Little Known Secrets of Highly Converting Checkout Flows

shopping cart checkout flow conversion rate optimization

This is where the real battle begins: you should be moving Heaven and Earth to make sure the checkout flow on your website is the most effective it can be. Why? Because people who have already put items into their shopping carts are – obviously – the most likely to convert. Which means this is a chance you cannot afford to miss.

Whilst some of your traffic will bounce at the very beginning and some people will visit other pages and leave, your users who have got to the checkout page have already taken a specific action. This means they are at the last stage of the purchasing cycle and their minds have already been made up to buy something.

However, according to studies, as many as 75% of users abandon while at the shopping cart stage And there are plenty of reasons why your users might not finish the checkout process.

Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment
You can find a lot of statistics on the web explaining why people abandon shopping carts. Some reasons may differ slightly, but the main reasons remain the same: unexpected costs, fears and doubts or the “I-was-just-browsing” excuse. Another reason why users abandon shopping carts is usability issues, such as slow website speeds or website crashes, which you should regard as low-hanging fruits to be fixed immediately. But this is not only about design. The hard part is to dispel your customers’ fears and doubts, and to push your users into action faster (source).

So here comes the first secret of highly converting checkout-flows: they need to be constantly changed and improved in order to reduce abandonments and give your customers the best experience and motivation to buy your products.

In this article I will show you some ways you can address the reasons why people don’t buy even though they’ve already entered the checkout process. However, keep in mind that although these solutions work more often than not –it doesn’t mean they’re silver bullets. So don’t just copy and paste them – treat them as an inspiration for more A/B testing and an even deeper analysis of your site.

How to make your checkout flow fantastically converting?

#1: Show them there is nothing to be afraid of

Although these days most people aren’t scared that they might end up receiving a bag of potatoes instead of an iPhone 6, doubts and fears are still an inevitable part of the online buying experience. People understandably worry about their personal data and payment security – or they might just be unsure whether your solution is the right one for them and worth the money they’re about to pay out.

But there are a lot of great ways to assure your users that you and your business are both reliable.

Secure Badges Conversion Rate Lift
It’s no secret that adding secure signs and badges to your checkout almost always guarantees a conversion rate lift. Novica does it well: they not only use secure badges, but also card symbols (which increase credibility) and a 60 day return policy. The headline is a clear statement: shop with confidence. A padlock emphasises the message. Well done! The question is: why are so many websites still missing these symbols?
Power of Trust Seals Conversion Rate Lifts
A survey conducted by Econsultancy/Toluna confirmed the power of trust seals when participants were asked which factors help them to decide whether or not to trust a website.
Secure Badges Shopping Cart Abandonment Conversion Rate Optimization
There are plenty of badges on the Internet. This research may help you find out which secure badges would work best for your website.

What if you don’t want to pay for secure services? You can assure your customers they’re secure in some other way, for example using “pay secure” as a Call to Action button text, ensuring ssl proxy connection, adding a padlock to the form or simply telling your users “your data is secure”.

security credit card shopping cart abandonment conversion rate
According to a lot of studies, website users are not that much concerned about security until they have to enter their credit card details. This is why it is crucial that your payment page includes security badges and promises. For example, uses “Pay securely now” buttons.

#2: Prove you’re the best choice

Why should your customers buy from you and not from your competitors? The answer should be your Unique Selling Proposition. This is a statement which explains to your customers why your solution or product suits their needs, and why it’s better than any other solutions or products available on the market.

That’s why you need to add your USP to your landing pages: it will reduce your bounce rates. And if you have a killer USP, why not also include it in the checkout flow? Because persuasion doesn’t stop when a user clicks the “Add to Cart” button – there is still a lot more to do to turn him or her into a customer.

Zalando USP shopping cart abandonment conversion rate optimization
Zalando reminds their users of their USP on every page (using a fixed top bar). In addition, they add statements during the checkout process. There are a few great things about this: firstly, they are emphasizing why buying from them is a great idea. But also, they are reminding their users about their 100 day return policy (so customers don’t need to go back to look at their return policy page, which may distract and decrease conversions). And last but not least, they ensure security by adding lines about secure payment and data protection.

Are you still unsure what your Unique Value Proposition is? As a few examples, it could be free delivery, short delivery times, long-time returning periods, any time cancellation, no setup costs, longer guarantee etc etc. If you have trouble preparing a killer Unique Selling Proposition, why not read Tom Walker’s article on how to come up with a value proposition when what you sell isn’t unique?

#3: no extra costs & free delivery

As you can see in the first graph, extra costs are one of the main reasons people abandon their carts (named by almost 60% of users). Let’s be honest: everyone hates it. You go to your basket and you see that the price is higher than you expected. It’s not only about spending more money (which is itself painful), but it also makes you feel cheated. So don’t do it to your users!

Of course, in the online world “unexpected costs” commonly means shipping cost. And that’s why you should consider free delivery.

For whatever reason, a free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10, says Wharton marketing professor David Bell.

Free delivery is in fact already becoming a standard option – in 2011 ComScore reported nearly half of all online purchases had some sort of “free shipping” offer. It seems that offering free shipping may nowadays be necessary to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. This year, ComScore also revealed:

Free shipping continues to drive purchasing decisions as 58% of online shoppers reported adding items to their shopping cart in order to qualify for the incentive. Furthermore, 83% are willing to wait an additional 2 days for delivery if shipping is free (source).

Free Shipping Cart Abandonment Conversion Rate Optimization
Free shipping is what users expect. 63% of Amazon clients joined Amazon Prime solely because of its free shipping offer (source).
Emu Australia Free Shipping Cart Abandonment Conversion Rate Optimization
How to assure your users that there will be no additional costs? Emu Australia does this in a really nice way: at the top of the page we can see that free shipping is available, plus – in the subtotal – delivery and sales tax are not applicable (N/A). Therefore, from the very beginning we know that the total will never exceed 179 EUR.

How to get the most from an offer of free shipping? Commonly, people do not appreciate things they get for free. So instead of just offering free shipping, you could also tell your customers that you’ll cover the cost for them.

If you think that free shipping is too expensive for your business, consider other options, such as free ship-to-store or free shipping with a minimum order (for example if your threshold is 30$, you could offer it from 45$). Sometimes, setting a minimum order value can also lead to larger orders.

Still afraid that a free shipping offer may end up ruining your business? Well, here you can find some great ideas from Stephan Burgler with solutions on how to do it without going broke.

Shipping Costs Shopping Cart Abandonment Conversion Rate Optimization
Remember: if you can’t afford free shipping, then be sure to tell your customers everything about the shipping costs. You could also use a shipping calculator to determine the estimated costs based on delivery locations, like OZScopes do.

Whether you decide to offer free delivery or not, remember that shipping costs should be presented prior to asking the customer for payment information. You can do this by estimating the shipping costs and adding an estimated fee to each product or integrating some type of shipping cost calculator which will enable the customer to check it at any time during the shopping process.

#4: Make prices more palatable

Obviously, one of the biggest obstacles to buying is the price. It’s not just that people cannot afford your solution or product: every action connected to spending money is simply unpleasant.

„In fact, this study shows that the part of your brain that is stimulated by pain — the orbitofrontal cortex — is the same part of your brain that’s stimulated when you have to pay with your hard-earned money. Which means, for your user, entering your checkout flow is like stubbing a mental toe.” (source).

So, how can you make spending money less painful for people? Do not emphasise the price. This might make users more price-conscious, which might make them decide against buying.

Palatable Prices Shopping Cart Abandonment Conversion Rate Optimization
To make prices more palatable, you shouldn’t emphasize them in the shopping cart. Prices should look small to avoid drawing too much attention to them. Some people say that replacing currency symbols with letters (eg GBP instead of £) will make the prices look “less painful”.

That’s just one idea to cope with prices which look “too expensive”. But customers aren’t stupid: even if you make your prices look small, some users will still search the web in order to find cheaper solutions or products. You most likely don’t want to enter into a price cutting race with your competitors. Peep Laja suggests some other ways to attract customers, such as emphasizing free delivery and other customer service options, like live chat, long returning times or offering a loyalty program.

When it comes to pricing, you could consider adding a coupon code box to offer any discounts you have sent to your customers in newsletters or have presented in your ads. But this may backfire: customers who don’t have the code may end up looking for it on the Internet, which means they will have to leave the shopping cart. You might consider adding information on how they can get the code (for example subscribing to a newsletter) or hide this field a little bit (those who have the code will find it anyway).

#5: Don’t make them wait

Site speed is a conversion killer. This applies to every page, and is also crucial in the checkout process. There is no excuse: if your page is slow – or even worse it crashes – don’t expect people to sit and wait to buy something from you. Site speed is also important for building trust: long page loading times look weak and unprofessional – so your brand will seem weak and unprofessional too.

According to surveys carried out by Akamai and, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that doesn’t load within 3 seconds.

Google Analytics comes to the rescue. You can make use of a few reports to reveal whether you have speed issues on your checkout pages.

Google Analytics Checkout Page Speed Issues
Behavior -> Site Speed -> Suggestions
Google Analytics gives you suggestions on how to increase the speed of every page. Make use of them: the hints are clear and actionable.

#6: Make your user experience as easy as possible

Your checkout must be as simple as possible. Frustrated and confused customers will leave their carts – with no mercy! The whole process must be easy, and you have to make sure you lead your users smoothly from the first step to the thank you page.

The game actually begins even before a user enters the checkout process. What happens in your online shop at the moment someone clicks on “Add to cart”?

Peep Laja says that it must be stupidly obvious that someone has added a product to the cart.

GAP shopping cart abandonment checkout
GAP does this in a nice way: there are no doubts that the item has been added to your bag. Now you can go directly to the checkout, or continue shopping. A nice, simple pop-up. This seems to be a much better solution than transferring people to the cart directly, because you might lose the chance for them to continue shopping for more products.

First of all, you have to display the content well. You need to show your products – and the costs – to your customers in a legible way. Remember to include high-quality product pictures, the ability to increase or remove the number of items in a shopping cart, the ability to change the size (so users don’t go back to the shop), and display payment possibilities, including the total cost + shipping.

Shopping Cart Anatomy Infographic Conversion Rate Optimization
Check out this user testing infographic to investigate the anatomy of a great shopping cart. Are you missing any of these elements on your website? Source.
Clear Navigation Shopping Cart
Clear navigation is a must. Every successful shopping cart shows the checkout path. Make sure your users are completely aware what their next step will be, and how many steps they will need to complete their purchase.

We all know forms are a pain in the neck. Everyone hates questionnaires. Unfortunately, in a checkout you just have to get some information – for example the shipping address. There is no other way. But what you can do is to simplify your forms as much as possible; (1) make all the questions reasonable (2) explain why you need this data and (3) take care of your form validation.

Long Form Shopping Cart Checkout CRO
One of the most frustrating experiences on the Internet is when you go through a long form, and after clicking the “Proceed” button you get information that you have done something wrong. That’s why you should use in-line form validation. Luke Wrobleski found that inline error validation reduces errors by as much as 22 percent and nearly halves the total time it takes a person to complete a form.
Checkout Process Conversion Rate Optimization
Help your customers to go through the process as painlessly as you can. If you already have some information about the browser (such as the country) put it automatically in a form, like Abercrombie do. It’s nice because the customer doesn’t have to search through a list of countries. The same for the post code: ask for it at the beginning, and then automatically fill the fields with the customer’s city and street.

Another frustration is the back button in the browser. For many users this is a natural tool. But too often in the checkout, hitting the back button either entirely erases the user’s progress or returns strange errors that can cause confusion and uncertainty. Make sure you keep the back button functional and it leads your users to the previous page without losing any of the data they have already shared.

Now here comes the hardest part: the payment page. A credit card form is the most critical step in the entire checkout process. You expect your users to share their most sensitive data with you. So first of all you will have to take care of security issues (mentioned earlier in this post). And secondly, you will have to make the process as easy as possible.

Payment Shopping Cart Abandonment Conversion Rate Optimization
This is a great idea. Displaying payment using this skeuomorphic design will minimize the risk of users entering their data wrongly. They will just have to type exactly what they see on their own card. You can get this solution from Skeuocard.

How to inspect whether your checkout is user-friendly? We recommend you use qualitative methods, such as heuristic analysis and user testing. User testing will allow you to see how real people interact with your site. Sometimes this might come as a shock: you watch users struggling to do something on your website you thought was a piece of cake.

#7: Do not force your users to register

You may have one of the many ecommerce websites that force users to register before they buy. This is something I personally hate: if I am a new customer I don’t feel like creating another hundredth account on the web. I just want to buy as quickly as possible. It’s important to come to terms with the fact that sometimes users don’t want to build a relationship with you – and they might even be scared off by a “registration” button.

Of course, the reasons you want people to register are pretty clear: you want to keep them locked in so you can keep in touch with them and send out remarketing emails and so on. However, users often see registration as a barrier to making a purchase. And it might cost you conversions: 26% of users abandon carts due to forced registration.

So firstly, never force registration, and you could even forget about the word “registration” completely (you can use “guest checkout” etc for new users.).

Secondly, always give a guest the option to checkout.

Reebok Checkout Shopping Cart Abandonment Conversion Rate Optimization
Reebok does this in the right way: no one is forced to register, they just ask about the delivery address, which is obvious in an online shop. And if I am a returning customer I can login, but I don’t have to. Later in the process I could create an account: and after my very nice experience in the Reebok shop (with the great in-line validation I showed you before), I’ll definitely do that!
Checkout Shopping Cart Abandonment
If you can’t fight the temptation to force your users to create an account, then use your thank you page for this purpose. Speedo gives a great offer: just enter the password and get a coupon (+ order tracking, fast login next time). The account creation percentage for new users here is over 75%! (Source).
Social Register Checkout Shopping Cart Abandonment
Here’s a new trend: many ecommerce websites now offer social registration, using Facebook or Twitter. This is definitely a very quick and simple solution, however some users may have doubts about sharing their social account with you. I would suggest adding some information which will assure your customers that you won’t use their social profile in a registration page (although it will appear later on a Facebook or Twitter page).

Last but not least: it’s all about your data

So far you have seen some outstanding and amazing ways to improve your checkout conversion rates. But these solutions shouldn’t be just tested blindly. You will need to use your own data instead of using simple copy-paste solutions. That’s because you will never get to an effective conversion process by just testing some stuff you’ve come across on the web. Of course, there are many great ideas out there, but first of all you will have to identify your own specific problems on your website and then find a solution to them.

Google Analytics Checkout Funnel Optimization
This Google Analytics report shows the volume of traffic drop-offs at each step of your funnel. This is the best place to start your checkout funnel optimization. Discover which funnel step leaks the most and try to find a solution. Sometimes you’ll find low hanging fruit, such as bad or wrong form validation. However, to make good use of this report, you will have to implement goal tracking on your website properly.
Checkout Behavior Analysis
Looking for more advanced analysis? Take a look at Checkout Behavior Analysis (available only if enhanced ecommerce is set up on your site). This report will reveal specifically how users move through the checkout process and provide useful insights into your visitor/session flow and engagement.

Of course you could go even deeper into your analysis by creating segments which will show you how particular user groups (for instance demographics, returning and new etc.) act on their shopping cart. More and more users buy on their mobile devices: so you will have to make sure you do not miss that segment too when analyzing shopping cart behavior.

Make your customers happy through your checkout

I have shared with you a few secrets about highly converting checkout flows. I hope this will be a great inspiration for your A/B testing. There really is no excuse: you need to work on your checkout optimization if you want to give your users a great experience. And if you succeed, they will be sure to pay you back (literally) for your efforts.

If you want to gain a competitive advantage by increasing your conversion rate and grow your revenue and profits without spending an additional dime on advertising, contact Mavenec today to learn more about our approach to conversion rate optimization. You can also learn our conversion rate optimization secrets by downloading our Free Ultimate Conversion Rate Optimization Toolkit.

Author: Paweł Ogonowski

have been transforming our clients companies into data-driven organizations for over 5 years. I strongly believe that the key to success is a structured process to analytics and conversion rate optimization. I am a frequent speaker at industry conferences and an author of 80+ articles on CRO and DA.

Follow me on Twitter @Pajex


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