6 Ways to Streamline Your Online Store’s Checkout Process

Written by Brenda on November 26, 2014 How to sell online.

One of the main reasons people shop online in the first place is convenience, so it only makes sense to grease your online store’s wheels as much as possible.

Your efforts should be focused on your checkout, because that’s the make-or-break section of the buying process. Once the customer has decided that they want to give you their money, your job is to get them through it as quickly as possible, with a minimum amount of pauses that might give them time to reconsider that decision.

The fewer clicks it takes for a visitor to complete a purchase, the better, so here are some ways to start shaving them off.

1. Leave account registration for after the purchase

As KissMetrics puts it, “ask for less and they’ll buy more.” There are statistics to back that up, too. According to online fashion retailer ASOS, removing the necessity to create an account to purchase from them reduced cart abandonment by 50%. It’s a bit arrogant to assume that every customer who purchases from you is going to want to do it several more times, anyway.

What you need to ask for also varies from site to site. For example, those of us who are selling non-physical products are particularly lucky, since they don’t need to muck around with shipping addresses. For most purchases, however, you only need five things: name, address, payment information, shipping method, and email.

And once you have that, you can add them to your email list, making them more likely to return to create an account later. Yes, you’ll lose some demographic information by not collecting it from every customer, but the increased sales will more than make up for it. And aren’t sales the whole point of having an  online store in the first place?

2. Make forms as simple as possible

Once you’ve simplified what you ask for in the forms, it’s time to work on the forms themselves.

Reduce their numbers, and make their entry as user-friendly as possible with clear, well-placed labels. As we’ve mentioned in our article on mobile checkouts, it’s a good idea to place the labels above or in front of the entry boxes, not in them. Although in-form labels look cool, they also disappear when the customer starts to enter their information, and if something distracts them, they might forget and have to start again.

Also, to supplement most browsers’ autofill capabilities, some companies are taking a page from Google’s book and adding predictive entry to certain forms. In addition to slicing a few seconds off the amount of time that it takes customers to get through the forms, it also has the effect of helping customers to remember complicated addresses that might have taken them a second to call back.

Finally, form validation should be in-line. In other words, if they enter something wrong, a message next to the box should tell them what the problem is. Don’t let them get to the end and hit “submit,” only for an error message to pop up telling them they did it all wrong.

3. Remove the navigation

Remove the header, footer, and any sidebars during the checkout process. You don’t want your customers leaving the page during this part, anyway.

Removing these elements will also decrease loading time, and believe it or not, a small increase in loading time can be just enough to give your customers pause.

Also, make sure to decrease the need for customers to navigate away from the checkout form by making sure to display the contents of their carts and their total somewhere on the page.

4. Make it smaller

There’s no reason to have a five-page checkout process when you can easily fit it onto one page. If you’ve followed step one and resolved to ask as little from your customers as possible, you won’t need the extra four pages anyway.

As an equally important addition to this section, make sure that you do whatever it takes to keep your customers on your site. Forcing them to navigate to another service to pay is a common cause of abandonment.

That leads us into our next section…

5. Offer as many payment options as possible!

Make sure you offer alternative methods of payment as well as the few that might seem easiest or most initially obvious.

Yes, your customers might have a card that they can use to make the purchase, but if they have a PayPal or Amazon account, why make them get up, find their wallet, dig out the card, enter the information, and then take the time to remember and re-enter their billing address? Why not just have them use one of those?

It’s not that your customers are lazy, it’s that every second that they spend rooting around for their wallet is another opportunity to wonder if they really need what you’re selling. On a related note, for your customers who prefer to pay with more unorthodox methods, why not accept bank transfers, eChecks, and Bitcoin?

“How do I get all these sweet alternate payment options?” you might ask. Read on.

6. Here’s looking at Woo

Not to toot our own horn but we offer a variety of plugins to enhance the checkout experience. Most relevant to this topic would be Quick Checkout, which lets you add single-page checkout forms anywhere on your WooCommerce-powered website, saving you just as much time and hassle as your customer.

Also of interest though would be the NetBilling, CyberSource, and Authorize.net CIM payment gateways—among others—which will keep your customers on your site for the checkout process. PayPal is notorious for bouncing customers over to their own site to pay, but we’ve got a fix for that, too.

We also have “Pay with Amazon” and “Amazon Simple Pay” which, as the names suggest, will let your customers use their Amazon account on your site, shaving off the time that it would have taken them to re-enter their cards and shipping addresses.

Similar plugins are available for Braintree, Intuit, and Stripe. Finally, MailPoet will let them opt into or out of your newsletter with one click of a checkbox, so you can even make the follow-up decision easier.

Conclusion

Many of these practices are common sense, but what’s hard is knowing that they’re possible and how to implement them.

Remember to minimize the amount of copy on your site as well. Your customers have already decided to buy, so no further convincing is needed. As for instructions, if you’ve done your job right, the process should be intuitive, with a minimum of instructions needed for anyone who’s used a computer before.

Finally, tolerance for form completion issues on mobile devices is even lower than on desktops, so for a more specific article on how to optimize your checkout experience for your mobile customers, which is enough to warrant its own topic, check out “How to Optimize the Mobile Checkout Experience on Your E-Commerce Site”.

How efficient is your checkout process? Have you taken any steps to make it more so recently? If so, do you have any other advice we didn’t mention here? We’d be delighted to hear about it, so let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: David Blackwell

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6 Responses

  1. Kirby Prickett
    November 26, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Another extension for improving the checkout process is the one WooThemes sells in partnership with us, WooCommerce One Page Checkout: http://woocommerce.com/products/woocommerce-one-page-checkout/.

  2. douglsmith
    November 26, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    I love the first suggestion. So how do we make WooCommerce leave account registration for after the purchase? 😉

  3. @Gene_us
    December 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    “Leave account registration for after the purchase” Meh. I see no good in making a suggestion and not giving ways to implement them. Can this be done in WooCommerce? Does it need an extension? Needs a developer? What?

    • CaptnBaz
      January 22, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

      My thoughts exactly. Pay first and fill the form later.

  4. Home Additions
    January 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    What you published was actually very reasonable.
    But, what about this? what if you typed a catchier title? I ain’t saying your information is not good, but what if you added a title that
    makes people desire more? I mean 6 Ways to Streamline Your Online Store’s Checkout
    Process – WooThemes is kinda vanilla. You should peek at Yahoo’s front page and
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