A checkout process is what the customer must go through in order to buy a product from your website.
On most websites it typically takes a customer between 5 and 8 steps from selecting an item through to receiving an order confirmation.
The checkout process begins once the customer reviews the purchases in their shopping cart and decides to proceed to checkout.
The checkout process consists of some or all of the following stages pictured left.
What Can A Checkout Process Do For Your Customer?
A well implemented checkout process can make your customer’s experience of buying very satisfying, quick and easy.
Your checkout process should reassure your customers and ease their minds about any concerns they have about buying online.
Your customers are divulging their personal details and financial information. Therefore it is crucial that your checkout process signals authenticity and credibility.
Once your customer has received their order confirmation they should feel relaxed and satisfied.
The checkout process should be quick for your customer, one way to do this is to reduce the number of stages / clicks required to complete the transaction.
For example, Google have developed Google Wallet Instant Buy which is a 2-click checkout tool for Android apps and mobiles. http://www.google.com/wallet/business/payments/
Your customers will be accustomed to the checkout process but it is vital to make your checkout extremely simple and easy. Use familiar and established visual layouts and clearly label all the fields required.
What Can A Checkout Process Do For Your Business?
By making your checkout process satisfying, quick and easy for your customer, you will significantly increase the number of customers who complete the process, the number of returning customers and more importantly the number of sales.
One way to view the checkout process is as a series of barriers which could stop your potential customer transforming into a buying customer. At each barrier, if the process is slow, difficult or raises any doubts, there is a high risk that your customer will not continue with their purchase.
For example, sometimes customers will be presented with up to 25 fields to fill in order to complete their purchase. During this stage customers commonly lose patience and leave the website without completing the transaction. This is especially true on mobiles. According to Google, 97% of mobile shoppers abandon their shopping carts.
Improving your checkout process is a perfect opportunity to target customers who are on the verge of converting. They have already added items to their shopping cart and proceeded to checkout, clearly signalling their buying intent.
Should I Encourage Customers To Create An Account?
As discussed earlier, by streamlining your purchase flow, conversions will dramatically increase.
One area to consider is how or whether to include an option to create an account or register with the website. One benefit is that checkout becomes faster and easier with fewer steps for repeat customers. For example, with Amazon, customers can buy with only one click. It also makes customers feel secure and encourages them to return.
However there are drawbacks.
1. Initially it introduces more steps and therefore barriers between selecting an item and purchasing it.
2. It creates a distraction that may divert the customer from continuing with their purchase.
3. For Ecommerce websites that are not so well established and familiar as Amazon, customers may feel uncomfortable creating an account.
One effective solution is to give customers the option to create an account on the order page after they have completed the purchase. To encourage registration you can highlight the customer benefits such as a fast checkout, easy access to order history, wish lists or other personalised shopping features.
Key questions to ask when looking at your checkout process:
Are there any unnecessary fields or stages? See if you can reduce the amount of information your customer needs to enter. If it is not absolutely necessary then don’t ask for it.
Is the checkout process easy to complete? Include clearly visible proceed / continue / arrow /confirm buttons to guide your customer to the next stage, clearly labelled fields and auto complete / address look up.
Can I get more from my order confirmation page? Once the purchase is complete, consider encouraging further engagement with your site. For example by providing options to sign up for a newsletter, register with the site / create an account, answer feedback questions, share the purchase on social media or to add related items to their order with one click.