Checkout Strike Out: Analyzing the Causes of Checkout Abandonment

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checkout abandonment

A few weeks ago, we posted a three-part series on and website abandonment, taking an objective look at the online store and noting the strongest and weakest parts of the customer experience. Today, we’re going to analyze the factors that contribute to checkout abandonment on a purchase funnel that’s in need of some serious optimization. The retailer’s name is withheld this time around and we’re going to ask nicely that if you recognize it from the images, please don’t spoil it for the other readers!



Analyzing the Causes of Checkout Abandonment

Today, we’re going to look a checkout flow you may run into when buying a tablet from a popular vendor. In this audit, we’re going to focus in on the areas that need improving, so you can implement these lessons on your own site.

After selecting a tablet and moving toward the shopping cart, a few details came to focus.

  • There are two immediately noticeable options for moving forward, express checkout and proceed to checkout. For the first-time shopper, it’s unclear what “express checkout” is, exactly. Does this imply that regular checkout is slow? Is one for guests and the other for members? The choice between these two options seems unnecessary and confusing. The goal should be to create a singular, clear pathway to the cart; instead of creating an “express” checkout, focus on optimizing regular checkout.
         Tip: If the Express Checkout is an option for registered users to
         purchase quickly, suppress this bright orange graphic for those who
         aren’t logged in.
  • Giving the user a chance to calculate “shipping tax” is a good idea, however, the system doesn’t seem to work completely, shown below:

    coaudit-shippingcalcThe shipping is calculated properly, but the “tax” in “shipping tax” is left out, which will lead to a price jump during the final stages of checkout, as we’ll see later. Setting up false price expectations increases checkout abandonment.

Log-in Lockout

Moving forward, we selected express checkout and on the next page we were presented with this:

To our surprise, there was no option for guest checkout. Although clicking the “New User” button does move you forward into a linear checkout flow, it puts more of a burden on the user, as you’ll see below. By now, having an option for guest checkout is an industry standard; forcing users to register will often do more harm than good. According to our research, 11.4% of checkout abandoners cite not wanting to register as a reason for their early departure. If you’d like to have users create accounts, give them the option to do so later on, using information they’ve already input.


The First Big Hurdle

As we move further into checkout, the next step is to put down our information to get the package where it’s going. Analyzing this page of field forms, there are a couple areas that could use improvement.

  • The information requested of the user fills the entire page, often with multiple columns of required entries. Even for the experienced shopper, this looks like it’s going to require some significant effort. By asking for so much information immediately, the website creates a daunting experience for the user.
  • The information input flow could certain be improved. Use the answers to earlier fields to auto-populate later ones and save the customer some time. There’s no need to ask the shopper for their name three times when plug-ins can do some of the heavy lifting for them.
         Tip: Other auto-completing tools can expedite the process further.
         Generated city and state information based off of a ZIP-code, for
         example, has proven to significantly reduce checkout abandonment

Option Overload – Abandon Ship!

After inputting all of the essential information, it’s time to move onto the shipping options.

  • Options are a good thing, but too many options can cause indecision. Giving the user 7 options for shipping is problematic, especially when there are competing overnight and 2-day deals.
  • While it might be a little myopic to comment on shipping prices considering that we don’t have insight into the company’s profit margins, providing a deal on shipping has proven to increase conversion rates–and customers have learned to expect it. Consider offering a flat rate, free shipping over a certain order value, or, if finances allow it, free shipping on all orders.
  • The “Continue” call-to-action is a little weak when placed against all of the other gray on screen. Keep CTAs consistent throughout the checkout process. This button should be the same vibrant green as the “Proceed to Checkout” button in the shopping cart.
Billing Info: Almost There

Having selected a shipping method, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter and input credit card information.

  • While there are a healthy number of payment options, it seems strange to offer Bill Me Later (a service run through PayPal), but no option to pay right away with PayPal.
  • There’s an auto-marked box under the “Preferred Account” option, which made me uneasy moving forward. Would this affect my purchase even if I didn’t select that option? Especially on the checkout pages where payment information is collected, take extra measures to avoid making users wary.
  • Following the auto-completion theme from earlier, credit card types can be detected based their number. Simply ask for the credit card number and let the plug-in determine the type of card.
Confirmation: Last Chance to Abandon

With credit card information locked in, the final hurdle is confirmation and order placement.

  • The biggest, brightest element on the page is important, but it’s not interactive and it’s not nearly as important as the muted “place order” button next to it. Once again, there’s an issue here with competing CTAs.
  • Earlier in this blog, we mentioned a potential price discrepancy when the “Shipping Tax Calculator” failed to list sales tax. Below is a comparison of the price in the shopping cart and the price during checkout.

    The final price is nearly 10% higher than the original estimate! The number one cause for checkout abandonment is an unforeseen bump in costs; according to our research, “additional charges” are responsible for 23.9% of checkout abandonment. All additional fees, including the “Recycling Fee,” could have been predicted given the ZIP.

Rapid Remarketing
After completing my session with the vendor, a notification popped up in my inbox informing me of my new subscription with the company’s newsletter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to opt-out of these emails during the registration/checkout process. Typically, it’s a best practice to allow interested customers to sign up for contact to avoid spam reports and annoyed readers.

Despite some of the shortcomings listed here, this tech vendor still ranks fairly highly in the Internet Retailer Top 500. Although some of their user experience design choices seem to clog up the works, the company is still doing a lot of things right. The old saying goes, “If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.” After noticing a few shortcomings on the site, we went through with a fine comb, looking for bumps in the road and we found a few. This site still performs at a high level and delivers goods to hundreds of thousands of customers–removing a few of these small hurdles may generate even more business for this already thriving retailer.

For more information on what your company can do to keep checkout abandonment rates low and revenues high, contact UpSellit.


Written by Joe Rosenthal

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