In the world of e-commerce web design and full-funnel marketing, there is an immense amount of focus on getting customers to the buying stage but remarkably little focus on the checkout process itself. After all your hard work cultivating leads and guiding them toward that checkout button, a rough checkout process can turn customers away at the very last minute.
This is one of the most frustrating and prominent causes of abandoned carts and almost-converted customers who never quite make it past the finish line. Many more customers make it through a challenging checkout but aren't motivated to come back as return shoppers to repeat the experience. There is no doubt that a smooth and even delightful checkout experience is the key to both completing conversions and winning the loyalty of customers who return again and again.
That smooth checkout process can only come from excellent web design. Let's dive into the essential features of a perfected e-commerce checkout experience.
One of the best checkout features we have seen implemented to date is the floating cart. This makes closing the sale a part of the user experience from the moment customers begins to shop. They can check their collection of items, their total, and choose to check out at any moment.
Available on Every Page
The initial appeal of the floating cart UI is that it is available on every page in the site. This means that whether your shoppers can easily manage both their active search for new items and keep tabs on what they have already put in the cart. They can use the floating cart to compare items side-by-side or quickly open a new tab with an already carted item for a more detailed comparison. They can look for complimentary items to match what they already have, remind themselves of what they've carted, and confidently decide when they are ready to check out.
All without having to load a new page, or constantly switch tabs and refresh to track their cart while shopping.
In addition to the visual access of the floating cart, quick cart control buttons are also incredibly handy. The ability to link to items, delete items, and increase the number of items in the cart are all incredibly useful for clients as they shop and customise their order.
Rounding out the floating cart is a quick-undo button. Most importantly, it can allow customers to retrieve an item they have just deleted, making it easier to change their minds without having to look the item up all over again.
Transparent Shipping & Service Fees
No one likes surprise costs, which is exactly why lack of transparency in final fees can lead to cart abandonment. No one wants to carefully calculate their spending only to see additional shipping or service fees when they finalise the order. Shipping and service fees need to, at the very least, be fully calculated on the official cart page before the customer completes their order and decides to submit. Even better if you can calculate these costs on the fly in the floating cart.
Shipping fees are a necessary evil. After all, items don't ship themselves across the country. Customers can handle that shipping fees exist, but the higher your fee, the faster and more high-quality of shipping they expect. Many customers would honestly prefer to pay a little extra for items and get "free shipping" to avoid this extra calculation.
Many customers are not so happy about service fees and brands that charge service fees are obliged to A) Display those fees up-front and B) Explain why the fees are necessary. They want to see that the fee is to pay your hard-working box-stuffers or to support the company charity. So include a tooltip or paragraph explaining your service fee when it is listed.
Two-Click Checkout Completion for Return Customers
Customers do not want to click through three to five pages every time they check out. Not even when they're checking out for the first time. Do your best to compress every pre-order action onto a single page with sections or drop-down page segments. At most, return customers with all their information already punched in should only have to click twice to confirm and finalise their order.
One Click to Preview Order
The first click is for previewing the order. Customers will want to look over all the items, details, and count per item. They will want to confirm the right address and card are selected and the final cost matches their expectations. This page should hold no surprises so be sure any fees were listed in the cart one step earlier.
One Click to Confirm Order
When customers have seen that every detail of the order is correct, the second click confirms and completes the order. This should take them to a receipt and order-confirmation page to confirm that their order is in correctly. It should also trigger an email receipt and confirmation.
Automatic Account Creation for New Customers
For new customers who need to enter in all their payment and shipping information, do not ask them to make an account at the same time. Now is the time to automatically make customers into members by slipping a request for email and first password into the order preparation page. This allows their first order to be included in their membership records and possibly even to provide any member benefits at the very beginning.
Preparing An Order Creates an Account - No Extra Steps
The key is not to add a single click-through page for making an account. Instead of the traditional route, simply slip an email and password form into the top of the order-completion list. Include quick-account buttons from platforms like Google and Facebook for even faster progress through the initial order steps.
Quick Address and Payment Entry - Immediately Stored
Make entering an address and choosing a form of payment as quick and easy as possible. Then store the information immediately in the new membership account. This way, if and when customers return, they will find their checkout streamlined because your website made the effort to remember them and their details.
Add-Ons that Promote Return-Shopping
Wrapping up, let's talk a bit about special features that have really impressed e-commerce customers in the past and can boost your return-shopper rate. When checkout is not just smooth but surprisingly convenient, customers will come back again and again for the delightful convenience of your process. When switching addresses, payment types, or adding new information is fast and responsive, customers will start to find reasons to shop with you rather than other online stores.
Quick-Manage Address Book
When it's easy to manage multiple shipping addresses, customers will be eager to use your e-commerce store to buy things sent to home, work, to family's homes for gifts or even to hotels while they vacation. The easier you make address management, the better.
Easy Switching Between Stored Addresses
Make sure your platform allows for quick perusal of a customer's saved addresses and easy switching between. This should work both during the checkout process and within an account manager while customers shop for alternate locations.
Automatic Address Finding
One of the most convenient features an online address book can have is automatic address finding. When customers type in the beginning of their address, an engine offers them a drop-down of potentially matching addresses to choose from. This shortens the time to type addresses and assures customers that your map can get to their locations.
Manual Addresses for Un-Registered Locations
However, not all home or business addresses are in online databases. Be sure to allow customers to manually enter an address and confirm that they are certain, even if it's not one that can generate in the automated drop-down. Otherwise, you might accidentally turn customers away if their address hasn't propagated through the internet yet.
Payment Account Manager
Likewise, you want to make adding new cards and accounts, then switching between those payment types, as easy as possible. Anything you can do to offer payment flexibility and reduce the need to punch in long numbers is helpful to customers. They will appreciate the convenience in a traditionally tedious task.
Easy Switching Between Default Payment Method
Once again, make it easy to pick and switch payment methods both while shopping and in the final order confirmation page. This way, customers can balance weight on their credit cards and bank accounts with ease.
Variety of Options, Including Online Accounts
Accept as many types of payment as possible. In addition to credit and debit cards, go out of your way to accept online accounts like PayPal as well. An increasing number of online shoppers are freelancers and startup employees who actually get paid through PayPal and live out of online accounts instead of traditional cards and bank accounts.
Photo Card Scanner Catches Numbers
For a cherry on top of payment ease, add card scanning to your mobile app. This is when the phone camera can take a picture of a card and pick up the card number. Saving customers a few tedious minutes typing that number is, unsurprisingly, a powerful incentive to come back. Especially if they switch between cards often.
Phenomenal Customer Service
Finally, to round out your perfected checkout process, be sure to offer phenomenal customer service after an order is placed.
Order Cancellation and Adjustments
When an order has been entered but no human is working on it yet, create a 'grace period' where customers can go back and cancel or adjust the order. The incredible relief the few people who need this feature will generate intense brand loyalty. From rescuing a card balance to fixing an order mistake, customers love this rare and coveted feature.
Rock-Solid Return Policy with Shipping Labels
Whatever your return policy is, make it easy to understand and rock-solid reliable. This way, customers know when they can count on returns in case they are trying something new. Then, when you accept returns, send prepaid shipping labels. This shows that you don't blame the customer (or charge them) if something was wrong with the item.
Friendly Associates with the Power to Help
Finally, make sure you have phone and live chat support for customers who need complex help. The right friendly support at the right time can save a conversion and win loyal customers. Especially if your agents have the power to really take action like arrange for returns, offer discounts, and change orders after they have been entered.
The checkout process is an underestimated and incredibly important part of the customer conversion process. Even more importantly than being the final step in conversion, a great checkout process is often the key to earning repeat customers for your brand after all that hard work converting them and completing that first order. If your checkout process could use some work or you're planning to build an e-commerce site with every feature that spells perfection, contact us today. Our team would be honoured to ensure your customers get the perfect checkout experience.
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