Checkout abandonment is a unique and often vexing phenomenon in ecommerce. Unlike other types of abandonment, checkout abandonment is seldom caused by window shopping or competing deals. Once a user has moved on from the shopping chart, there’s only one thing in the way of conversion: Checkout.
Unfortunately, one of the most damaging barriers to conversion is a confusing checkout flow. As the checkout process becomes longer and most convoluted, conversion rates plummet. Today, we’re going to detangle, demystify, and deconstruct winding checkout flows and help you create a straightforward process that converts.
On average, 56% of users who reach checkout end up abandoning, which can be particularly frustrating as the number of shoppers who move beyond the cart is already fairly low. The good news is that checkout abandonment is one of the easier types of abandonment to optimize. So, let’s talk about problematic pieces of the checkout puzzle and find a cure to conversion road blocks.
Linear Checkouts Reduce Abandonment
Aimless browsing should end at the product page. Aside from some up- and cross-sell attempts, the pathway from “Add to Cart” to “Place Order” should be completely linear. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Some websites direct users through ‘loops,’ or additional pages to collect information for a single form. A common and particularly detrimental example is the promo code form. Most websites have a link that asks consumers, “Have a promo code?” Upon click, this link opens up a new window asking for the code that spits users back out to the previous page. Although this is effective in theory, it presents a few problems:
- Opening a new window or page to plug in a code only to return the user to the previous page gives the illusion of a step backwards. Although the prices may have changed to reflect the code entry, the user hasn’t moved forward at all so it’s easy to understand how they could feel as though they’ve stalled.
- When a page refreshes to reflect the activation of the code, users may still question whether or not the code was applied. Leaving a shopper with any sort of confusion is a dangerous gambit when the purchase is just a few clicks away.
Approaching checkout structures with a critical eye leaves a lot of merchants asking, “Well, which layouts will reduce checkout abandonment?” The options are varied, but in our experience, the three following checkout structures work best.
The first on this short list is, appropriately, the traditional checkout. Sony.com has a strong example of a traditional checkout that moves shoppers through the paces on five individual pages. Across the top of checkout is a banner that lets you know how many steps remain.
The Accordion is another popular checkout structure that allows websites to keep everything on one, neat page. As the user completes a segment and clicks ‘continue,’ OldNavy’s website collapses the current section and expands the next, moving the user down a ladder towards conversion. This checkout structure allows for easy edits to previously input information and lets users know how close they are to placing their order.
The Single Page
Finally, the single-page checkout allows users to enter and edit their information on a single page before submitting and completing their order. This type of checkout is quick and simple and typically only requests the most essential information from shoppers. This example from CafePress.com shows just how much you can get done on a single page.
No matter which type of structure you select, make sure to follow the single most important tenet:
Always move the shopper forward, never sideways.
Form Errors, Frustrations, and Checkout Abandonment
No matter which type of checkout structure you maintain, one thing must remain consistent and clear: Error display.
Most modern sites have systems in place for checking the validity of input in various fields, such as address and ZIP code. While these systems are designed to protect users from having their products shipped to the wrong place, they can become an extreme annoyance when ambiguous. Christian Holst of the Baymard Institute notes that when “a customer has problems with a form, the likelihood that they abandon the purchase increases significantly.”
Generic errors, such as the one shown above, typically land users on the page they just completed, searching for mistakes. Although the errors may highlighted, forcing a user to scan their previous effort multiple times is frustrating and demotivating.
Fortunately, there are more effective methods of displaying errors that will reduce user frustrations and, simultaneously, checkout abandonment rates.
- In-Line Error Checking. Let users know when their information doesn’t match the proper format as they type it in. By delicately showing shoppers their mistakes as they make them, you ensure that everything goes right the first time.
- Error-Only Display. If you prefer to let shoppers go undisturbed, consider displaying only the fields containing errors on the following page. This gives the illusion of progress and makes errors instantly visible. Eliminate guessing games and speed up the process to reduce checkout abandonment rates and keep users shopping.
Longer Checkouts, More Abandonment
The average checkout length changes year over year, but hovers around 5 steps long. However, in our research, we’ve found some processes as long as 9 steps. The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, the longer the checkout process, the more time a user has to abandon their purchase.
There’s only one simple message to take from this section. Keep your checkout as short as possible by only asking for what’s required.
An ecommerce website is filled to the brim with complexities and nuance, but an ecommerce checkout should be as simple as possible. By making your checkout flow brief, clear, and linear, you’ll limit the opportunities to abandon purchases. For more information on optimizing your website and reducing checkout abandonment, contact UpSellit.
Written by Joe Rosenthal