The eCommerce checkout funnel starts even before an item is placed in the shopping cart. From the moment a potential customer visits your online store they’re wondering whether your shop is trustworthy, easy to navigate, attractive, well stocked and friendly. These mental checkpoints can all happen in a matter of seconds in your customer’s mind.
As an online retailer, if you’ve passed this first round of assessment, you’re already doing something right. It’s a horrible feeling to build a store, acquire stock, launch marketing campaigns, only to find potential sales are being lost for no easily discernible reason. It’s a common topic of conversation in forums, ex. “Help! Lots of traffic, but no sales.”
This article will focus on shopping cart specific obstacles and eCommerce mistakes you can identify and improve. Many other conversion obstacles are out of the retailer’s control like bad timing for the shopper, sudden emergencies, last minute financial problems, etc.
The goal of a successful eCommerce checkout funnel is to guide shoppers towards making a purchase as quickly as possible.
Let’s examine four areas checkout funnel mistakes can occur and ways to easily overcome them.
The four areas we will be covering are:
1. Product page
2. Cart Summary page
4. Order Confirmation page
In this post, we’re going to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and try to pre-empt the questions and concerns that arise as they move through our checkout funnel. By understanding what questions arise, you will be able to identify potential challenges and correct them.
The best way to complete this exercise is to open up your store in another tab and ask yourselves the same questions as you read along.
Picture yourself shopping online for an item. While doing so, some of the questions running through your mind may include:
- Is this item in stock? Customers hate going through the entire checkout process only to find that the item wasn’t available. This will erode trust and might dissuade them from shopping with you ever again.
- Is this variation/size/color of the item in stock? This is a subset of the item in stock question.
- This item is out of stock, how can I sign up for a back in stock email notification? Why let a potential customer get away if they’re interested in your product already. Allow them to subscribe to email notifications if the item is out of stock.
- How long until this item ships and arrives at my doorstep? Knowing when the product will arrive allows customers to plan ahead for their purchase.
- How can I easily exchange/return this item if needed? A huge concern, when shopping online, is if the product is actually what it looks like in the pictures and descriptions. Customers need to know that they can return it if it turns out to be something other than they had imagined.
- OK, I clicked the buy button, was this item actually added to my cart? There should be clear confirmation this action happened successfully. A different color text, animation or modal box could be used. A small icon in the header navigation bar usually isn’t enough.
- Is there a phone number for me to contact this merchant with questions? Giving customers a phone number puts them at ease because they know you’re just a call away if they have questions. Keep in mind if you have the resources to actually answer the phone (ex. one person shops). If not, it may be worth researching an outsourced call center to field customer questions.
- How can I easily access my shopping cart to make changes? If customers make a mistake selecting a product they want to know that they can make quick changes without having to start all over.
- Are the product images high quality and available in different views/product variations? Product images are the closest customers get to seeing the real thing. Without them, or even with poor product images, customers won’t feel confident purchasing the item.
- Does the product copy address my pain points or concerns in a descriptive manner? Customers buy things that solve their problems or enrich their lives in some way. If your product copy and descriptions don’t convince them that it will, they’ll look elsewhere. This is a fantastic place to outdo your competitors.
- Are there other ‘calls to action’ I’m being asked to take which distract me from making an immediate purchase? Customers don’t have all day to spend on your site. If you pepper them with calls to action, like signing up for emails or following them on social media, they’ll get distracted from their purchase.
Now try applying these questions to your own online retail store and see if they can all be easily answered. This is a great time to start a ‘to do list’ for review with your technical team.
Before we move to the next section, I’d like to address an important point.
One of the biggest choices to make is what to do after a shopper has added an item to their cart.
There are two schools of thought:
1. Keep the shopper on the product page. The shopper didn’t ask to move further in the process. Pressuring them directly into checkout could not only cause an abandonment, but it could lower the average order amount. Keeping the shopper on the product page allows the shopper to remain in control and continue browsing for more items, if they choose.
2. Send the shopper directly to the cart summary page, or directly into checkout. Personally, I’m not a fan of this option as it creates too much pressure and may cause a high abandonment rate. Using product page persuasion tactics like ‘only 2 left in stock’ or ‘limited time bonus offer’ can still create a sense of urgency.
A good product page example is from Betabrand.com:
A clean layout with high quality imagery, prominent ‘add to cart’ button, size chart and common questions answered.
When adding an item to the cart, a simple modal window appears over the product page confirming my action. The modal window gives the option to continue shopping, checkout or browse related items. A great place for cross selling.
Cart Summary Page
In many cases, shoppers may skip this page all together and proceed directly into the checkout page, depending upon how your checkout flow is configured. Cart summary pages are a good place to offer related accessory add on items for purchase. An easy one click ‘add to cart’ here would be ideal.
A few questions to consider asking on the cart summary page:
- Are trust seals visible and up to date? When it comes to paying online, consumers are still concerned about credit card fraud. Trust seals will help ease these concerns.
- Can shipping be quickly calculated based upon my zip code and country? Unexpected costs, like shipping fees, are a major reason for checkout abandonment. Allowing customers to calculate shipping charges before going any further removes any surprises.
- Does an option exist to add related items or up-sell items to my cart with one click? Now that customers are in your cart, you don’t want them to leave and forget about it. Give them the option to add more products without heading back to the product page.
- Is there an easy way to change item quantity or delete an item? Allow customers to make quick changes in the cart, without having to start from the top of the funnel again.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, I recommend NOT making coupon codes too prominent or easy to find. This opens up a whole range of potential conversion obstacles like shoppers leaving your website to find a coupon code, or worse stumbling upon a competitor website and purchasing there. Coupons are often more effective for existing newsletter subscribers.
Before diving into a series of questions to ask yourself, let’s touch on two very important checkout obstacles and/or tweaks that can really boost conversion rates.
From a merchant standpoint, an uncommon yet smart move is to collect the shopper’s email address as close to the beginning of checkout as possible. The often allows abandoned checkout re-marketing emails to get sent to the potential customer, reminding them of their shopping cart contents. According to a case study by Sales Cycle, featured on Get Elastic, not only are 50% of abandoned cart emails opened, but over a third of these clicks lead to an eventual purchase back on your site.
Questions I’d ask myself as an educated shopper entering a checkout funnel would be:
- Am I still on the same site, or have I been redirected elsewhere? A huge problem with many eCommerce platforms is that they redirect your shoppers away from your site to a checkout page on their domain. It’s not something you might worry about, but your customers have no idea what this other domain is and that makes them wonder if their credit card information will be safe.
- Do I have to enter my shipping and billing address separately (if they are the same), or can I just check a button to indicate they are the same? Form filling takes time and you definitely don’t want to force customers to fill in the same information twice!
- Do I need to enter my credit card type, or does my credit card number automatically populate the card type? Simple things like this helps save customers’ time.
- Oops, I entered incorrect data or have missing information. Does this shop give me relevant, easy to understand, field level error messages or do I have to interpret generic red text reprimanding notices saying “invalid input”? Don’t make customers search the entire form to find out where they missed information. If there’s an invalid input, point it out so that they can fix it and get on their way.
- Are there up to date trust seals present? This is related to the trust seals in the cart. It’s a good idea to bring them up again at checkout as well.
- Is there a phone number I can call with any last minute questions? There will always be concerns just before a customer hits the final purchase button. You want to be there to answer them or they’ll get cold feet.
Order Confirmation Page
By all measures of success to an online retailer, a completed sale marks the culmination of all efforts. The money is in the bank so to speak. It’s at this very moment of post sale success and buyer euphoria that other opportunities exist to deepen the relationship through ‘micro conversions’.
At this stage, customers are done shopping and they don’t have any questions or objections. However, there are still some things you can ask yourself in addition to simply providing a ‘thank you’ and order confirmation number:
- Do I offer shoppers the option to create an account ‘post sale’?
- Do I offer any type of loyalty club/program incentive to join?
- Do I offer any type of post sale add on bonus purchase offer?
- Can I offer a newsletter signup incentive?
- Can I offer social media sharing incentives/integrations while the buyer is on a high?
- Can I elicit customer feedback through a survey request about their experience?
- Can I offer informational resources related to the products just purchased?
These are very valuable ways to continue the customer relationship beyond a simple transaction and increase customer lifecycle value.
By examining your checkout funnel through these four areas, chances are opportunities will be uncovered to improve conversions, lower time spent answering buyer questions and increase average order value. It’s far easier to fix conversions for existing shoppers than it is to attract new buyers.
These aren’t exhaustive, but they are the majority of questions that will arise in a shopper’s mind when they’re on your site. Answering these will definitely make it easier for them to buy and increase your conversion rates.
Have you seen a noticeable conversion increase by using any of these tactics?
I was asked to be a contributing, expert guest author for LemonStand, an eCommerce platform built for growth, where this post originally appeared.
“I’ve already made the expensive mistakes, so you don’t have to.”