The Pros and Cons of Different Checkout Designs

Bryan Gudmundsoncheckout abandonment, Types of CheckoutLeave a Comment

MultiPage Checkout

Of all the problems online retailers face, checkout abandonment is arguably the most frustrating.  As a customer nearly reaches the end of the conversion funnel, something obstructs the finish line, causing him or her to abandon the website, eliminating a potential sale. Currently, about 56% of visitors abandon the checkout, meaning half of the consumers that initiate a sale run up against some sale-ending obstacle.  According to various studies, some of the primary contributing factors to checkout abandonment include overly convoluted checkout forms and lengthy, time-consuming info inputting.

To address these rising concerns about the inefficiency of checkout, ecommerce companies have tried adapting some new, sleeker website formats to improve on the purchasing process.  Today, we’re going to take a look at a few of these new formats and evaluate the pros and cons of each and how they may impact your checkout abandonment rates.

Single Page CheckoutThe Single-Page Checkout
The single-page checkout, as the name implies, is a checkout form that fits entirely on one page.  In recent news, these have surged in popularity as companies sought to usher people through the checkout process as quickly as possible.  Early adopters of this format insisted that it was the answer to checkout abandonment, but time tells a slightly different story.  While these pages certainly do boast a number of great advantages, there are a few drawbacks as well.

A single-page checkout is linear by design.  With fewer side-steps and distractions, checkout abandonment is much less likely.  Everything a user needs to do to make the purchase is laid out before them.

Given a single page to work with, companies are forced to evaluate what is of utmost importance to request from customers.  A one-page restriction makes it easy to only ask for the essentials and slim down checkout.

On a single-page checkout, every instance of checkout abandonment originates from the one and only page.  If there’s a particularly troublesome field form that’s restricting conversions, it may be difficult to pin down without individual page statistics.

By having users submit their email address early on in the purchasing process, you’re afforded the chance to send remarketing emails to an abandoned customer.  When your entire checkout is on one page, you’ll likely need to get creative in order to collect information.  In these cases, a pre-submit lead generation tool is particularly empowering.

Users may be hesitant to approach the “submit” button.  After a single click, the purchase is final–this finality is daunting to some users.

Accordian Checkout

The Accordion Checkout
In an accordion checkout, sections collapse and expand as they’re completed and engaged.  For example, a bar that runs across the screen may read “Shipping Information.”  When a user clicks on this bar, it expands to reveal input forms.  After the forms within the section are filled, the bar collapses and the “Billing Information” bar expands.  The process repeats until all of the necessary information is collected, effectively guiding the user through the checkout process on a single page with interactive elements.

In the last few years, the accordion-style checkout has experienced a boost in popularity–as of September of 2012, 14% of the top 100 ecommerce websites host an accordion checkout, Apple being the most notable.  While some analysts claim that updating to an accordion checkout is a surefire way to boost conversion rates, some studies say that, when compared to an equally optimized traditional checkout, the pure conversion benefits are slim to non-existent.  Take a look at the following pros and cons to help determine whether this system is right for your website.

By hiding form fields until they’re ready to be filled out, you’re eliminating distractions for users.  Giving consumers a single task to focus on makes moving through the checkout process a very simple, directed process.
If an error is detected in a particular section, instead of simply highlighting the problem area, accordion checkouts can hide everything except for the elements that need attention.  Making errors quickly and easily fixable is a great way to reduce checkout abandonment.
Much of ecommerce is an exercise in trust-building; an accordion checkout has a very technologically advanced look and feel.  Moving elements and seamless transitions between the categories in your checkout will can give your company a high-tech image.

An accordion-style checkout can lead to a number of technical problems if not implemented carefully.  For example, many users have a habit of hitting the back button if they’d like to make changes in a previous stage. Unless you specifically engineer your accordion checkout to handle this request, what was supposed to be a simple step back may end up erasing all progress made by a customer.  If a user has to input their information twice, they’re more likely to abandon the checkout process.

Dynamic, moving elements work well when there’s a good amount of space on screen.  However, for mobile users with smaller displays, accordion-checkouts may cause problems unless carefully designed.  Additionally, touchscreen users may accidentally activate and reveal categories when intending to swipe navigate.

MultiPage Checkout

The Multi-Page Checkout
The multi-page checkout is the bread-and-butter of the ecommerce world.  Today, the average checkout process is spread across approximately 5 pages, and these five steps are very familiar to those who make routine online purchases.  They typically include:

Sign in/Guest Checkout
Contact/Shipping Information
Billing Information
Order Review
Order Confirmation

So, why has this structure endured for so long?  While sticking to tradition is certainly a powerful motivator, there are a number of tangible pros and cons.

When it comes to checkout forms, there’s a simple rule that everyone can agree on: Making a purchase should be as simple as possible. Following this guideline, sticking with a traditional checkout procedure is easy for most users.  Everyone who buys online knows how it works by now, and that’s a good thing.

By moving from page to page, the user is submitting data with each click of the “continue” button.  Once you have this data, you can use it for analysis or email remarketing, even if the customer decides to abandon before confirming their purchase.

By separating your steps onto different pages, a quick look at analytics can reveal troublesome steps.  Furthermore, it’s fairly easy to replace a single page in the process, allowing for easy A/B testing.

The unfortunate truth is that every step required of the customer is another opportunity for abandonment. Whether it’s due to technical difficulties (i.e. failure to load the next page) or a change of heart, the more pages involved in a checkout usually translates into higher checkout abandonment.

Traditional checkout pages are slower than accordion and single-page alternatives.  Having to load the next page in the sequence adds time to the process.

At the end of the day, your website can flourish with any type of checkout, so long as you do the testing and optimization necessary to ensure that every customer can easily proceed to the reciept page.  However, even the most heavily optimized websites experience a sizable volume of checkout abandonment.  There are many common reasons for abandonment that cannot be addressed by optimizing the conversion funnel. To learn more about the tools UpSellit has engineered specifically to reduce checkout abandonment and recover lost revenue, schedule a free consultation with us.

Written by Bryan Gudmundson

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