Is Your E-Commerce Site Failing at the Final Hurdle? How to Optimize the Checkout Process to Boost Sales

It takes a huge amount of work to build an e-commerce success story. Traffic generation, site design, marketing, product development, etc. None of this is quick, easy, or inexpensive. So why would you let all that effort go to waste because the final stage of the buying journey isn’t up to scratch?

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of website visitors who add an item to their cart fail to complete the purchase, and too often this is because the checkout process is unfriendly, confusing, or simply too much effort. How can you optimize your checkout to increase your site’s conversion rates?

Offer Multiple Payment Options

Never turn a customer away because their preferred payment method is slightly inconvenient for you. Offer as many ways to pay as possible, including credit cards, Paypal, eCheques, bank transfers, and the various local payment gateways if you operate internationally.

Also consider allowing the transaction to be completed by telephone if the customer prefers, although this will require a technological bridge between your website’s shopping cart system and your customer services team.

Allow Guest Checkouts

‘Guest checkout’ is the somewhat obscure term for a very simple idea: allowing a customer to complete a purchase without first going through the rigmarole of setting up an account. Why put an extra barrier in front of a purchase by requiring forms to be filled in, passwords chosen and remembered, confirmation emails replied to, and so on?

There are positives to requiring accounts – easier personalization, quicker shopping in future – but there’s no doubt it can deter that vital first purchase by removing impulse from the equation.

If your e-commerce software doesn’t allow guest checkouts, at least make the account sign-up process as quick and easy as possible, and save gathering more in-depth customer information for a later time.

Shipping Charge Surprises

There’s little more likely to provoke an abandoned cart than the sudden appearance of punishing delivery charges. Always be upfront about your shipping costs, and ideally factor them into your margins so that you can offer free shipping with no surprises.

Payment Security and Data Privacy

You may take it for granted that your e-commerce site offers a secure payment facility, and that you’re scrupulous about how you handle sensitive information. However, many customers need to be explicitly reassured of this. Scare stories of cybercrime still linger in the media, so don’t hold back on emphasizing how seriously you take security and privacy.

Unclear Contact Methods

Provide plenty of ways for prospective customers to get in touch with you, and not just through an impersonal contact form. Consider offering a toll-free telephone number. It probably won’t be much used and so won’t be a major cost, but it’s an important reassurance that you’re running a legitimate company. A live chat facility can also be a useful way of helping customers clear any remaining doubts over their purchases.

Unclear Delivery Details

When can a customer expect to receive their purchases? Do you offer an express delivery option? Can the shipment be tracked? What happens if there’s a problem? Answering all these questions preemptively can remove many major doubts about checking out.

Unclear Returns Policy

Lastly, it’s always helpful to actively reassure a customer that there’s no risk involved in their purchase decision. If you offer a no-strings refund or replacement policy, don’t be shy about ramming the point home, and do this within your checkout screen rather than hidden away behind a link in your website footer.

Likewise, give straightforward details on how a customer can return any unwanted items, and be clear about under what circumstances you’ll accept them.

It’s estimated that around 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before the checkout process is completed. While this proportion will never be reduced anywhere near to zero, there’s plenty you can do to push the figures in a more profitable direction by making your checkout process as smooth and user-friendly as possible.

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