shoppers to raise objection(s) and eventually stops or slows down their transition through your ecommerce sales funnel. This slow down in their flow through the ecommerce funnel is referred to as Friction.
Anxiety is triggered by obstacles in your website. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) experts aim to track and fix these friction points in a bid to improve conversions.
Friction at checkout, ultimately leads to shopping cart abandonment.
So why do shoppers abandon their shopping carts?
A UPS Online Shopper survey revealed that U.S. shoppers abandoned their shopping carts for the following reasons:
- High Shipping costs at checkout
- Not ready to purchase: getting an idea of the total cost with shipping for comparison against other sites
- Not ready to purchase: wanted to save the cart for later
- Their order value did not meet the free shipping threshold
- Shipping and handling costs were listed too late during the checkout process
- The estimated shipping time was too long for the amount I wanted to pay
- Account creation and registration was required to make a purchase
- Their preferred payment option was not offered
Before I go through each of the above anxiety creating friction points at checkout, here are four key questions to help you build a strategic mindset for dealing with reducing ecommerce friction, at each stage of the funnel or when viewing any page or page type in your store:
- Do shoppers have a high sense of security?
- Are we communicating our credibility and trustworthiness?
- Are we continuously informing and educating shoppers?
- How smooth an experience (UX) are we delivering?
If the answer to the above questions is positive or a resounding YES, at category, product and checkout, then you are on the right path. Read on for tactical ways to address each of these questions and reduce friction at checkout.
A: DO SHOPPERS HAVE A HIGH SENSE OF SECURITY?
The concepts of trust and safety are different: safety is the reality of the safety of an experience (think, SSL certificates, fraud detection and stress testing) and Trust is revolves around users’ perception of the safety of their experience (in other words how safety is communicated). So in other words safety is internal (infrastructure) and trust is externally communicated (with cues).
For the sake of reducing friction, focusing your energies on communicating how secure your checkout is to new shoppers is absolutely critical and foundational.
Here are four ways to effectively communicate the security of your site at checkout.
1. Use Extended Validation SSL Certificates – Green Bar Assurance
In order to drive a sense of security, basic SSL is not sufficient. Instead use an Extended Validation Certificate (EV) as it not only requires more extensive entity identity verification but also displays the green assurance bar and your organisation’s name. The ‘Enterprise EV’ on SSL.com provides this kind of EV certificate.
2. Use Security Badge(s) with Copy
A survey carried out in the U.S by Baymard Institute, asked 2,520 respondents:
Which badge (above) provides the best sense of trust when paying online?
Whilst 1,234 respondents indicated that they did not have a preference, the remaining 1,286 responses signified that Norton, McAfee and TRUSTe were the most popular security badges of choice in the U.S i.e. they offered the highest sense of security to the respondents:
Here is how three UK etailers use security badges at checkout:
Notice the array of payment badges and one SSL badge from AlphaSLL in Bathstore.com’s shopping basket page.
At checkout, the security logos are placed above the fold, on the top right of the page.
AO.com are not heavy on security badges; they instead have a single badge from Trusted Shops and more importantly have quite a compelling piece of copy explaining its meaning to shoppers:
“We’re certified by Trusted Shops so you can buy with confidence and have free payment protection up to £2,500”
They are also a Google Certified Shop (to be covered next), with a site wide footer link and banner.
Made.com stick with Norton as their security badge of choice on their shopping basket page.
3. Google Certified Shop Badge
Google Certified Shop is an ecommerce merchant endorsement program that shows Google “identifies and stands behind stores that provide a consistently great shopping experience”.
It appears as a persistent pop-under on pages of stores that participate in the program.
From a security standpoint, stores that display the ‘Google Certified Shop’ badge offer the following benefits to shoppers:
- Proof of top customer service
- Promised on-time delivery
- Free Purchase Protection on orders up to £1,000
- More confidence when purchasing online
In addition to the above, shoppers are able to manage all purchases they have made with Google Certified Stores in a single login.
Etailers are also able to display their Google Shopping ratings on their Google AdWords ads.
Certification is a three-step process:
- Create a Google Certified Shops account
- Technical integration
- Over a 30 day period trial period Google collects data and assesses the eligibility of the store to participate the program.
4. Add a Phone Number at checkout
It is quite surprising as to why several online retailers with an average order value of £100 or more do not display a phone number at checkout. Customers (especially new shoppers) are bound to have questions; and will want to speak to someone almost immediately.
Made.com do an excellent job at allaying the fears of first time shoppers by prominently displaying a ‘CAN WE HELP’ unit with their customer service phone number.
An alternative or addition to displaying a phone number you may want to consider is adding live chat at checkout.
B: ARE WE COMMUNICATING OUR CREDIBILITY AND TRUSTWORTHINESS
Credibility is defined as the quality of being trusted and believed in; and in the context of online retail your credibility can be reinforced or decimated in split seconds by shoppers. You might have built credibility all through the funnel i.e. from content marketing through to your home page, category and product pages, but if your checkout fails to demonstrate your business’ credibility, you might create anxiety in the minds of shoppers and as a result lose some sales.
Here are potential issues that can dampen the perception of your store’s credibility at checkout and tactics to you can employ to resolve these issues:
5. Inconsistent or incoherent total
In order to appear competitive, some retailers try to appear cheap on their advertising, Google Shopping listing and other shopping comparison listings.
They may also continue to ‘appear cheap’ on their product pages. They do this by excluding VAT (which is 20%) and hiding mandatory shipping fees. Unbeknown to them, this tactic is likely to be causing a significant number of drop-offs at checkout.
Especially with truly price sensitive shoppers hunting for a deal. Shoppers want to know the total landed price i.e. the total price of an item to a customer including delivery costs.
The example above shows that IronmongeryDirect have the ‘cheapest’ base price of £4.50 for Tesa Duct Tape, but an almost double shipping cost of £7.15.
Although their product page says it can be purchased for £4.50:
At checkout, shoppers are forced to pay a mandatory £7.14 for Next Day Delivery with no other shipping options (that said, shipping is free for orders over £45).
Try and communicate your total landed price early on in the funnel in order to prevent checkout anxiety and drop-offs.
6. Display Customer Reviews on Shopping Basket Page
We all know that an important way of building credibility is by demonstrating recommendations from happy customers through reviews. This is why customer reviews are typically boldly displayed on homepages, category pages and product pages.
The display of reviews should also be placed at checkout.
An ideal implementation of the display of reviews at checkout would be to dynamically display positive product reviews of items that are in shoppers’ baskets when they are about to checkout. This way, there is direct context and empathy to their situation.
Bathstore.com display their TrustPilot reviews just below their order total on their checkout page.
C: ARE WE CONTINUOUSLY INFORMING AND EDUCATING SHOPPERS?
Educating shoppers about the benefits of shopping in your store, their shipping or delivery options, specifics of some products and any other vital pieces of information relevant to their shopping experience should be succinctly communicated at checkout.
Educating and the dissemination of information should not stop on product pages but rather should be summarised succinctly at checkout.
Here are two ways etailers fail to inform and educate shoppers at checkout and as a result encourage friction and objections:
7. No FAQ at Checkout
Checkout pages should be padded up with supporting information to help nudge shoppers to make a purchase. Take it as your very last chance to drive in your value proposition or clarify any points you think shoppers might still have difficulties with grappling.
Naked Wines’ checkout page for their Angel waiting list, has lines of text that drive in their value proposition for a final time. They are intentionally placed above the fold to address any final doubts to sign up.
La Senza’s checkout page has a ‘NEED HELP Checkout FAQs’ caption (above the fold) that links to their checkout FAQs pages intended to address questions shoppers are most likely to ask at the point of checkout.
The checkout on newbalance.co.uk is similar to that of La Senza’s but with the display of the Checkout FAQs caption and link below the fold in their customer care contact details area.
247blinds.co.uk’s basket page has two infoboxes below the order total area that sell additional value-add services.
8. Fuzzy Clarity on Shipping Costs
The UPS Online Shopper survey cited at the start of this article attributed 58% of all shopping cart abandonment to high shipping costs at checkout. The lack of clarity of shipping costs all through the ecommerce sales funnel is not only off-putting for shoppers but also has the potential of reducing their trust in your brand.
Ryman.com do an amazing job at their checkout page but clearly list out the associated cost of each shipping option using radio buttons. Shoppers are quite clear on exactly what shipping costs.
D: HOW SMOOTH AN EXPERIENCE (UX) ARE WE DELIVERING?
One of the most effective ways of improving conversions on your checkout page is to deliver a smooth and a seamless as possible transition through checkout for shoppers. In other words, a near frictionless user experience transition at checkout.
This smooth checkout transition is ultimately hinged on user experience; the holy grail of course being Amazon’s 1-click checkout. Although the 1-click checkout is not exactly practical for most etailers, shoppers’ ease of transition at checkout is critical to driving up conversions at checkout.
Some of the smoothest checkouts from a user experience (UX) standpoint I have come across are that of NakedWines.com (a multi-step checkout), Ryman.co.uk (a one-page checkout) and Superdrug.com (a multi-step checkout).
Here are key user experience friction points that hinder a smooth transition at checkout and how to address them.
9. In a multi-step checkout the inability to go back to previous steps
The business case for ‘locking’ shoppers in the checkout process is intended to minimise distractions, but shoppers often find it quite frustrating not being able to go back to make changes whilst checking out.
The simple fix for this is enable clickable steps backwards throughout checkout.
Superdrug.com offer a great way to implement clickable steps backwards at checkout.
10. Forcing Shoppers to Create an Account – Guest Checkout
Forcing shoppers to register or create an account before their purchase can be huge barrier to conversions at checkout. Providing a Guest Checkout option enables a smooth transition to the final payment page (where you can always give Shoppers an account creation option).
Here are interesting ways three etailers reduce Shopper account creation anxiety by providing a guest checkout option:
At checkout, Ryman.com offer two options – Guest Checkout for new shoppers and Express Checkout for already registered customers. Notice the only two options and the green button in the guest checkout box labelled ‘Continue’.
Superdrug.com provides three options: an account sign in for registered customers; a create an account option and a checkout as guest option. As a new user – you have a choice of either creating an account or checking out as a guest.
Made.com offers two very clear options – ‘Checkout as New Customers’ and ‘Sign in check out’. Both buttons are the exact same size (width and length). I like the clarity of choice with two checkout buttons.
11. Overwhelmingly high number of fields
Form filling both on paper and online can be an administrative nightmare and in some cases a deterrent to moving ahead with a process. The principle to employ on checkout pages is too keep entry fields to a minimum and make it as easy as possible for shoppers to complete their purchase.
I am going to address both multi-page and one-page checkouts as it is challenging to keep them simple and keep the entry fields to the minimum.
The one-page checkout on Ryman.com is one of the most compact I’ve come across. Shoppers’ personal details area has only 5 fields; there is a postcode finder; an option to add a password for account creation; delivery options using radio buttons and payment options are compressed and expandable on-click.
Naked Wines’ multi-step checkout offers a ‘login with Facebook’ option that will prefill basic fields such as first name, last name and email address.
Made.com’s checkout page is the smoothest I have come across. Their address field is autocompleted (with Capture+) on the basis of both free text and postcode – the entire form is fast, responsive and swift. See the video above.
The above example from SwimShop.co.uk reduces the number of fields shoppers see by compressing the password fields under the ‘create account’ checkbox.
12. Address Finder Feature
Adding an address finder is a no-brainer as it cuts down both time taken entering full addresses and is less error prone. Here are two great examples of the implementation of address finders at checkout:
This is from NakedWines.com – shoppers simply start typing their address or postcode and the tool starts to populate the field in real-time.
Made.com’s approach to address entry starts with a single field for either address or postcode entry – Capture+ autocompletes the rest of the entry.
13. Limited Payment Options at Checkout
Checkout pages should support as many payment options as possible.
247blinds.co.uk offer three payment options that include standard credit/debit card, PayPal and Amazon Payments. Some shoppers may have built such strong affinity with Amazon that they prefer to use the Amazon Payment option on their first purchase.
For high-ticket items, consider adding a Pay on Finance option like AO.com.
14. Voucher Code Display
Displaying a voucher code entry text box at checkout can potentially lead to shoppers leaving the checkout process to search for a voucher or coupon code related to your website either on your website or on a search engine.
Either provide a link to a list of voucher codes at checkout or simply place a link to retrieve a voucher code in place of a text box.
On a final note, remember that the aim is to creating a fluid, frictionless checkout experience. Test, learn and finally make informed decisions on any of the tactics listed above.