[E-commerce Checkout] What it is and why you should optimize it (in 7 simple steps)

You’ve worked long and hard to get more visitors to your e-commerce shop. You’ve created a nice design and invested in marketing while offering super interesting content.
You’ve done everything you’re supposed to do and get a decent volume of traffic each day.
But sales just aren’t what you’d expect.
What’s wrong?
Your customers add items to their carts and begin the buying process but, in the end, they don’t push the “buy” button and the purchases are canceled. After all the effort you made to attract the traffic, you have nothing to show for it because of that one last click! 
While it may seem counterintuitive, the checkout is one of the steps where a vast number of sales are lost.
That’s why this post is going to tell you:

  • What exactly an e-commerce checkout is (and why you may lose customers at this stage)
  • 7 steps to optimize it and improve your sales

Ready? Let’s go!

What the checkout is and why it’s an essential part of your e-commerce 

The checkout is the page of an e-commerce site where the purchase process is completed.
To help you visualize it, imagine you’re shopping in a store in the city center. You look around, pick out a few items, compare them, etc. Once you have what you were after, you head over to the cashier and say the magical words, “I’ll take these”.
That’s the checkout in a physical store.
In an online store, the checkout process starts when a customer clicks on “finish purchase”.
And this is the most important stage since a sale is about to be completed.
However, nearly 70% of shopping carts are abandoned at this point, which is quite alarming. What’s driving that?
Here are the most typical reasons:

  • Shipping is too expensive.
  • Users have to register to make the purchase.
  • The process is too complex.
  • The final cost is difficult to work out.
  • The site doesn’t look reliable.
  • The delivery times are too long.
  • There aren’t enough payment methods available.

That’s why it’s so important to pay special attention to this aspect of your e-commerce (even though it’s often neglected). 
The more optimized the checkout process is, the better chance you have of the client finishing the purchase and improving your conversion rate.
Don’t forget that online shoppers are quite demanding. 
They have access to a huge variety of offers with just a few clicks, so they’re put off by long and complex processes. If you want to capture them, you’ll have to make your buying process as simple as possible.
How? Let’s have a look.

Elements that make the checkout efficient (and two ways to organize them)

The checkout of every e-commerce has a series of basic steps that drive the client to the end of the purchase. It always includes, minimally:

  • Fields to fill out with personal details (name, surname, address, email, etc.)
  • Options to choose the payment method
  • Assistance channels in case the clients have any doubts during the process
  • Final confirmation box

Those elements can be organized in two different ways.

✅ 1. One-page checkout

This type of checkout displays all the previous elements on a single page.
Clients fill out the fields in whatever order they like. When they’re done, they’re just one click away from finishing the purchase. 

✅ 2. Multi-step checkout

This alternative splits the buying process into different stages (or steps).
When clients are done with one stage, they click to move on to the next one to provide additional details. Since the process is split into parts, it can feel less tedious.
Mind you, this method does involve more clicks between the beginning and end of the purchase, so it may lead to a higher rate of abandoned carts.
So which type of checkout is better?
There are advocates and opponents of both.
You might want to test them both and choose whichever yields better results. An A/B test is a great way to do that. Check out this post to learn what A/B tests are and how they can help you.

Optimize your e-commerce checkout in 7 steps

Customers abandon their shopping carts for many different reasons and not all of them have a solution. For example, some visitors are just checking stuff out, as if they were standing in front of a shopping window. Others just want to know how much they’d have to pay and fill the cart to check the final price, etc.
Forget about those kinds of visitors – you should focus on the variables that have solutions. Here are 7 steps that may help you improve your checkout process.

✅ 1. Enable guest checkout 

Many customers are bothered by having to give away their details on their first visit to an e-commerce site. This is one of the main reasons why carts are abandoned.
Offering them the possibility of making the purchase as a guest is a possible solution.
This way, customers only have to give some basic information to make the purchase. If we don’t force them to fill out too many forms, we will reduce the risk of them abandoning their carts.
Buying as a guest is less intimidating. Customers find it less invasive and more agile. Plus, you can always ask them to finish their registration once the buying process is complete.

✅ 2. No distractions

Anything that annoys or distracts your customers must be avoided at all costs. You need them to stay focused on what they’re doing so they keep moving toward the final click.
That’s why visually simple checkouts work better:

  • The colors must be light and not overwhelming. In fact, we recommend using shades of black and white since minimalism works well at this point.
  • The design should be a basic one with sufficient white space. Customers must feel like they are in the middle of the highway with nothing to their right or left distracting them from the goal.

The next time you go through your checkout process, make sure it’s free from elements that may divert a user’s attention toward anything that’s not related to completing the purchase.

✅ 3. Be careful with promotional codes

Why are we telling you this? Including promotional codes sounds like a good idea, at first. Who doesn’t like to be offered a discount?
However, you need to be careful because it might backfire
How? Picture this: a client gets to the payment page and, all of a sudden, sees an empty box where a code for a discount can be inserted. But they don’t have one, so they think, “Oh, so there’s a code? Why do other people have it and I don’t? Was it in one of the previous steps and I didn’t see it? Maybe it’s in my inbox – I’ll go check”. 
If your customers leave the checkout page, there is a greater probability that they don’t return to the cart they left behind.
One solution could be to include a link that provides them directly with the code without them having to leave the checkout page at all. 

✅ 4. Make customer service and FAQs visible at a glance

Don’t be tempted to think that your checkout is so simple that everyone will get it right the first time. Bear in mind that not everyone is familiar with shopping online, so doubts may arise in the process.
Most doubts can be addressed in the FAQs section. For everything else, you can always:

Users highly value swift customer service, so providing it can help you reduce the number of abandoned carts
Make sure to use all available means to respond as quickly as possible and to stop the purchase from being interrupted. 

✅ 5. Security is fundamental

Any potential buyer that doesn’t feel like your e-commerce is a safe website will leave and never go back.
Nowadays, cyber security is a must due to the huge amount of online transactions taking place. You can’t afford to make a mistake that exposes your clients’ details or that puts your e-commerce operations at risk.
You can sort this out by implementing security protocols such as setting up SSL, SET certificates, or the HTTPS protocol (which are the most popular choices). 
One way or another, your e-commerce site must be secure. A customer’s trust is more important than anything else. 

✅ 6. Offer different payment methods

They should be clear and visible during the last stage of the checkout process. Also, try to offer more options than just card payments with Visa or MasterCard. 
Here are some of the most demanded ones:

  • PayPal: Despite being a user-trusted “veteran” payment company, some online shops still don’t offer it.
  • Apple Pay or Twyp: These are methods that allow clients to pay from their smartphones using specific programs for the transactions.
  • Financing: Lots of online shops are starting to include this option. Having their purchase financed and paying in installments is an attractive alternative to clients who are hesitant because of an expensive final price.

The easier you make it for your customers, the more likely they are to finish the purchase.

✅ 7. And if you still have abandoned carts, send a reminder

Check out these messages:
“Oops! Have you forgotten about your cart?”
“You’re still in time to finish your purchase!”
“Get your items now before they are sold out.”
Just because a client has left a purchase unfinished doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. Sending an abandoned cart recovery email is a good way to remind your clients that there’s still time to finish what they’d started.
Don’t forget to include a CTA in your email so the clients can pick up the purchase process right where they left off. Not sure how to write that email? Here’s how, step by step.

Start increasing your sales today by improving your e-commerce checkout process

Now that you know how to optimize your checkout process, get started as soon as you can. The easier you make it for shoppers, the more likely you are to see increased sales and a better conversion rate.
Make the buying process as easy as possible. Your customers will thank you for it. ?