Checking out a shopping cart or shopping cart checkout flow is the process that comes after shopping. This happens when the user is done adding products to his basket. In the checkout phase, a shopping basket filled with items becomes an actual order. This is an essential process in any online shop, since this is when users convert to buyers. With this objective, the checkout process should boost users confidence in the online shop and run smoothly.
In this post we won’t focus on the layouts and contents of each page that is part of the checkout flow but on the flow itself. Pages of the checkout flow, for example cart details, will be covered in additional posts that will follow.
The checkout process starts after you have added items to your shopping cart and clicked the “buy now” or equivalent button. But the process of converting visitors to buyers starts earlier. As soon as a visitor comes to your online shop, he should like what he sees and become confident that he is in a trustworthy online shop. Motivation to buy can be supported additionally in many other ways, such as promotions, recommendations, customer reviews, product descriptions, nice pictures or even videos of the products for example.
When you offer buying products online you should consider how people used to buy products offline. What usually happens when people shop offline is, that they fill their basket with items, go to the checkout counter, pay, put the bought items in their bags and leave the store. So essentially they do what is necessary in order to get what they want. They don’t expect registration at the checkout counter or any other loops that are not directly linked to their goal, which is buying something. If there are promotions or other informations presented to them, it is done from when they enter the store and while they are shopping. At the checkout counter everything is purely functional, with the exception of some sweets offered to catch attention of children or other small stuff.
When we consider why people buy online instead of visiting a offline store, we come to the aspects of comfort and time savings. In an offline store shoppers can look at the products, touch them, smell them, maybe try them out and take them home right after buying. All this can not be done when shopping online. So when people come to your shop to buy online, even if they have checked the products offline before, they want to do it smoothly and without spending huge amounts of time. You should support these factors in your online shop as good as possible.
Make your checkout process easy and keep it simple. Determine whether you need to collect lots of data that users have to enter or not. Do you need to have users registered or is it only nice to have. Offer buy without registration or login for those who don’t have time for that or don’t want to be registered with every online shop that exists out there.
Performance, performance, performance! Slow online shops and slow checkout flows are turn offs for potential buyers. This would be the equivalent of joining long lines in offline stores. I don’t know a single person who enjoys this. Remember, people buy online for several reasons, one of them is saving time.
Besides performance a clear interface is key in supporting confident buying decisions for visitors to your shop and with this it supports conversion. This is particularly valid when users enter the checkout flow, where potentially their data and payment gets involved. Keep interfaces in the checkout process clear and reduce them to the minimum necessary. Avoid additional distractions and support the users confidence that he is on a trustworthy online shop. Ensure that he understands whats going on and it is secure.
With a good performance and clear interfaces you have done a great deal for your users. Now let them know where they are in the process. As you see each little detail that happens when you buy in an offline stores, provide good feedback to your buyers also online. Any action users do should have a feedback. This can be anything from an loading spinner to text, important is that there is feedback and the users get confirmation on their action. Again this establishes the visitors confidence in the online shop and gives the feeling of security.
Just to make sure, security should be implemented in your whole online shop. But if the visitors don’t notice that and feel insecure, your conversion rate will suffer.
An important form of feedback is to show progress of the checkout flow. Make transparent to users where they are in the process and what will follow.
As mentioned, I won’t go into the details of each page that is part of the checkout process. But generally speaking, you should provide buyers with information needed for their buying decision as early as possible. It is frustrating to get informed that the item you intend to purchase is out of stock after you have entered all your data.
Buyers also like to have an idea of when their products arrive. Delivery time should be made visible, even if that is not required by law in your country.
Show offered payment methods from the beginning, even before the checkout process starts.
One more point to support the visitors and potential buyers is to keep the browser back button fully functional in your online shop and also during the checkout flow. This button is very popular and people use it frequently. Don’t ignore that and make sure it works!
Now let’s have a look at the online shop owner’s perspective. You want to keep users in the checkout process once they have started it. You want them to finish it and buy in your store. Therefore avoid anything that distracts buyers during checkout. Don’t lead them to different pages, don’t show irrelevant information, don’t cause interruptions or confusion. Think about registration carefully, it is one of the top reasons for abandoned carts. Also rethink buy later features, you want to support the buy now decision.
Regarding registration, this is still a feature desired by users. Especially ones who shop frequently at your online shop and don’t want to enter all their details over and over. It might be less important for users who buy at different stores all over the internet.
So with all the information that you have read, still don’t just apply them one by one. Know your users, know your business and evaluate what is the best approach for your online shop. If you have the resources, do user tests, A/B-Tests, surveys or whatever gives you access to the information you need. Then adapt your checkout to the needs of your online shop and to the need of your customers. One page checkout might be nice and suitable for some online shops but not for others. Use a target group specific checkout process that supports your users and provides you with the information you need.
To sum up this post and generally speaking, create a nice checkout flow that feels natural to users and supports confident buying decisions. From experience I can tell the smoother the checkout flow and the shorter the process the higher the conversion rate. There are studies about checkout and conversion rates on the internet, which you should consider when creating your checkout process.
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